Scaled Down Scales

Harpies?
What are harpies doing here?

Harpies AND dwarves, actually.

As the harpies screeched their attack sounds, the heroes swung into action. The closest perches (an archway over a door and a statue of Moradin) were denied to them by Rinoa, who attached stalagmites to the perches. These stalagmites brought a killing cold to any harpy who tried to land there, but were high enough that a hero standing on the ground next to them could hardly feel the cold.

While the harpies immediately adapted their tactics to account for the frozen perches, only Elyas took advantage of the refuge provided by that corner of the room.

Copper and Esterhu tanked the dwarves with help from Drake the Enforcer. And the rest of the party concentrated their fire to take down one harpy after another.

At first, Drake ignored his own observation (attributing it to some mythic creatures he referred to as “Greeks”) that the bird the harpies most resembled was a chicken. He ironically warned that this might mean they could attack after death.

Thus, the party was unprepared when the first of the harpies died, in fact, spring back to its feet a moment later as a one-turn undead creature. Several party members were sufficiently prepared, however, to notice the look of dread on the faces of the undead harpies. One of them even noticed that the posture of the harpies in undeath was that of a crone.

When at last they chose to take advantage of the undead harpies fear, they found the second-from-the-last harpy easy to intimidate. It immediately begged them to heal it. And a quick-thinking Goldforge scion was able to save it in time (for later questioning).

The final harpy managed to get away (presumably to screech a warning to others). But the cooperating harpy and the final dwarf (who surrendered as well) are available for questioning. Perhaps they can shed some light on the mystery of what fae creatures are doing in a temple dedicated to Moradin, rumored to be inhabited by only dwarves, and recently invaded by a creature from the Astral Plane.

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The REAL Durkik Rescued
In the basement...

…of their latest liberated warehouse…

…the heroes found a trapped room where High Ancestor Durkik Forgeheart has imprisoned while a doppelganger took his place. General Zithiruun has been forced hire a doppelganger for Durkik’s replacement because of the limitations of a certain Githzerai ritual. The general used this dark rite to take over the minds of several high-ranking military officers (including Captain Aerun), high priests (including Matron Volorvyn of the Raven Queen’s Temple), and business owners (as well as one of the aides of the Council of Elders).

The aging cleric still looked a bit worse for wear after his ordeal being tortured by the powerful enemies of Overlook, but he told Ancestor Karros he wanted to deliver the sermon himself. As he mounted the dais, he seemed to draw strength from the image of Moradin at his forge, chiseled into the top of the altar. “I have come to you today,” he began in a surprisingly strong voice, “not to ask you to confess your own sins, but to ask you to listen to me confess mine own.”

But it has its drawbacks: The ritual destroys the memories of the mind which is taken over.

And General Zithiruun believed the mind of Durkik harbored important information about Mountainroot Temple. As it turned out, Forgeheart knew little about the Temple Between (as Mountainroot is sometimes known). Thus, the heroes found the real Durkik badly tortured. Zithiruun had gone to the temple without the intelligence he sought from Durkik, because the High Ancestor did not know much about the temple.

“I was recently captured by the enemies of Overlook and tortured. As I lay there, hanging in my chains beneath The Blister, I asked Moradin what I had done to deserve such a fate.” Knowing what was coming next, Ancestor Karros could not help feeling a surge of pride in his master. “And my answer came to me! For I have been prideful, believing that I deserved all that came to me as your High Ancestor. I grew too comfortable in the prerogatives of this office and too heedless of its responsibilities.”

And so it was that the next morning High Ancestor Durkik brought the party to a dusty room. He was able to manipulate some ancient scrolls which caused a secret mechanism to open a way forward.

Finally, a loud click resounded throughout the room, and one of the walls slid open with a deafening rumble and a cascade of powdered stone.

“This is it,” he told them. “The sepulcher. I cannot go any farther.”

“Once I realized that I had become soft in my enjoyment of the luxuries this office affords me, I began to learn humility…something that is hard to learn when everyone treats you as if being a High Ancestor is just what you deserve. And Moradin sent me a rescue in a most unusual form: An undead representative of the Raven Queen, a revenant named Raven.”

The heroes proceeded cautiously into the room. As they passed each set of chandeliers, the magickal devices hanging from the ceiling sprang to light, gradually illuminating the sepulcher.

To the right and left, stairs led down to an open lower level, transforming the floor on which they stood into a central walkway, with two narrower ledges along both sides of the room. At the far end, an elaborate filigree bulged from the wall, almost hiding the stone door behind it.

The filigree depicted Moradin at his forge. Once someone touched the elaborate iron artwork, the god’s part of the filigree bulged still further, looking up from his forge and challenging the party to construct a parable to demonstrate their knowledge of Moradin’s precepts and the principles by which he asks his followers to live their lives.

“Raven left and brought back two more of the heroes who have repeatedly saved our city. I was humbled by the fact that Moradin had sent such great heroes — friends of Storm Johnson, no less — to save one prideful priest from his own folly. First, Coppershot Thundershield, known to some of you as Copper, tried to bend the tubes which were set up to project mighty spears at my heart.”

The party chose Grigore to deliver their story, The Parable of the Miner. They racked their brains for the history of the great heroes who dedicated their lives to Moradin’s service, but ended up relying on Zumos’s knowledge of religion. Drake the Enforcer suggested a story based on building family, but Grigore elected to go with stoicism and perseverance.

“Copper was able to bend one of the three tubes, but another proved too stout for even his dwarven strength, just as the third — located on the ceiling — proved to be out of his reach. It was then that Samwise stepped in.” Karros smiled as the crowd recognized the name of the plucky hobbit. “Yes, even Sam the Foresworn found the time to rescue me. He was able to figure out how the trap on the door was set up to trigger the spears. Any false move might have sent death hurtling toward my breast, but Sam proved up to the task.”

The rest of the party, with varying degrees of success, performed a pantomine while the Goldforge family black sheep gave his performance (perhaps wishing he had some of Jerath’s skills at telling such stories). Once the parable was told — and accepted by Moradin — a gate opened in the filigree and the party was able to pass through without fighting the chain golems which otherwise guarded the entrance to Mountainroot Temple.

“But it was not Coppershot’s strength nor Sam’s dexterity which inspired me to renew my oaths to this city and forge ahead with new resolve. It was the bravery shown by Zumos, a mage from the southlands. Whilst the others worked to stop the spears from killing me, the Wizard of the Septarchs managed to slip past the bars of my prison and interposed his own body between mine and the spears.” As the faithful gasped in amazement, Karros nodded in satisfaction. His master had not lost his ability to draw in his listeners.

Inside the temple itself, the heroes found something totally unexpected: Not only was Mountainroot guarded by dwarves, but also by strange, fae harpies.

The party had no way of knowing what fae creatures were doing in an ancient temple dedicated to Moradin.

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None Dare Call It Stubbornness
The Enforcer's Mental Resolve Saves the Day

With the occupants of the warehouse…

…fully alerted by the Keystone Kops, our heroes threw together a makeshift plan: Sam and Drake the Enforcer (well, mostly Drake) threw open the front door while the rest of the group (temporarily without a healer) infiltrated through a side door on the upper story of the warehouse.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the party, Raven has become convinced that getting to the bottom of the conspiracies undermining Overlook is the best way to get to accomplish his two goals: Acquiring the final tool in his Tools of Zane’s Vengeance set (a gruesome totem) and exacting the vengeance he promised Sarshan….

With their new tank stuck on the catwalks which crisscrossed the upper reaches of the huge warehouse, the party had to rely on Drake’s unique tanking style: Laying about with his broadsword, while shouting obscenities so painfully inappropriate that they actually caused psychic damage to his halfling companion.

…That vengeance (and the disturbing dreams in which Zane urges him to exact it) have convinced him to get to the bottom of the conspiracies swirling around Overlook. He has been convinced by Drake that the leaders of many of the religious orders in Overlook have been replaced by doppelgangers….

The party identified several of their attackers —

  • A High Priestess
  • An aide to the council
  • A Shopkeeper
  • Capt Aerun
  • One of Aerun’s lieutenants
  • Two other dwarves

The surprising thing: These dwarves (all apparently important people in town) did not revert to doppelganger form when they fell unconscious (thus failing Sam’s Patented Doppelganger Test). Instead, they slumped to the ground, not just unconscious, but dead. Grigore’s attempts to heal them did not seem to work. And his heal checks revealed that they may have been braindead for some days (even though the rest of their organs had been function quite normally).

…Since Raven knew High Ancestor Durkik of the Stone Anvil was one of the suspected doppelgangers, he decided to follow Durkik when he noticed the priest leaving the Temple of Moradin in the Divine Knot without his usual complement of assistants and hangers-on. His suspicions increased as the High Ancestor slipped off to The Blister, a less-reputable neighborhood than he would usually be expected to be found….

Before they fell, these sinister forces displayed a number of mental powers, including an ability to leap across spaces without traversing the gap between. Their doppelganger friends repeatedly attempt to use their powers of invisibility to gain combat advantage on The Enforcer, but his mind proved too strong for their machinations. They ended up wasting their efforts, exhausting their powers trying overcome a more stubborn mind.

…The High Ancestor finally led him to a warehouse. Remembering Zumos was convinced that one of the aides of the High Council may have been replaced by a doppelgangers as well, Raven decided to follow one of them. When he discovered that this aide also led him to the same warehouse, the shaman rushed off to find the rest of the party….

Eventually Coppershot was able to work his way down off the catwalks and pull some of the attackers off Drake (who was absorbing a lot of damage. And Elyas and Zumos did their job: Picking off the minions on the catwalks (who appeared to be the last remnants of the Lost Ones).

…The only party member Raven was able to find was Grigore, who had managed to avoid the bad food and drink at the Pig & Bucket. They quickly rushed to the warehouse and infiltrated through a door halfway up the side of the building. This led them to an office and a system of catwalks. Raven found he could make his way around the building unnoticed by climbing under the catwalks and moving about on the ropes and pulleys hanging from the catwalks (which were apparently there to lift and move large boxes stacked below). Once Capt Aerun arrived and sounded an alarm, it became clear the rest of the heroes were on their way. Especially when Drake threw open the door and began issuing challenges….

Searching the bodies, they found a magickal crossbow and some Gauntlets of Arcane Might. The search of the warehouse turned up little in the way of actual loot, but Sam DID find a trap door leading downward.

Once the alarm alerted the full complement of defenders of the warehouse, only Raven was in a position to see that they were coming out of a trap door hidden in the back of the warehouse behind some boxes. Convinced that was where Sarshan was hiding, Raven hid beneath the catwalks and made his way back to the trap door and down into the space below the warehouse.

Since the last of the Possessed Citizens had teleported out of his sight, The Enforcer immediately jumped to the conclusion that he had teleported beneath the warehouse to the space accessible through this trap door. And we all know that Drake’s assumptions are never wrong.

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Aftermath: Uncovering a Conspiracy
Investigation is a Team Sport

Whose team is the new guy really on?

As they mopped up the remnants of their rooftop mayhem and hustled their prisoners off to holding cells in the basement of The Order of the Black Feather’s headquarters, the heroes noticed some missing bodies: Seems some of the Lost Ones were feigning death and snuck off to lick their wounds.

Or maybe some of them were doppelgangers, too. Pretending to be minions.

As the stealthy hobbit followed the figure up ahead — sure he was following the doppelganger the party suspects has taken Capt Aerun’s place — a signal came from Zumos indicating the rest of the party had found their target on a nearby street….

Questioning the prisoners led to a number of revelations.

What they didn’t know:

  • the name of the city-watchman who hired them
  • who he works for
  • who else is hiring

What they do know:

  • lotsa muscle being hired
  • member of the city watch is the one who hired them
  • description matches Capt. Aerun
  • hangs out at the Pig & Bucket
  • hard to follow after he leaves each night
  • doesn’t go back toward the headquarters of the city watch at the Ministry of War in High Hall
  • the Lost Ones have tried to tail him, without success

The Lost One was recruited to work for Roland. And Belinda took the recruit back with her to Fallcrest, but not before Zumos made a date with her to go see Jerath’s new play, Roland and Juliette. He was unable to convince her it was a tragic romance. Maybe Jerath can spice it up with some spider jokes.

…Sam hurried over to the other street, cursing himself for hiding from the wrong dwarf…

Coppershot “Copper” Thundershield decided he was the right dwarf for the job of investigating the construction in the Divine Knot. He thought he could convince the workers there he was just another dwarf with a piece of wood on his shoulder. But he did not reckon with the fame which has been spreading. An old rival of the party’s has been hired to do security at the temple of Moradin which is being refurbished. Nor did he reckon with the fact that the Ironfell clan has been financing the renovations and providing many of the workers. (Most of the construction workers in the city are shoring up the city’s defenses.) Copper is not that popular with the Ironfells, owing to his association with Storm Johnson.

The Ironfell clan blames Storm for corrupting Bram Ironfell, whom they sent to find the Lost Mines of Karak.

Copper tried to tell the Ironfells that he was all in favor of exploiting the mines, but that was a tough sell: Bram had already told them that Copper and Storm had assisted him in destroying the mines.

Just about the time a fight was about the break out, Ancestor Karros (one of the top aides to the high priest) showed up to escort Copper out. This forced Copper to solo a diplomatic skill challenge for which he was totally unprepared — unless a string of lucky die rolls can be called preparation. Copper found three pieces of information:

  1. High Priest Durkik has assigned almost the entire staff of the Stone Anvil to work on this facility in the Divine Knot, siphoning off good workers from the important business of preparing the city for war. This came as little surprise to Copper, as the party has already decided Durkik is a doppelganger.
  2. The Ironfell clan has invested heavily in the renovations. Many of the workers supplied by the Ironfells are speaking poorly of about the party whenever one of the other workers mentions how many times they have saved the city.
  3. Karros is worried about Durkik.

…leaping from building to building only to be told that Zumos was wrong again…

After their investigations pointed them once again to the Pig and Bucket, the party returned to The Blister’s seedy dive. They found Copper there, slightly the worse for wear.

He had been eating the sausage there all afternoon. And even his dwarven constitution was not enough to protect him from the mystery meat found in those links of tied pork intestine. Assuming the intestines did, in fact, come from pigs.

He was washing down the sausage with weak beer when the rest of the party showed up. They did not disguise themselves this time, even though they knew that Aerun had spotted them spying on him the last time they were here. Several party members DID take up positions outside the building. When the undisguised portion of the party realized the captain of the guard might spot them, they hid in a back booth until he left.

…forcing the halfling to exhaust himself racing back to where he had, in fact, been stalking the right Capt Aerun all along.

As Sam bounded acrobatically to the rooftops to follow their target, he noticed the dwarf was headed deeper into The Blister. Not a place where high-born dwarves who work for the city watch are necessarily welcomed.

Rinoa demonstrated the benefits of her athleticism (she is a veteran of the Special Olympics the dwarves run for races who lack a dwarven constitution). She raced ahead to get a good place to spot where Aerun was headed next.

The Keystone Kops scene which unfolded next was not so much a product of bad planning on the part of the party. Most of them concentrated on aiding Zumos, correctly identifying him as the most perceptive of the party for spotting their quarry. In the gathering darkness, however, Zumos could not make a good die roll.

By the time the foresworn rogue spotted Capt Aerun slipping into a large warehouse, it was obvious he had been spooked by the rest of the party. Any chance at surprise was clearly lost and some kind of defense should be expected as the party closes in on the heart of whatever conspiracy is threatening Overlook. The party was exhausted by their race through the streets, chasing shadows spotted by Zumos.

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Interlude: Shopping with Ambush
Murder is a Team Sport

Desperately in need of repairs for their broken weapons, the party asked the quartermaster of The Order of the Black Feather if he might direct them to a weaponsmith in Overlook who might fix their ill-used equipment. As Grigore predicted, the quartermaster directed Zumos to a nearby street in The Forgeworks where several swordsmiths were found.

“Nooooooooo!” screamed the tiny hobbit…

After some bickering about the haft of an axe and the shaft of Zumos’s staff, the brave adventurers figured out that their view of their own actions is not nearly as heroic as the view the citizens of Overlook have of those very same actions. While they seem to think of themselves as the hapless pawns of some kind of sociopathic mind-controllers forever propelling them into dangerous situations, the populace believes they are really as brave and selfless as they appear to be.

…as Grigore selflessly teleported himself into the wave of Lost Ones attacking Esterhu…

The swordsmith was willing to offer a substantial discount on the repair of Drake’s broken sword (especially after the negotiators agreed to let him do a tracing of the sword and The Enforcer agreed to sign the tracing).

…But it turned out it was not Grigore’s brave self-sacrifice that concerned Sam…

Leaving the swordsmith’s shop with the intention of going to Tradetown to fix the wooden weapons, the party was ambushed by the Lost Ones. This time the gangster seem to have brought everybody, including the junior auxiliary. Party member spotted Lost Ones as young as 10 in the waves of attackers (as well as more doppelganger).

…as Esterhu (teleported to safety he never sought) unleashed a flurry of fury all around, cutting the empty air…

Our heroes were able to capture a doppelganger and a young Lost One before the rest were chopped up or fled. Much to the disappointment of Zumos, who wanted more to question.

…it became apparent that Sam knew well how easily the Minotaur barbarian could have killed the gangbangers who had surrounded him, while the brave ardent could only handle one or two.

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Meanwhile, Back at the Shrine...
...the rest of the party...

…found themselves…

…unsuccessfully interrogating their prisoners. Well they DID get a couple of scraps of information:

  • Grovald guessed that ultimately he worked for General Zithiruun.
  • The doppelganger said that someone has been coming around hiring a lot of muscle from the doppelganger underground.

Then Grigore killed Grovald and the doppelganger suicided.

Elyas found a note in the fireplace in the caretaker’s shack where Grovald had taken refuge. It was badly burned but the part which could still be read seemed to match the description of the note which Lavinya had described to Elyas. (The priestess admitted she wasn’t a very good spy when she described the note.) The four intact lines were sequential:

  1. unreachable for a time, as I must
  2. the priests’ orders as you would my own, for he
  3. s always, be certain you destroy this mis
  4. eneral Zi

Elyas performed an hour-long Object Reading ritual to get specific information about the note and came up with five results in the form of images:

  • the image of a golden-bearded dwarf (the person who gave the note to Grovald) whom Elyas recognized as Capt Aerun;
  • the image of a stylized bucket (the place where Grovald acquired the note) with suds spilling from its top;
  • the image of an older dwarven cleric (the priest referenced in the note) whom Elyas recognized as Elder Durkik; and
  • the image of a stylized pig, dancing (also from the place where Grovald got the note) in the same artistic style as the bucket; and
  • the image of a githyanki in a strange armor (the creator of the note) riding a dragon with its lower jaw missing.

While the picture below is intended to reproduce this final image, I acknowledge it is inaccurate in small details. For instance, the dragon is missing parts of its body, but not its lower jaw. This inaccuracy should be taken as artistic license on the part of the dwarf artist who produced it (who apparently felt that he could not represent the scariness of the dragon without a full set of teeth). In other details, it is very accurate. For instance, the armor is accurately shown as consisting of pulleys and braces as well as the usual protective gear.

Object reading 5

Sam the Foresworn, Elyas and Rinoa then went back to the Divine Knot to seek out Lavinya at the Temple of Erathis. They told the priestess about the death of her friend and asked her about the images of the bucket and the pig. She immediately recognized their description as being the wooden sign in front of an infamous eating establishment in The Blister.

Although Sister Lavinya warned them to stay away from the Pig and Bucket, Sam, Elyas and Rinoa all went over for some sausages and suds. They found Captain Aerun who may have spotted them as well. He spooked, as did another dwarf he appeared to be meeting at the dive.

Sam followed the other dwarf but learned little more than the fact that it is very likely the “dwarf” is yet another doppelganger. Eventually the rest of the group caught up with them and decided to go back to the Order’s HQ for some rest. Knowing secret passages lead from that storefront to the Temple of the Raven Queen in The Boneyard will not make their sleep restful. More so now that they believe Matron Volorvyn replaced by a doppelganger.

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The Past Returns...
...with a vengeance...

…to haunt our heroes.

As the battle at Haelyn’s Shrine ended, The Angel of Death walked over to Drake and asked him for the mask he now wears. She placed it on her own face and was instantly transformed into an old man. At least she seemed old, shrunken and bent over as she now appeared. She was now wearing the clothes of a shaman, covered in primal glyphs. And she was carrying a gruesome totem from which several human-looking eyeballs depended.

She then walked over to Raven’s corpse and took the mask off her head, placing it on Raven’s face. Now Sam and Esterhu could see that she did, in fact, appear to be a aged shaman whose eyes had been gouged out.

Once she placed the mask on Raven’s face, tendrils of mist began to rise out of the eyeholes, coalescing into the shape of a dwarf, a dwarven smith carrying a hammer. On the hammer was a sigil: a stylized M drawn to look like a pair of mountain peaks with a stylized I imprinted over it; each end of the I is drawn to look like the head of a hammer.

As soon as he saw the dwarf, Drake the Enforcer knew where he had heard the voice of Wicked Fang before…

The sigil glowed brighter and brighter until its radiance nearly blinded everyone watching. When the brilliance subsided they saw the dwarven craftsman standing before them, fully corporeal.

…it was a voice he had heard whispering once in a hellish forge…

The shaman/angel reached out her left hand to the dwarf and he took it. She reached out toward Drake with her right hand. With trembling gauntlet, the blackguard took it.

…whispering an oath so powerful it made him gasp…

As Sam the Foresworn backed into the corner, trembling in abject fear, the angel of death whisked Drake and Raven out the door and into the sky, headed toward the mountains.

…“may this sword destroy all the plans you build upon it”…

Flying over the peaks, Drake noticed a temple built into a mountainside. Its features reminded him of the pictures he had seen displayed prominently around the headquarters of the Order of the Black Feather, pictures intended to celebrate the order’s greatest triumph: saving a dwarven paladin named Kalad at the Monastery of the Sundered Chain.

…“may its many edges flay ALL the plans you make”…

While the architecture of the temple Drake found himself flying over reminded him of the Monastery of the Sundered Chain, he became convinced it was not the famous retreat built by the ancient dwarves to celebrate their victory over the giants which liberated them from their ancient thralldom.

…“may its points pierce the hearts of all the plans of those who use you as their pawns”…

Drake, who is known for jumping to such conclusions, immediately decided that the mist-shrouded temple he now beheld was another temple built by the same ancient dwarves who constructed the Temple of the Sundered Chain. What the purpose of such a temple might be was beyond even the blackguard’s ability to guess.

…a gasp so loud it attracted the attention of the oathmaker’s murderer…

As they flew onward through the mountains, Drake and Raven found themselves completely unable to see where the angel of death was taking them. When the mists finally parted, they knew immediately. They recognized the land of Letherna, where the souls of the dead circle in a maelstrom of incorporeality, waiting for judgment.

…Sarshan!…

Three of the Sorrowsworn flew out to meet them, bringing mounts: three nightmares, horses with coats so black and empty one could see the stars themselves shining in them. The angel mounted and so did Raven and Drake, taken to the Raven Queens castle of black ice: Fate’s Palace.

…the twisted creature turned his scarred face toward the place where Drake was hiding…

Standing before the throne of the Raven Queen, Drake tried to correct the Queen of Death on the nature of corporeality. She reacted impassively, casually sending the two revenants back to Overlook.

…and drew his crossbow to slay the only witness to his greatest crime.

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Total Party Distintegration...
...results in a TPK...

…almost.

After Drake the Enforcer kicked in the door to the caretaker’s shack, everyone else was so taken aback (and surprised) that Zumos was able to get off the sleep spell he had planned to convince the rest of the party to let him set off (had they actually taken the time to plan their attack before kicking in the door).

The results were not immediately obvious, since the only Lost One who actually fell asleep was in the back room. Nobody noticed until Raven stumbled, half-dead into the room just as the gangbanger was waking up.

But the sleep spell did offer its primary benefit (slowing several enemies during the first round). When Esterhu showed up to contest the ownership of Wicked Fang, Drake consulted the Dark Angel of the Raven Queen, who gave clear answer to all his questions, making it absolutely certain (to whatever degree the questions asked for certainty) that he should turn it over to the raging barbarian. In the ensuing confusion, Raven did not use one of his dying dailies to heal the party and died as a result (failing three saving throws before anyone could get to him and heal him).

A TPK was averted, but just barely (thanks the spectacular healing provided by Grigore). The evil cleric was captured, along with one of his doppelganger henchmen.

No doubt they will be questioned next time.

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Lobbying for Loot
Wherein Grigore goes straight to the source

The ardent could not help himself…

…and led the party straight to High Hall to address the issue of remuneration for services rendered.

To some other city.

Jerath got a chance to perform his version of “Who’s the Paladin?”

The visit did reveal that somebody has been collecting money based on the party’s good name. The Council of Elders has set up a reward fund in the name of the Raven’s Feather’s favorite sons in the amount of $3,600 gold pieces. Apparently, somebody named High Ancestor Durkik is looking for some book. (Later, when the party confronted Durkik about it, he seemed strangely unaware of it, unable to even remember the name of the book…let alone that he had been seeking out donations for a reward to find it.)

Rumors about Storm Johnson were also flying about the council chambers: It seems that Clan Ironfell has suggested the redoubtable goliath has somehow corrupted one of their members.

And the party also learned that a priestess of Erathis (one Lavinya by name) has been seeking them out. While the rest of the party went to find out about the High Ancestor (in a temple, known as The Stone Anvil, which was strangely bereft of actual clerics even though plenty of worshipers could be found in the main sanctuary), Elyas decided to take it on himself to explore the priestess’s reasons for seeking them out.

Lavinya told Elyas:

“Something is wrong! Something’s happened to Haelyn, I know it, and maybe not just to her!

“A few weeks ago, Haelyn just disappeared. I went by the shrine to speak with her and she was gone. There’s a man named Grovald maintaining the shrine now. I don’t know him; I’ve never met him before, and nobody I talk to knows him, either. He told me that Haelyn left on a spiritual retreat and would be back in a few months."

Elyas investigated on his own and then went back to get the party when he figured out that Grovald was some kind of imposter. Elyas and Grigore distracted the fake priest while Zumos and Sam found his confederates hiding out in the caretaker’s shack.

Well, distracted may not be the right word.

Irritated, maybe.

Eventually, Grovald became sufficiently irritated with the sermon Elyas was preaching that he stalked off to the caretaker’s cottage on his own. Grigore followed and confronted Grovald. Following Grigore, Drake kicked in the door after Grovald slammed it in their faces.

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After completing their quest...
...looting was much easier....

The platinum sword insisted that its spirit be released. But that proved more difficult than expected. After being nearly exhausted on their first attempt to move the cauldrons of fire from the ritual chamber, Zumos hit on a different approach: He cast a freezing burst on the next cauldron and slid it toward the door. This cooled the vessel and might have made it easier to push the rest of the way…

…but the party (apparently all tuckered out from the their first heroic effect) suffered even more endurance loss from the second push. At this point (and at the verge of failure), they decided endurance was more important than athletics. For the third cauldron, Zumos would hit it with another freezing burst and Raven would follow up with a solo push. The rest aided by stabilizing Raven’s feet on the ice from Zumos’s magic and pushing on his shoulders. While the shaman-revenant was tired by the experience, his effort got the cauldron over halfway to the door before everybody joined in to shove the final 30 feet.

The air grew noticeably cooler…

…when the last cauldron was pushed into the marshaling area. The sword’s next direction: “Now you must break the Abyssal hold Fangren has on the portal by saying a prayer to Bahamut.” Sure enough: As the final word of the prayer was spoken, the fires of the portal calmed down and the feeling of dread lifted from everyone’s minds.

The sword’s voice rang out stronger now: “Break the connection to the Chaos by toppling the Elemental Altar!” Several assisted by climbing to the top of the dais and pushing over the altar. Zumos noticed a face in the midst of the flames, but he could not identify it. The face disappeared from view as the fires in the portal began to flicker once the altar tumbled down the back side of the dais to crash at the base of the portal.

“Use your Arcane Powers to divert the portal to a better plane. Recite this Ritual of Sealing.” Although Drake‘s connection to the Plane of Shadow would have made him the better choice for this ritual, Zumos seized the moment and recited the ritual. (As usual, Drake was discussing ego size with Grigore.) As Zumos’s staff trembled in his hand, the flames of fire turned to flames of shadow.

Once the portal was redirected again…

…this time to a plane of greenness and life, Raven began to suspect the sword had betrayed them. He was sure the Plane of Shadow was a better place for it to draw its energies. But the sword was unmoved: “The Feywild is not enough. We must make contact with the Astral Plane. Only prayer can break through to true Goodness.” Thinking true goodness was best represented by Zumos’s connection to Tymora, the rest of the party let the wizard say his words to the Graceful Lady before Raven, suddenly convinced the githyanki were somehow involved, could intervene.

The good fortune of Tymora was enough to turn the tide as the green flames subsided into the blue of the Astral Sea. Grigore rose, as if in a trance, and drew the platinum sword from its sheath. He stood in the spot from whence he had just toppled the altar and held the sword up to the portal, balanced between his open palms.

The sword rose from his hands with silver lightning dancing from the portal to kiss its blade. Suddenly, a flash of light blinded everyone and confirmed Raven’s fears (however temporarily).

When their vision returned, the party found themselves staring at a young woman wearing unusual makeup. She told them her name and asked them what her purpose was.

Getting down to serious looting…

…the party found two new items for Raven’s set: A blood-encrusted cape once used by a blind shaman to soak up the blood spilled by a tyrant. Indeed, it seems the gnolls must have found a collector who was trying to assemble Zane’s entire set of tools because three items were found on the bodies of various shamanic gnolls in various places in the githzerai fortress:

  1. A mask, which helps with intimidation.
  2. The cloak, which gives shamans some minor teleport abilities.
  3. A dagger, which bestows special powers when it is used to finish off an opponent.

The set (which is known as The Tools of Zane’s Vengeance) has additional benefits:

  • Using more than one of the items from this set improves the user’s ability to intimidate that improves with the number of items in your collection.
  • If you have them all (Raven seems to be short one item, a totem which is unusually grotesque even for this group of artifacts) and if you are bloodied, you gain a kind of magickal blindsight which Zane developed after the tyrant gouged out his eyes.

The group also found another dagger which upgrades the dagger Rinoa has been using, allowing her to pass hers on to Sam, who has shifted his parrying dagger to his off-hand. So now he is able to use the parrying dagger as it was intended. Sam and Zumos also found money, a note and stones of some value.

On to Overlook…

The party followed Amyria to Overlook where Grigore suddenly became concerned about the consequences of his actions at the front gate when he almost precipitated a riot among the workers and guards. It seems that Overlook is once again preparing for war, although nobody seems to know who it will be against. The orc menace has be eliminated, the gnolls have been nipped in the bud, and Jerath has been put to productive labor, writing plays.

Indeed, the brave adventurers were able to break the bard’s writers’ block by suggesting that a portal be added to the balcony scene in Roland and Juliette. and by convincing Jerath to take out the dragon/cloud verse from his crucial song and replace it with a verse about swords.

Finally, the adventurers decided to take up a new profession: lobbying.

They have headed off to High Hall to lobby for…

…something.

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