Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Entropy II: The Winter Queen

Far, Sypheros 16, 998 YK (Day 90).

The melee in the Quiet Halls begins quickly. A shadar-kai witch stands on a balcony fifteen feet off the ground while the warriors, both of the Still Hearts and the Children of Winter, engage the party. They put up a good fight, but the party breaks them down before long - it takes longer than expected, however, due to their minds being clouded by magic used by the witch.

Once the warriors are mostly dealt with, the party climbs up the pillars supporting the balcony to fight the witch. Garmeth uses his flying leopard maneuver to soar up to the balcony, though the confusing tactics of the witch and her ability to wrap herself in shadow makes this a much more confusing endeavor than it usually is. Still, she eventually falls, and the party interrogates her. She seems somewhat confident in the Winter Queen's abilities, and says that this is the one who currently has possession of the Chaos Gear. Evidently, she is the leader of the Still Hearts shadar-kai and the Children of Winter. Getting no more information from the witch, the party leaves through a door other than the one indicated by the witch to house the Winter Queen.

This door leads to a prison-like area, where the Collective runs across the missing Blood of Vol cultists that once occupied the monastery. Marlamin frees them and instructs them to follow the Eclipse Collective, but to wait outside the Winter Queen's throne room until he signals that it is clear to rejoin them. The monks agree, knowing that in their current state they would be very little use in a fight. With this, they go into the throne room of the Winter Queen.

The Winter Queen

She wears the Chaos Gear on her head, wrapped in her hair. She claims she has unlocked its power in exchange for her soul, and that this makes her far greater than the party can handle. They believe she is bluffing, and try to get her to surrender the Gear without a fight. They learn in this conversation that she is half human, half shadar-kai, and intends to usher the latter back into Eberron with territory of their own, outside the ashen plains of Dolurrh. She would prefer not to have to deal with the party at all, and offers them a substantial monetary reward to leave her presence at once and never return to the Fortress of Still Hearts. They refuse, and ready their weapons.

The shadar-kai move to defend their queen, and the weaponmaster, one of the most talented warriors they keep, pulls weapons away using a unique chain-like shortsword, and uses the stolen weapons against the party. Some of the party stays back to fight the shadar-kai while the rest move up to engage the Winter Queen. All the while, the activated Chaos Gear is causing strange effects in the room; people change size, teleport around at random, the room physically shrinks, and more.

The Chaos Gear

After eliminating her henchmen, the Collective closes in on the Winter Queen. Perhaps seeking revenge for the monks of the Towering Wood, Marlamin employs virtually all the power he can muster, channeling shadow energy and the corrupting force of the Touch of Corruption into one great, fierce blow, in which he adopts the appearance of an angel of death. The strike rends the Winter Queen in two, and the power of the Chaos Gear fades. The room returns to normal, and the party discovers a secret exit back to Eberron in the throne room, apparently for the Winter Queen to move in and out of discreetly. They quickly gather the Chaos Gear and the monks, and head through the passage, which leads back to the well of the Blood of Vol monastery. It is night time.

They climb out of the well, and at the top, are "greeted" by Malavarn, holding a torch. He brings the party inside, and convinces them to give the Chaos Gear to him. At this point, he uses some kind of alchemical medicine on his eyelids, and douses the torch. The room is plunged into darkness, and they begin hearing frenzied howls. Feral vampires under Malavarn's command have arrived in the monastery, and join the fight to eliminate the party.


Most of the vampires are quickly eliminated. Malavarn fights fiercely, and even though his body is almost completely broken, he fights to his last breath. When he finally falls, the party retrieves the Chaos Gear, and goes outside, where they hear an approaching march. These are Malavarn's scouts - a segment of his enforcers dedicated to arriving first before the others. Eventually, though, the footsteps give way to snapping and screaming, and a figure emerges from the Towering Wood. It is Talbot, the other of Mr. Artauche's highest-ranking agents.

He explains that Remelius Artauche has betrayed them. Artauche was a Gold Concordian in the Aurum, a society of wealthy and powerful individuals who present themselves to the world as collectors of magical artifacts. They are, according to Talbot, actually a criminal syndicate who collect these items to advance their own power. The Aurum is divided into Concords: Copper, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, where Platinum is the highest. A recent opening in the Platinum Concord led Artauche to bid for a position, but he was denied. Seeing no further use for them, he silently turned against the Aurum for his own diabolical machinations. Talbot, as a double agent working for an organization he will not reveal to the party, believes it important to stop him, but cannot interfere directly without destroying his cover.

Talbot returns

Artauche has recently found the Chains of Balance and intends to complete the set, and kill off the party to prevent interference with his plan: he is going to take over Wroat, the capital of Breland, and then move on to conquer the rest of Khorvaire. Beginning immediately after the party gave the Rod of Order to him, Artauche moved back to his family's old estate of Glyphstone Keep, which once housed an illegal Creation Forge (factory to produce warforged). The Artauche family once had three such forges, and were expelled from their lofty positions in House Cannith when it was discovered they were producing illicit warforged and selling them to the highest bidder for their own profit. The Creation Forges were dismantled at the end of the Last War, but Artauche has used the Rod of Order to transiently reactivate the one hidden under Glyphstone Keep and has assembled a massive army of defective warforged powered by proximity to the Rod of Order. He has used these, alongside his personal agents, hired mercenaries and inflamed dissidents to launch a sudden and brutal attack on Wroat, and has been doing very well, based on the element of surprise and sheer numbers. Talbot believes that the Eclipse Collective may be the only ones that can stop him now.

Malavarn carried with him two pieces of paper. On one, a letter, indicating he had achieved support from the Blood of Vol due to "mutual goals", and they had sent vampires to aid Malavarn. The other was a ritual scroll, which Talbot indicates is a teleportation ritual designed specifically to return him to Glyphstone Keep after he took back the Chaos Gear. Talbot offers to initiate the ritual and establish the portal while the party gets some rest; they are battered from the Keep of Still Hearts and can afford as much as six hours of rest before attacking the Keep. Past this point, the assault will have proceeded to far to be interrupted. The Collective takes this opportunity and goes to rest in the monks' barracks while Talbot and the monks themselves keep watch.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Entropy I: The Fortress of Still Hearts

Sar, Sypheros 10, 998 YK (Day 84).

The other monks, after being assured the battle is over, enter the seal chamber. Garmeth, with the aid of the others, is able to more clearly identify the gauntlet now attached to Marlamin's arm, which is called the Touch of Corruption, and is a powerful daelkyr artifact commonly associated with Dyrrn the Corruptor, believed to be the most powerful of his kind. He is rumored to be sealed here in the Eldeen Reaches, and Druar believes that the seal in the Echohand Cave might be the one that's keeping him in.

Druar begins a ritual to stabilize the seal long enough for the Gatekeeper druids to come and reseal it themselves, but Marlamin has a strong compulsion to stop him from doing so. He threatens and yells at Druar until the githzerai monk stops the ritual. Druar is already injured, and does not want to risk death for this. Garmeth accuses him of cowardice, but he remains resolute in his desire to avoid stabilizing the seal, claiming it is the "Gatekeepers' job, anyway." Before leaving, he offers Garmeth a reward for his efforts: a multicolored, patchwork cloak he allegedly recovered from their last visit to the Shitorai monastery. Garmeth asks if there is anything left there; Cobb informs him that it is little more than a ruin. They part ways with surprisingly casual phrases. The monks are heading northeast to Greenheart, and offer to take Tam'elanath with them to return him to life. The group allows this, and Zan-kyri returns with them as well, claiming that he has had enough adventuring for now.

The remaining five leave Echohand Cave to the southwest, now back on track for the Twofold Glade.

Far, Sypheros 16, 998 YK (Day 90).

The Eclipse Collective at last arrives at the Twofold Glade, which has the unusual property of appearing completely dead in an almost perfect circle amid the otherwise-verdant Towering Wood. The trees are leafless and barren, while the grass is sparse and all but depleted of life, even more than is to be expected in the month of Sypheros (mid-autumn). The clearing also contains a secluded monastery of the Blood of Vol, built in characteristic red stone, which once housed the small extremist sect Marlamin set out to investigate. There are only two buildings in the monastery, surrounded by a low wall. The party chooses to investigate the larger of these buildings first.

They knock on the door, and hear voices within, but nobody responds. Eventually, they open the door to discover men dressed in animal furs and brandishing swords, ready for combat and screaming about "protecting the passageway." A fight breaks out. Garmeth tries to ask one of them what they want, to which he responds that they wish to "bring this broken world to ruin." The battle with the Children of Winter is quite brief, as only two guards, a witch and a doomspeaker (like a priest) of their sect are there to guard the old monastery, which has apparently been converted into the Children of Winter headquarters for the time being. The Collective searches the monastery after the battle, uncovering an old magical belt and some food supplies being used by the Children of Winter, as well as the stripped-bare kitchen building, but it is not until Zil'dejin displaces a carpet in the entry hall of the main monastery building that they find an unlocked trapdoor, with a tunnel leading down into the earth.

The follow the tunnel, pausing briefly at a wooden door carved with images of skulls. Once they pass this door, they feel colder, and the tunnel seems darker, though it is certainly the same structure as it was before. At the end, they find another set of stairs and a trapdoor nearly identical to the first. Marlamin, Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss smash through the wood, and the group finds themselves in the ruins of a monastery much like the one they just left, but completely in shambles. The sky is very dark and overcast, and a howling wind whips by. The monastery is empty.

They investigate for a while, and discover that the ground is like ash, and the trees are a deep gray and entirely dead, with no sign of the lush Towering Wood for miles. Elyas recalls the hallmarks of this place indicate only one thing: they have crossed into Dolurrh, the Plane of the Dead, also known as the Shadowfell. It is much like a mirror world to Eberron where death and decay are dominant, and mortals spending too much time lingering will waste away with the apathetic spirits in this place. Despite being a mirror, though, there are some differences, such as a paved road leading into the dead wood. Garmeth decides to leave the party for a while to see if there is any other course of action, but the other four decide that there is probably not, and they take to the road.

The dead trees of Dolurrh's imitation of the Towering Wood eventually fall away to reveal a small stream, breaking the barren forest to reveal a set of high, roughly-hewn walls. It seems this may have been an area of plateaus once, or perhaps magic or something like it created these walls, but whatever the case, there is an enormous fortress here, toned a gray so deep it is nearly black. They approach the gate, and a sentry stationed above it asks them to identify themselves. He is a pale-skinned human with braided hair, myriad piercings, and strange tattoos, clad all in black. The party tells him why they have arrived in plain words.

The sentry responds that this place, called the Fortress of Still Hearts, is home to a powerful clan of shadar-kai (very close to humans - one of very few races that live in Dolurrh) that have control of the Chaos Gear, and they have no inclination to surrender the artifact. He also reveals that the Children of Winter are allied with the Still Heart shadar-kai, and that the ranks within the large fortress greatly outnumber the four members of the Eclipse Collective (who are shortly rejoined by Garmeth to make five, but this is hardly an impressive increase in numbers).

After some contemplation away from the gates, the group decides that they have no choice but to try and get into the fortress anyway. Zil'dejin, Stahlstrauss and Marlamin begin to scale the walls in an area that has little apparent activity. Garmeth moves around the fortress to find some kind of vulnerable area that would be easier to access, and Elyas goes with him while trying to recount any information he might know about the shadar-kai race that could be helpful, but neither of them have any success in their endeavor. From atop the walls, the three that climbed up initially throw down a rope, and the remaining two quickly climb to the top. Here, they can see the true scale of the Fortress of Still Hearts, with its many buildings and many occupants. There is a set of stairs leading down at a nearby point in the wall, providing access to it from the ground below, and the Collective descends it rapidly.

The shadar-kai

There are two buildings nearby, and numerous shadar-kai and Children of Winter patrols milling about. Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss decide to infiltrate the nearest building, a large and mostly-featureless structure that is dimly illuminated with the same blue light typically found in the fortress. Marlamin looks around for any unused clothing in an effort to disguise himself, while Elyas and Garmeth break off from the party to eavesdrop on patrols and obtain information through stealth. Elyas discovers that the Chaos Gear is being kept in a place called the "Quiet Halls," and the name "Winter Queen" comes up as well. Garmeth discovers nothing of use, and Marlamin finds nothing that can be used as a disguise. Meanwhile, Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss make a mad dash for the door to the shadar-kai barracks, side-by-side. Almost simultaneously, Zil'dejin forces his body downwards to perform a sliding kick, while Stahlstrauss leaps into the newly-vacated space above Zil'dejin's head, turning around in the air to kick the reinforced door from up high. Their feet collide with the door at the same instant, and it explodes into a hellish rain of splinters, both wood and metal. When they pick themselves up, they discover the interior is mostly vacated, save for one surprised-looking shadar-kai who looks to have been behind the door when they kicked it. He is covered with splinters from head to toe, and completely dead.

Inside the barracks, the party, without Marlamin, quickly gathers with plans to move before the inevitable investigation on the demolished door comes around. Outside, Marlamin approaches a shadar-kai patrol, completely undisguised, and tells them that he is one of the Children of Winter, and is looking for the Quiet Halls. He emphasizes the unpleasant nature of the Touch of Corruption on his right arm, and the shadar-kai believe him, directing him to the far northern end of the fortress. Meanwhile, back in the barracks, Garmeth sneaks through some tunnels connecting it to other buildings in the fortress, avoiding patrols, and locates a small, nearly-unused tunnel that most would not have seen, and manages to slip in undetected. He discovers it leads to the Quiet Halls, and is able to sneak the others inside. They meet up with Marlamin between two gateways, one leading back out into the Fortress of Still Hearts and the other leading into the keep-like building that holds the Quiet Halls. The doors leading inside are locked, apparently to be opened from within on special permission, but Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss charge the door, and break it open. Inside, they find shadar-kai and Children of Winter waiting to "greet" them...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Touch of Madness

Sar, Rhaan 24, 998 YK (Day 70).

The Eclipse Collective arrives in the town of Delethorn, and disembarks from the Lyrandar ferry. The incident is not immediately uncovered, and the group believes it prudent to just get as far away from the ship as possible, for now. But there is at least one who was on the ship that witnessed the incident. A middle-aged human named Marlamin Tarmikos, who is found of dramatic introductions, greets the party as they step again onto the shores of Lake Galifar. He explains that he observed the battle with the Dreaming Dark on the Lyrandar ferry, and wonders if the party is headed to Greenheart.

They are distrustful at first, with good reason. Aside from his dark, skull-decorated armor, Marlamin wears numerous holy symbols indicating his membership in the Blood of Vol, with whom the party has not had very good relations in the past. They mention this, and he takes the time to explain that his religion is not evil, and not all of its followers - who are called "Seekers" - are this way. Though the promise of self-empowerment and the attachment to necromancy draws some dangerous attention, many of the worshipers are content to lead normal lives. As a blackguard of the faith, Marlamin strongly believes in this notion. He details his reasons for coming to the Reaches, which involve reports of mysterious activity surrounding an isolated Blood of Vol monastery somewhere in the Towering Wood. He has come to investigate. The party sees no issue in travelling with him at least as far as Greenheart, for should he prove to be untrustworthy, they outnumber him greatly.

Marlamin. Tarmikos.
After the meeting with Marlamin, they attempt to purchase some goods in the town before leaving for Greenheart, only to discover that commerce of any kind is forbidden here, in the interest of keeping good relations with the capital (where this is the druid's law). Tam'elanath trades some gloves for a pair of long knives previously owned by a fisherman here. Afterwards, they set out on the road northwest, to Greenheart, the capital of the Eldeen Reaches.

Mol, Rhaan 26, 998 YK (Day 72).

The party encounters some travelers on the road who are heading in the opposite direction. They find the strangers to be untrustworthy and when asked about their destination, the Collective alienates the strangers, and tells them to mind their own business.

Zol, Rhaan 27, 998 YK (Day 73).

Zil'dejin and Stahlstrauss have an animated discussion about their new-found dislike for the sun, and fire in general. They talk briefly about the only known means of lifting their curse, and dwell for a while on where they might come across a fire archon, or natural spirit of fire.

Zor, Sypheros 1, 998 YK (Day 75).

As a new month dawns, the group comes across an isolated copse, where the trees are grown in a ritualistic manner. This clearly belongs to some group of druids, and the party takes a moment to mourn the loss of Eshunu.

Wir, Sypheros 2, 998 YK (Day 76).

On the road, the Eclipse Collective runs into a group of "bandits," though they are little more than townsfolk playing criminal. The party runs them off and scares them without taking any casualties.

Sul, Sypheros 4, 998 YK (Day 78).

Eight days after leaving Delethorn, the party finally arrives in Greenheart. It is, perhaps, not what was expected by some of the members. Rather than a sprawling city, Greenheart is little more than a glorified town, built around (and sometimes in) enormous trees in one of the more shallow ends of the Towering Wood. Garmeth immediately approaches the first person he sees, and asks about Malavarn, their intended contact here. The citizen refers to Malavarn as "the beast" and cites extremely rude and violent behaviour as the reason for this name. He tells the party that Malavarn and his enforcers have set up camp to the south, just on the edge of town.

The party has no other business of note within Greenheart; Marlamin already knows where the monastery is approximately located, and is aware that the Seekers there had no contact with Greenheart, so they go to Malavarn's camp. They find Malavarn within a large tent among many smaller ones, eating grapes and drinking heavily. He is an enormous human, extremely muscular and covered in scars. The discussion with him is extremely blunt, and he is very rude and aggressive towards every member of the party. He tells them that the man who knows where the Chaos Gear is was found among the druids. His name is Graum, and he is waiting just outside the camp for the party: he would not give any details to Malavarn, despite his interrogation. The party talks to Graum, and elderly halfling druid, and he explains the situation.

The Chaos Gear was located by the Children of Winter, a militant group of extremist druids who believe in a forthcoming apocalypse, which they strive to hasten. Graum is unclear on the details of how or when they found it, but it is a danger in their hands, perhaps more dangerous than it would be in the hands of anyone else. He does not care what the party does with the Gear, just as long as they remove it from the Children of Winter. The party agrees, and talks to Malavarn of what they've learned. He tells them to leave at once, and in a week, he'll follow with his enforcers to "clean up" after the party. With this, he gives them some rations, and urges them to the southwest, deeper into the Towering Wood, towards the location Graum has marked as the "Twofold Glade" on their map.

Sar, Sypheros 10, 998 YK (Day 84).

About halfway to their destination, around sunset, the party comes across an encampment among the vegetation. There are three tents here, and a fire that is burning itself out. Panicked voices are coming from within one of the tents. Tam'elanath sneaks in to eavesdrop, and overhears them talking about an injured person apparently in the tent, who is in danger of dying without medical attention.

Garmeth insists he should help, and on entering the tent, discovers that the voices belong to people he knows: former monks of the Order of Labyrinths, like himself. There are two githzerai, one male and one female, and a human. The male githzerai is Druar, a former rival of Garmeth's, and the human is Cobb, who Garmeth knows as occasionally inappropriate though his heart is in the right place. The other, who is known as Shamai, is unknown to Garmeth as she hails from a different monastery in the Order. Druar is severely injured; there is an enormous wound on his abdomen.

Autumn sets on the Towering Wood

The party sets about collaboratively trying to heal Druar. Though some of them, who are unpracticed in the field of first aid, actually set the cause further back, they are eventually able to stabilize and bandage Druar. The monks then tell Garmeth that they arrived here while travelling in the towns to the south, where they learned of the presence of some aberrations in this area of the Towering Wood, near the Echohand Cave: a known site of a Gatekeeper Seal. They came to investigate once they discovered a pair of Gatekeepers came to the cave and did not return, but the monks were overwhelmed by foulspawn (aberrations distantly descended from orcs) and Druar was nearly killed. They plead with Garmeth for the party's help, and he accepts.

They then make the short detour to the Echohand Cave. A bonfire is burning out front, and there is a terrible smell in the air. When they get closer, the party discovers that the foulspawn have apparently wiped out a camp of adventurers and are throwing their flesh on the fire. Though they initially attempt a gradual, stealthy approach, they are eventually caught by the foulspawn, and a battle breaks out. Marlamin proves that he is a worthy addition to the group as they cut down the aberrations. Zil'dejin retrieves some magic armor from the corpse of the apparent leader of the fallen adventurers. They then move into the cave.

It is dim inside, and the entire cavern is lit by a diffuse, greenish glow. They reach a larger chamber after following the tunnel, where they are attacked by more foulspawn, who at first pin them down, but soon they are able to branch out. Garmeth is captured by a set of tentacles that are nearly invisible in the dim light and pulled towards the ceiling, which the party later learns is where the foulspawn sleep. Once the creatures are dead, they search the area and find some evidence that this was once a sort of living area for the Gatekeeper druids who protected the seal here. Just about everything of any use has been destroyed or tainted by the foulspawn, however. They move forward, and find a man-made door.

Behind it, they enter a large, cubic chamber, clearly not natural in origin. Howling winds sweep past them and a multicolored vortex whips around the room, surrounding a vaguely humanoid figure. As they get closer, they discover that it is not so humanoid after all; the upper body is a bastardization of a bipedal creature, but the lower body is nothing but a mass of tentacles. On one side of the chamber, an alcove with a small altar bearing what appears to be a gauntlet rests, and on the opposite end is an enormous, wheel-like stone covered with runes and engravings. It is shaking violently; this is the Gatekeeper seal.

The party is eventually swept into the vortex, where they are buffeted with raw magical energy. Seeing this, the abomination frees itself from the chains that bind it, and begins its attack. Marlamin is drawn to the dark power of the mysterious, almost organic-looking gauntlet on the altar, and puts it on his arm. He feels the sensation of a thousand, razor-sharp teeth biting into him, and then begins to hear some unusual suggestions in his mind.

The fight with the Xoriat abomination and the strange vortex surrounding it is long and difficult, but eventually the party is able to knock down the menhirs channeling the energy from the seal into the vortex, and takes down the abomination just as it begins gathering its strength for a powerful attack. Tam'elanath has fallen in battle, however, and Zan-kyri seems pensive about the whole situation, even in spite of the victory.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Fading Dream

Zor, Rhaan 22, 998 YK (Day 68).

After spending much of the day in Fairhaven awaiting the completion of Tam'elanath's first round of training, the party leaves on the lightning rail with passes paid for by House Phiarlan. They are headed for the city of Passage, the second-largest city in Aundair and one of the largest trade and transportation hubs in Khorvaire. The trip takes about eight hours, and very little happens on the journey. They arrive at the Passage lightning rail station, and emerge onto the platform. Stahlstrauss feels that he wants a second opinion regarding his curse, so he calls over one of his fellow disembarking passengers and asks him if there are any House Jorasco enclaves in the city. The traveler evidently does not live in Passage, and says that there probably is, but he doesn't know anything about it, so Stahlstrauss goes looking for it. He is accompanied by Elyas, Zan-kyri and - of course - Eshunu. Zil'dejin, Tam'elanath and Garmeth split off to deal with other business in the city.

The search for Jorasco does indeed turn up another building, larger than the one in Fairhaven, but the diagnosis here is the same: they must be granted clemency by a natural spirit of fire or a fire archon if they are to be freed from the curse. They leave again, disappointed. They then locate one of Passage's major marketplaces (there are about three in the city) and spend some time here purchasing goods. Zan-kyri buys some alchemical reagents for the purpose of brewing potions. They then go to the docks, with the intention of meeting up with the other three, but before they get there they ask an impoverished citizen what the "most exciting" thing to do in Passage is. The drifter seems enthused about some sort of black market, from which he buys kvinta herbs smuggled in from Talenta. He cannot indicate to them exactly where this black market is, but they eventually find it after a very unlikely encounter has Zan-kyri running into another genasi (a stormsoul, though any genasi are rare in Eberron) who is a smuggler by trade, and for the sake of racial empathy directs them to the Golden Dragon's Lament, a high-end drinking establishment. They are to use the password "the Royal Eyes are closed here."

They do this, and are directed to the basement of the pub, which is surprisingly large. Many people are set up here selling goods, some on tables, but most just on the ground or on cheap carpets. They trade some magical goods here, but discover that the kvinta merchant is on a gathering run and not currently present. Once their business has finished here, they head towards the docks, where they are stopped by an unusual-looking group. They are mostly human, though one dragonborn is among them, and they wear tattered robes, some of which are painted in the crude image of an eye. Their leader has dark circles under his eyes, and looks half-dead from exhaustion. He claims that they have seen the party in their dreams, that the Collective will "unravel Eberron," and they, the "Brothers of the Fevered Dream," must not allow the party to live.

With an insane and almost unnatural howl from the leader, they attack. A shardmind is with them, amber in color; this too is a rarity. He appears to have more control over his form than Eshunu, and is able to transfer his essence into others, damaging their minds from within. He is the most difficult challenge, and even when the other cultists have all been defeated by the four, the shardmind remains persistent. Eventually, though, he falls. The party collects what they have (some potions, gold, and a cape worn by the leader) before proceeding to the marina. They pay 90 gp per person to take a Lyrandar ferry across Lake Galifar, the largest lake in Khorvaire (much better than the alternative of walking for one whole month). On the way, Zan-kyri brews some more potions to help out his party.

Far, Rhaan 23, 998 YK (Day 69).

It is the second night on the Lyrandar elemental ship. The party sleeps below deck while, as usual, Eshunu and Stahlstrauss keep watch. It is for the most part as uneventful as the first night on board, until there is a commotion on the upper deck. The constructs go to investigate. On the upper deck, there is a man wearing leather armor and a pin shaped in the form of an eye surrounded by a black wing. Next to him, an apparent mercenary, wearing unusual armor that looks to be made of stone. They stand above the bodies of the two Lyrandar escorts who were keeping watch at night. He speaks as he sees them approach.
"There you are, Kahanbalan. For too long now we have sought you. It is time you returned to Riedra, errant one; your time in Khorvaire has ended. Come with me."
Eshunu strains to recall the man's origin. He recognizes the symbol to some extent, and the heavy accent is familiar but distant. Clearly, this person is from Eshunu's past before his most recent memories begin. He questions the man, but gets little information.
"Hear me, Kahanbalan. You do not have a say in this matter. Your will belongs, as it ever did, to the Inspired. You were created by them, for them, and you shall serve them until you cease to be. This is the fate of all Kahanbalani, and I, as an agent of the Dreaming Dark, shall bring you back to your creators."
Eshunu refuses to go with the agent, and Stahlstrauss states that he will protect his comrade.
"If you will not come willingly, then I shall shatter your body and bring back your altadri to them. It is all that they require."
With this, he and the mercenary attack. Several travelers, apparently in something of a daze, emerge from below deck and join the fight as well, though they seem somewhat confused as to why they fight.

Meanwhile, Zan-kyri and Elyas "wake up" in what appears to be a stone prison cell. There are no windows, and the only door is metal and barred on one side of the cell. This is an unusual transition, given their previous location on board the ship, but they search their surroundings for a way out. After some time spent investigating the room without success, where Zan-kyri discovers that the room is magic in nature but can't determine why, Elyas realizes why the walls shimmer the way they do: they are not in Eberron. They are in Dal Quor, the Region of Dreams, and occupy a shared dream space. The prison is some sort of permanent fixture here, and is trapping their consciousness within, held together by some sort of external influence.

Back on the deck, Stahlstrauss and Eshunu fight against the odds. Things seem to go alright for the first part of combat, and they cut down the travelers (with some remorse, as they clearly don't have total control over their actions) and do some damage to the Dreaming Dark agent and his mercenary. However, another combatant enters after a time: another Lyrandar escort, who, like the Fevered Dream cult earlier, claims to have seen Stahlstrauss and Eshunu in prophetic visions signalling the end of the world. He attacks, feeling that he is serving some great just end in doing so.

In Dal Quor, Zan-kyri determines that while the prison is not mutable like most dream space due to its coherence from external force, it can be altered indirectly. Because they are dreaming, they have a significant degree of control over their existence with their minds, even though their bodies don't technically exist here. Elyas experimentally attempts to summon some kind of historical hero into being to free them from the cell, but cannot focus on one in particular to any useful degree. Zan-kyri tries to intimidate the door into opening by personifying it, but can't quite make the door into a living entity, though he comes close. Eventually, Elyas searches his mind for a record of some kind of spell that would be useful, and comes up with a very powerful invocation he had read about in an obscure text once, long ago. He uses this invocation to "summon" an ancient and nameless primordial from prehistory. Though neither the primordial or the spell are real, Elyas' will and perception of these things are enough to tear apart the door and provide them with a measure of freedom. They head up some stairs to try and escape the prison.

On the ship, things are taking a turn for the worse. Eshunu is brought down the the Dreaming Dark agent, and Stahlstrauss is quickly surrounded, now alone in the fight. He deals significant damage to his enemies, but as the mercenary is injured he rallies the others to attack Stahlstrauss in unison. This attack is enough to bring him to unconsciousness. Everything now hinges on the rest of the party, but the minds of the others are still stuck in Dal Quor.

Elyas and Zan-kyri find themselves in what appears to be a great hall of some kind, divided in the middle by a bottomless ravine. Zan-kyri uses his knowledge of arcane construction to summon into being a facsimile of an old, experimental Cannith magic catapult, and launches himself across the gap. Elyas approaches the situation by attempting to turn into a bird, but cannot seem to focus on any bird in particular and turns into a flightless abomination. He changes back to a deva, and Zan-kyri uses a similar approach to his earlier one to create an arcane ballista, and Elyas transforms himself into a bolt to be launched across the ravine. At the other side, they discover a massive set of barred doors. Elyas recounts the historical legends (many embellished, most likely) of Karrn the Conqueror, and summons him into being to break down the door. Outside, there is an appearance of distorted space. They leap into it, and wake up to join the fight up on deck.

Here, the Dreaming Dark agent has contacted somebody with a sending stone and has gathered Eshunu's remains. He, along with the mercenary and the Lyrandar escort, engage Elyas and Zan-kyri, the latter of which helps Stahlstrauss to his feet with an alchemical mixture. Together, the three defeat the mercenary and the escort, but the Dreaming Dark agent escapes on another, smaller boat headed in the opposite direction, carrying Eshunu's remains with him.

Distraught, they mourn the loss of Eshunu briefly and collect the material possessions of the fallen before dropping the bodies overboard.