…to serve her interests in the city of Argent…
…the heroes were finally able to get some rest after the giants and the elementals got what they wanted from their assault on Argent.
The restful bedroll never looked so good to Grigore. Everyone was exhausted from the three fights they had endured in the assault on Argent. But his dreams were troubled by visions of a smaller town: Hope’s Hollow. The dream made no sense. He was back in Hope’s Hollow, a town his parents had visited when he was a child. His parents wanted him to be an undertaker there. Or maybe he dreamed that.
After Obanar told the party that he knew how to make special weapons for all of them, they asked him to do so. He explained that the previous Guardian (named Qwor) had taught him how to fashion Sky Metal into the weapons, but he neglected to explain how to acquire the Sky Metal.
So, the heroes decided to search Qwor’s tomb for clues. This required a trip the main cemetary in Argent, where Qwor is buried: The Necropolis.
Unfortunately, their way was barred by a wight, the shade of an ancient champion of Argent. The wight had long since lapsed into evil, but still retained enough of his memories to be influenced by diplomatic entreaties: Sam the Foresworn and Grigore were able to press the urgency of their situation and convinced the wight that the group must talk to Qwor.
But, when Coppershot Thundershield and Alexander Winterforged tried to impress him with feats of strength, their efforts failed to convince the wight they were worthy to wear the silver cloaks of the Champions of Argent.
The wight grew enraged and summoned a pack of ghost worgs to chase them out of the cemetary.
They had better luck at the library. They found some books which gave them some insight into the Divine Engine (part of which had been stolen by Breven Foss and his elemental thieves). Sam was able to discover a hidden panel which revealed some secret tomes relating directly to Piranoth and the Divine Engine used to imprison him.
Back in Hope’s Hollow: Grigore tries to find an old friend. Searching through his friend’s house, he discovers that it is the house of an alchemist. Which is strange he. Grigore is sure he has no friends who are alchemists. The house is full of alchemical traps, which keep thwarting his search for his friend. He wakes from this nightmare without resolving the frustrations. He tosses and turns for the remainder of the night, getting little rest.
Before they went to the Temple of the Dawn, the party decided to rest. This gave them a chance to use a rune that Alexander likes to use: It gave everyone they ability to understand religion at the same level as the rune-priest. This was a little more unsettling for the rest of the party.
It seems that Alexander’s theology is highly influenced by his unusual affections (unusual for a dwarf, anyway) for the fey. A disturbing influence for most to have residing inside their minds. But they were able to pray up an exarch of Erathis, who told them there are mysterious astral giants who keep track of the whereabouts of divine engines, including the pieces of the divine engine used to imprison Piranoth.
“The giants of the Temple of the Inchoate Mysteries, in the Astral Sea, are known as the foremost experts on Piranoth’s Bane, also known as ’Klar’ekku.’ It is rumored that they, along with select exarchs of Moradin (such as the exarch Torugar), know the ritual necessary to restore Piranoth’s Bane to working order.”
The dream again: Still searching for this alchemist. Still certain he has no friends who are alchemists. But the friend’s house is clearly the house of an alchemist. There is a laboratory here. There are traps obviously set by an alchemist. And there is even evidence that the alchemist was kidnapped. Evidence of a struggle. With blood. The alchemist’s blood. Again: Grigore awakens in a sweat, frustrated and unable to sleep.
The Torrian research forced the heroes into teamwork mode: They had to systematically search the house of the last proctor of Argent. First, Grigore discovered that not all of the house was completely accessible. A space for a room appeared to exist on the map the ardent drew. But the space did not have any obvious means of getting inside. Copper found a hidden, locked door to the room once Grigore pointed this out. When they called Sam over to investigate the hidden door, he found it was trapped as well as locked.
It took Sam almost an hour to open the door without triggering the trap, even with a little help from Grigore. Inside the hidden room, Alexander found ledgers tucked away in a cubbyhole. In the ledgers, Copper discovered the same name appeared over and over: Thror. Thror’s name was always associated with a number and the same word.
Grigore’s long experience with the billion names of gold stood him in good stead. He immediately recognized the word as an obscure shamanistic term for the yellow metal. And he recognized that another name seemed to be associated with the same amounts of gold: Physandros.
Together with Sam and Alexander, Grigore realized that the proctor (whose name was apparently Thror) was planning something in secret, hidden from the champions of Argent, the Guardian, and even the rest of the Torrians. And his secret dealings were making him very wealthy.
Discovering the lingering taint of arcane magic, still evident on the scrolls and ledgers after a decade, the party was able to realize the magic has the taint of dark influence and mind control, as though the proctor was enticed through magic to leave Argent and take the Torrians with him. Taking up service with the mysterious Physandros definitely left a demonic taint on Thror.
8 Minutes of the Past
Next, the heroes went to a field near the Proctor’s house and drank a potion provided by Obanar. A thick mist rose from the ground, and they became a part of the mist, able to look around and see through the haze of yesterdays: Argent as it once was, in all its glory.
Torrians by the dozens had gathered in the grassy field, each looking anxiously at the proctor’s front door. When it opened, out stepped Thror. Somehow the heroes knew this was the proctor of Argent, greeting the crowd. Aided by Grigore, the party was able to notice the discomfort some of the Torrians. Some were heard to whisper questions about why such a gathering was happening without the Guardian.
Enduring the stress of time travel, the party was unable to understand the historical significance of the signet ring Thror was wearing or detect his arcane gestures. Then they found themselves a more demonic form of stress, which prevented them from detecting the spell Thror was casting over the crowd. It became clear that Zumos’s arcane skills were sorely missed as Alexander was unable to carry the arcane burden alone.
“Argent is all but deserted,” the proctor declared. “Its champions are gone. We can remain here and slowly fade away as the city deteriorates, or we can decide our own fate. It is time for the Torrians to become masters of their own destiny, and Physandros has offered us a place where we can prosper.”
They could not miss the effect the spell had on the crowd, however, especially with the help of the the insightful suggestions from Grigore. The Torrians had become glassy-eyed, entering a trance state. They nodded and cheered at every word Thror uttered.
“Let us accept this generous offer from Physandros. Let us take our families and our hopes and our dreams and sttle the Sheltered Woods, far to the west of the Plains of Chaos. Further, let us agree to the few obligations that Physandros has asked of us.”
Again relying on Grigore’s perceptive insights, the party was able to detect a barely perceptible cloud of darkness hovering near the proctor’s head. The cloud had a demonic taint that felt so unclean they noticed the historical significance they missed before: The signet ring belongs to an ancient cult which was tied to Oublivae, the demon queen of ruin and destruction.
Thror finished his speech, the crowd hanging on every word and ready to follow the proctor wherever he leads them. But Thror was not leading anything or anyone.
He was being led.
When they returned to the present, the group decided to make one more attempt at the wight to get a chance to find the Sky Metal. They decided to use one of Alexander Winterforged’s runes to help with the athletics they had failed at before.
But Alexander needed rest before he could use his rune again. And that meant Grigore had to plunge one more time into the world of his dreams.
This time the dream is different. In the dream, Grigore realizes he is not himself. In the dream, he is his uncle. It all makes sense. Maybe his uncle had a friend who was an alchemist. Maybe his uncle’s friend, the alchemist, was kidnapped. Grigore woke from his rest, fully rested and ready to face the Champion Wight one last time.
The rest and the rune, however used up all their strategic thinking: Emboldened by their newfound athletic prowess, some of the more diplomatic members of the party wowed the skeptical wight with feats of strength. By the time others — less inclined to talk — came forward to impress the wight, he was bored by mere feats of strength.
Delis was able to come up with some obscure historical precedents from the time the wight was alive. This demonstrated an understanding of how the past influences the present (a subject near and dear to what remains of the wight’s cold heart).
But Copper failed his diplomacy check and others did as well. No one tried to intimidate him, and an insight roll was used as a stalling tactic to bring Sam’s silver tongue to the fore. Unfortunately, the wight’s imposing presence reduced Sam to a stuttering mass of insincerity and contradictions.
The wight grew angry once again and attacked.