Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fire and Steel

Sul, Barrakas 22, 998 YK (Day 36).

After eliminating the last of Cabor's Chains, Cecil decides that for the time being, he has had enough adventuring - at least, adventuring with the Eclipse Collective. He parts ways with the group, presumably to go back to the city of Skairn. The rest of the group decides to investigate the only door in the slavers' hideout that they have not yet investigated, which leads to a ladder, heading upwards. Not surprisingly, they discover it heads to another pantry, belonging to the kitchen of the Hog's Tail inn. However, aside from the door that leads to the kitchen itself, they discover another, poorly-hidden secret door, which they open immediately. Inside, they find the holding room for the slaves of Cabor's Chains, mostly of the more commonly seen races. Humans, elves, and dwarves feature prominently, but one member of a race unrecognized by any member of the party is shackled here. His flesh is a light violet, and his eyes are entirely white, matching his hair and the unusual geometric markings on his body. He is first to be freed, and while Tam'elenath and Garmeth set about freeing the other slaves, they question this stranger.

His name is Elyas, and he is scarce on the details he reveals to the party. He states that he is of the deva race, and that he acts on behalf of the god of knowledge, arcana and justice, Aureon. He has most recently come from Sarlona, in the major Riedran port city of Dar Ulatesh. There, he fought against Riedran oppression by the dictatorial Inspired, particularly the suppression of knowledge for the masses, until he learned of an artifact of great import to him and his faith located somewhere in Khorvaire. This artifact is a tome containing "lost and ancient knowledge," but Elyas is not clear on what that knowledge is. During his travels, he ended up staying in the Hog's Tail, and was captured in the night by Cabor's Chains. The party believes his goals align with theirs, and they ask him to accompany them, especially since Cecil has now left, to which Elyas agrees.

Symbol of Aureon

After spending some time in the Vedykar Exchange, in which Tam'elanath orders a tapestry from a shifty merchant, Garmeth finally buys some thieving tools, and Stahlstrauss pays for a magic battle standard for the party, they head to the lightning rail station to depart for Rekkenmark.

Mol, Barrakas 23, 998 YK (Day 37).

The journey by lightning rail to Rekkenmark takes about seventeen hours, and the party sleeps on the train. By the time they arrive, it is mid-afternoon. Because the White Arch Bridge has been destroyed for seventy years, the lightning rail does not cross from Rekkenmark to the city of Thaliost across Scion's River, and the party must gain passage by boat.  As they leave the lightning rail station, the group is stopped by a figure wearing rich scarlet robes, asking who they are. When they confirm their identity as the Eclipse Collective, he reveals that he is Equis, a pro-warforged revolutionary from the Last War, possibly the most famous revolutionary of all. Stahlstrauss recognizes him, as does Lucan, who wrestles with the desire to turn Equis in for his war crimes, as is his role in House Medani (but he decides not to at the behest of his companions). Equis reports warforged abductions in Rekkenmark, which he believes are related to a tiefling activist group in the city called the Brotherhood of Fire, which have gone from civil demonstrations to criminal activity in recent times. He has a contact from the Brotherhood, an extant tiefling named Purpose, and the party agrees to meet him and question him for Equis. Stahlstrauss is particularly keen on this due to his past experiences with tieflings capturing warforged.

Equis, during the Last War
They find Purpose in a run-down taphouse with his half-orc bodyguard Lort, but Purpose is hesitant to talk. Zil'dejin slams his hands on the table over and over, yelling at him mercilessly. Purpose is unnerved, as at the same time Stahlstrauss uses his telepathic abilities (provided by a component installed by Mr. Artauche) to implant threatening messages into Purpose's head. Tam'elanath buys him a pint of beer, but Purpose does not drink it, and Garmeth tries to talk to him calmly, but Purpose expresses outward hatred for him, apparently racially-based. Lucan learns that he is reluctant to speak for fear that the Brotherhood will kill him, and Elyas recounts some important historical knowledge about the Brotherhood of Fire and the Council of Azuun, which is mentioned once by Purpose during Lucan's questioning.

Zil'dejin has now gotten belligerent, and has unsheathed his glaive. Lucan takes the opportunity to play "good cop" and explains calmly that he cannot be responsible for what Zil'dejin does if Purpose does not tell them what the group wants to know. Tam'elanath tries to earn both Purpose's and Lort's trust by buying them both alcohol of their choice, but ends up spilling it all over them. Garmeth receives more hateful remarks from Purpose, and Stahlstrauss is now more vocal than mental with his threats. Elyas learns that Purpose has cut his ties with the Brotherhood of Fire because of their recent evil activities.

Symbol of the Council of Azuun
Purpose finally caves, and the party learns that recently a tiefling (though Purpose does not identify him as such, calling him "something more") named Marathis, formerly of the Council of Azuun, has taken over the former activist group and is abducting warforged, resetting them to a "blank slate" state with a ritual he gained from the Council to use as a kind of personal army. Purpose gives the party the location of their hideout in an abandoned warehouse on the waterfront, and the party goes there at once.

Here, they act as though they have captured and are selling Stahlstrauss, and the tieflings let them in, bypassing the apparently well-guarded ground level (patrolled by mindless warforged) and taking them to what was once an office, but now appears to be something like a shrine. There they see Marathis, and a woman chained to an altar. After a tense bartering session that ultimately backfires, the party attacks Marathis and his cultists, who are supported by a warforged soldier. Zil'dejin is cut down almost immediately by an extremely powerful blow from Marathis, and around this time the woman on the altar reveals that she is actually free, and a disguised succubus named Adara, who has been working closely with Marathis. She uses her unnatural powers of charm to control the battlefield while the others attack.

Eventually, Stahlstrauss brings Marathis down with ferocity, cursing him and the entire Council - but not before he kills the newcomer Elyas. The warforged soldier is soon killed as well, and Adara, now alone with two wounded, nearly-mindless cultists, barters for her life. Stahlstrauss agrees to spare her if she reverses the ritual, which she begins immediately. The cultists are now isolated, and before long are killed by the party.

The party takes some time to ensure that Adara is performing the ritual, and when she completes it, the warforged in the ground floor of the warehouse (many of whom are stored in crates) offer extensive gratitude and thanks to the Eclipse Collective, assuring them that they will not forget the favour. Stahlstrauss takes Marathis' magic armor. Elyas is then raised using a scroll he was carrying, and Zil'dejin is brought to a temple and revived in exchange for some expensive enamel icons they discovered in Marathis' chamber. The party then rests the night at an inn.

Zol, Barrakas 24, 998 YK (Day 38).

The party meets with Equis the next day, and he too is extremely grateful, and is pleased to see that Stahlstrauss still supports "the cause." Instead of money, Stahlstrauss chooses to take information on the remaining members of the Council of Azuun from Equis, who has discovered that only the two most powerful members are still alive: the general, Telleroth Vaen, and the magician, Abraxas Deimos.

Equis also offers the party free passage across Scion's River, since a ferryman is his current profession after the Last War. They agree, and he brings them down to the waterfront onto his skiff. They look at the ruins of the White Arch Bridge as they pass, and Stahlstrauss reminisces about his time here in the Last War.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Breaking Links

Sul, Barrakas 22, 998 YK (Day 36).

As they are on their way to the lightning rail to head west to the city of Rekkenmark (their first stop), the Eclipse Collective is interrupted by a group of thugs who claim that the party has "caused many problems" for them by "taking out the Bloodreavers and the duergar" in the Thunderspire Labyrinth. They attack, and Zil'dejin recognizes them quickly by the patches and the armbands they wear: they are Cabor's Chains. Zil'dejin is driven into a battle-mad rage, and returns their charge in equal measure. The party has little difficulty with them, who despite their numbers are quite weak and fall quickly. Afterwards, they discover a note on one of the thugs with rough descriptions of the party, and Zil'dejin insists that they investigate and discover where Cabor's Chains are hiding in the city and eliminate the group once and for all.

Zil'dejin puts on one of the arm bands worn by the slavers and wanders around less reputable areas of Vedykar, but because of his race and the almost entirely human nature of the Chains, he earns no information. Garmeth moves about the city at random looking for the armbands and patches, but also turns up empty handed. Lucan takes the note and shows it around the Vedykar Exchange to see if anybody recognizes it, and finds a beggar who does, though Lucan is forced to pay him to earn the info. Stahlstrauss, Eshunu, and Tam'elanath stay behind to track down the thugs to where they came from, and they learn that the slavers came out of the sewers. Cecil tries to use his knowledge of the city's layout to discern where they might be hiding, but is unsucessful.

When the party regroups, they decide to go into the sewers to search. Cecil remains on the surface and searches for an approximate central area for the sewers, and a ventilation shaft of some kind nearby. He winds up in the Vedykar Exchange. Garmeth also ends up on the surface after wandering about the sewers on his own, looking for the hideout arbitrarily. He meets with Cecil the Exchange. Tam'elanath uses his tracking skills and Lucan uses his knowledge of the street layout to create a mental map of the sewers, and they end up in a central hub. Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss, who are moving together, end up there as well, but not before getting lost by Zil'dejin's navigation. Still, through the efforts of Stahlstrauss searching the walls they discover a rudimentary map of the sewers which gives more clues to the hideout of Cabor's Chains. Eshunu scatters insects to look for secret or small entrances, but comes up empty-handed (empty-mandibled?).

At this point, the five still in the sewers realize that there is a large patrol after them, and hear them approach. This patrol has to return to the main group within a set time, or Cabor's Chains will flee the city, so the Collective must avoid them. Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss go down a random tunnel with the intent of following any passersby, but they never come that way. Eshunu goes up to the surface to find Cecil and Garmeth, and informs them of the situation, as well as the rough direction of the slaver patrol. Lucan goes up to the surface, and comes back down behind the slavers to follow them, and successfully does so with Tam'elanath, who hid in the sewers to achieve the same end.

Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss meet with Tam'elanath and Lucan, who have found the well-hidden sewer entrance to the hideout of Cabor's Chains. Meanwhile, Eshunu, Garmeth and Cecil discover that the underground hideout is likely connected to two obviously related inns (the Hog's Head and the Hog's Tail), and after unsuccessfully trying the Hog's Tail they gain some information in the Hog's Head - Cecil seduces the clerk while Garmeth and Eshunu sneak around to find the secret entrance, which they do. The three of them proceed down a ladder hidden in a pantry, while the other four break through a door in the sewers. They meet at about the same time at opposite ends of a room where they spy a grizzled, scarred man discussing slave pit fighting with one of the slavers, who has a dragonborn slave on a chain leash.

Zil'dejin recognizes this man as Borahm the Scourge, the leader of the landship caravan he was a part of, and attacks immediately when he realizes this. Borahm taunts him, claiming he killed the man who took Cabor's life, and points to the glaive hanging on his wall, a weapon reputedly used by this killer. Cabor wields his spiked chain with great accuracy, but after a long battle, Zil'dejin takes his life. He takes Glanvar's magic glaive, which he recognizes as the genuine article. The party then sorts through some old slave contracts, which are written in unintelligible code, and take Cabor's magic bracers.

Borahm the Scourge

And Now, a Word from Our Sponsor

Wir, Barrakas 18, 998 YK (Day 32).

In the morning, the Eclipse Collective retrieves Cecil from the Temple of Hidden Light and, with Talbot, make their preparations to finally depart. After saying their goodbyes to those they befriended in the hall (specifically, Rendil Halfmoon and Terrlen Darkseeker), they head up the gradual slope of the Road of Lanterns, pausing only briefly to reminisce about their difficulty getting into the mountain. Cecil explains that his party entered by careful manipulation of his "merchant connections." Finally, with the consent of the Enforcers who guard the Seven Pillared Hall - a welcome change - they exit through the Minotaur Gate, allowing their eyes to adjust to natural light for the first time in over a week, and at long last, they leave Thunderspire behind them.

I miss it already!

Sul, Barrakas 22, 998 YK (Day 36).

Without the horses loaned to them before by Mr. Artauche, the journey back to Vedykar takes four days on foot. Back in the city, the party heads to Wealth Street, home to Mr. Artauche. They deliver the Rod of Order to the wealthy aristocrat. Artauche is delighted, and offers the party their reward, which includes the money agreed upon at the contract signing, and a magic amulet, taken by Eshunu. After what basically amounts to small talk, Mr. Artauche announces that he has yet another job for them, if they are interested. The group is far less reluctant to take the offer this time, and though they still extract from him what information they can before agreeing, the prospect of even greater reward is appealing, and they sign up. Cecil is hesitant; he believes his business is concluded, and that he no longer has a place with the Eclipse Collective. They attempt to convince him otherwise, and while he is not quite satisfied with their efforts, decides to tentatively accompany them anyway.

Artauche explains that during the Eclipse Collective's absence he has done some further research on the Rod of Order and discovered it has two counterparts: items that go together with the Rod to form a complete artifact. He has tracked down the approximate location of one of these two counterparts, an item appropriately named the "Chaos Gear." Mr. Artauche believes that it is currently in the Eldeen Reaches, on the far western side of Khorvaire. The Collective is to go to Greenheart, the capital of the Reaches, and meet with the other of Artauche's two top agents, a man named Malevarn. He then sends them on their way. Garmeth has an odd conflict with Artauche's butler as they are leaving.

The party is instructed to take the lightning rail west to the city of Rekkenmark, then board a ferry of some kind to cross Scion's River to the city of Thaliost, in Thrane. There, they must board the lightning rail again, this time for the city of passage, where they must gain take a boat to the town of Delethorn, and finally follow the road up to Greenheart. Immediately, they head towards the lightning rail stop next to the Vedykar Exchange, with passes provided to them by Mr. Artauche, who notes that beyond this he will fund no more travel expenses.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thunderspire XI: The Fall of Paldemar

Zol, Barrakas 17, 998 YK (Day 31).

Tam'elanath and Eshunu separate from the party to ensure that the first floor and the area at the base of the tower are cleared out of potential threats, and the rest of the Eclipse Collective takes a short rest on the first floor. During this rest, they are rejoined by Zil'dejin, who explains that he tracked Cabor's Chains to Vedykar, but lost their trail. After that, he realized it was the farthest he'd ventured alone in a haze of rage since joining with the Collective, and decided it would be safest to return to the group.

With this, the group heads up to the second floor, where they hear the same thunderous footsteps noted by Stahlstrauss when he accidentally arrived on this floor alone. Tam'elanath and Eshunu are still on a scouting run, but the remaining five decide to cautiously proceed without them. Before long, they discover the source of the footsteps: a giant bronze statue of a minotaur, armed with an axe and apparently controlled by some external source. This construct, called a Bronze Warder, causes much trouble for the party, and the appearance of more norkers and dolgaunts appear to create a very difficult situation for the group. Fortunately, though, Eshunu and Tam'elanath return before the situation becomes too dire, and the additional manpower is enough for the Collective to overcome the Bronze Warder and Paldemar's servants. Zil'dejin is able to defeat the Bronze Warder on this level, using the magic of his thundering halberd to shatter it with waves of sound from within once he has broken the surface with the blade. By searching the area, they find a glass tank apparently containing fragments of minotaur skeleton, which is identified by Cecil and Eshunu to be magical in nature, though its exact purpose is difficult to discern. To air on the side of caution, the party destroys the tank, and investigates the area further. They find a small library, containing books with apparently blank pages, and a few non-disguised scrolls, which they take with them. They then use the teleportation circle on this floor to ascend to the third and final floor of the Tower of Mystery.

This floor features a hallway, and the skeleton of a long-dead minotaur, still clutching its weapon: a bow approximately six feet in length, which is discovered to be enchanted. Tam'elanath takes the greatbow, but realizes he will need some practice before he is able to use it effectively in combat. The group also takes note that the teleportation circle they entered through has now vanished. There are three doors here: one on either side, and double doors ahead, which are already open. They first attempt to open the door on the left, but even Garmeth is unable to open it, discovering that it has been sealed with some kind of magic. He does not have the tools with him to open it, nor the time to do so. They open the door on the right, only to find that it contains another Bronze Warder, much like the one they fought below. It charges immediately, causing problems for the Collective right away. Right after, dolgaunts and norkers from further in begin their attack, emerging from what appears to be a shrine of some sort.

After a short time, Paldemar emerges to join the fray, and elucidates his plot. He seeks to conduct a ritual that will collapse the Seven Pillared Hall, and in effect sacrifice the lives of all those within to provide him with personal power, which he intends to use to lead an army from the Thunderspire Labyrinth to gradually conquer Khorvaire. The Eclipse Collective has interrupted his plans, and he fully intends to make them pay. He carries with him a magical staff, and a platinum rod inlaid with gold, both of which he uses as channels for his power.

The seven are initially skeptical of this claim, but Paldemar soon proves to be a powerful opponent, and through the use of his magic rapidly subdues Cecil, Eshunu, and Tam'elanath, who are usually found in the rear ranks of the party. Meanwhile, Garmeth and Stahlstrauss struggle against norker opponents in the room that previously contained the Bronze Warder, and Zil'dejin attempts to motivate his teammates back to their feet to continue the battle while Lucan holds the hallway, and contributes his own mental healing powers. Cecil is able to stand briefly, but his exhaustion and overuse of power allow the demon that possesses him, Lagrish, to take control. He manages one last burst of strong magic, but collapses from the effort, the life extinguished from his body. It is not in vain; Paldemar is gravely wounded by the attempt.

But despite these efforts, even as the norkers and the dolgaunts fall, so too do the members of the Eclipse Collective. With most of their companions unconscious, dying or in the case of Cecil, already dead, only Stahlstrauss, Zil'dejin and Garmeth remain to face Paldemar in one final showdown. They are wounded, battered and exhausted. Zil'dejin leads a valiant charge, but he is blinded by anger and fatigue, and ultimately misses. Stahlstrauss moves in to help, but Paldemar's magic slows him down. Garmeth moves in from the side in an effort to flank, while Paldemar draws magic energy stored in crystals, hidden within the stone pillars in the shrine.

The combined efforts of the three eventually wear him down, and wounded, Paldemar attempts to flee. Zil'dejin, however, is able to charge one last time, and cleaves Paldemar with his halberd, ending his life. As Paldemar falls, he utters something unintelligible; clearly a curse of some kind, but his life is truly over.

The remaining group members help those who can stand to their feet, while the others are put in a safe place to be carried back to the Seven Pillared Hall after a search of the area. They find, besides Paldemar's staff, the rod he carried: platinum and gold, weighted perfectly evenly and of incredibly masterful design. They detect immense power within it, and conclude that this is the Rod of Order. They also find his ritual book, and a strange glass orb. They look into the orb, but it shatters. In the ritual book, the ritual to collapse the Seven Pillared Hall is detailed, though unfinished. There is some debate on whether the book should be kept, turned in to the Mages of Saruun, or destroyed; ultimately, Garmeth, who picked up the book, tears out the page and rips it to shreds. With this, the group heads back to the Seven Pillared Hall to meet one last time with Orontor.

Orontor expresses his gratitude to the Eclipse Collective, and grants them free passage in and out of the Labyrinth through the Gate of Saruun Khel, as well as the freedom to take the Rod of Order out with them. He also grants them a letter to the drow priestess Phaledra in the Temple of Hidden Light, a temple of the Sovereign Host in the Seven Pillared Hall, to raise Cecil from the dead without charge.

The party spends one last night of well-deserved rest in the Halfmoon Inn, where they are congratulated by Rendil Halfmoon for their success.

Rendil Halfmoon

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thunderspire X: The Towers of Sunset and Mystery

Mol, Barrakas 16, 998 YK (Day 30).

Back at the Seven Pillared Hall, Terrlen Darkseeker expresses his gratitude for the work the Eclipse Collective has done on his behalf. He marks on the party's map the location of the Tower of Sunset, where Denoa has spent her time since being exiled. Terrlen is unable to remember Lucan's name, which makes him angry; this boils over in an unusual lapse of control for him, and he attacks Terrlen, which quickly results in a barfight. Garmeth is able to calm the fighting before it gets out of hand, and the Mages' Enforcers arrive to ensure that there is no more brawling in Rothar's Taphouse. Eshunu and Tam'elanath stay at the Seven Pillared Hall for some further investigation there, while Stahlstrauss, Garmeth, Cecil and Lucan go to investigate the Tower of Sunset.

They find their way there with little difficulty, as they are led by Terrlen Darkseeker who is an extremely competent guide. Cecil leaves a trail of crumbs behind him, in case he can't find his way back with a map, though he realizes this is probably pointless. Inside the first floor of the tower, a pale-skinned woman sits behind a desk, with various statues positioned around her. She beckons the group inside, and they come in. The door shuts behind them when they begin asking about Paldemar, and the statues come to life.

The "statues" are actually poorly-made constructs, which are not much of a threat but explode after fought for a time. Denoa is a skilled caster, and keeps the party at bay while a gargoyle animates and attacks them, shifting in and out of stone form and posing a rather large threat to the four. Eventually, Tam'elanath and Eshunu arrive for support, and the six defeat Denoa and bring down the gargoyle as well. They interrogate Denoa after tying her up, and she reveals her affiliation with Paldemar. It seems that Paldemar does, indeed, possess the rod of order, and further is likely conducting some very dark business within the Tower of Mystery. She surrenders her key to the group, and soon after begins panicking. They try to calm her down, but she quickly bursts into flames, evidently having been bound to Paldemar's service and ultimately his control. Cecil examines the ashes, and finds them to have the same qualities as those of his own adventuring company that he discovered earlier in the Labyrinth.

After this, they find a suit of psionically-tuned chainmail, which is taken by Lucan (despite Eshunu's many attempts to take it from him), and Denoa's silver key. They bring these back to the Seven Pillared Hall and once again meet with Orontor, explaining what they've learned.


Orontor believes that the situation is, indeed, dire. The Tower of Mystery had been a seat of power for the greatest of the minotaur priests of Baphomet, and Paldemar can be up to nothing good there. With the Rod of Order in his possession, Orontor does not know what he is going to achieve, but knows he must be stopped. He cannot spare anybody to support the party in this endeavor, because, as he reveals, he is in fact the only Mage of Saruun currently in Thunderspire other than Paldemar. This is why he is the only Mage the party has met. He gives them twenty four hours to solve the problem; at this point, if he has not heard from the Eclipse Collective, he will try to conduct a ritual to seal off the waterfall (and presumably only point of passage to the Tower of Mystery) long enough to prepare an assault powerful enough to stop Paldemar.

The party makes the necessary preparations for their entry into the Tower of Mystery, and then sleeps the night, which may be their last here underneath the Ashen Spires.

Zol, Barrakas 17, 998 YK (Day 31).

In the morning, with grim determination, the party moves through the waterfall in the Seven Pillared Hall, and Cecil and Stahlstrauss simultaneously insert the two silver keys into the door to the Tower of Mystery. Inside is a small room with a circle of runes, which Cecil identifies as teleportation runes, and the party enters the circle. They are teleported to the first floor.

This floor is calm at first, but the pillars, on which faces are engraved, seem to "spring to life" and begin firing magic that twists the flesh and clouds the mind. Garmeth, who is first to venture into the room, is affected worst as his party members stay behind in the antechamber through which they entered. Soon after this begins, goblinoid creatures (called "norkers") begin to make their attack. The party attempts to fight these while struggling to deal with the magic cast upon them "by" the pillars.

As they clear the norkers, they find another circle of runes at the far end of the room. Stahlstrauss enters the circle and is teleported up another floor, while Garmeth moves past the runes to open a closed door. Inside are two dolgaunts (aberrations that the party fought once before, in the Shadowfeel Keep) who are apparently in Paldemar's service. They are fanatical cultists, but Garmeth makes quick work of them, while supported by his party. Stahlstrauss returns to the first floor, and the party prepares to regroup before heading up to the second floor of the tower.