The Shadow of Dragons

Session Twenty-Three
Northbound Again


July 8, 1482

After resting, the PCs returned to meet with the Princess again at Sunrise House.

Elenda asked for the case, and her guard took it and placed it on the table before the party. Without speaking, Elenda reached across and effortlessly opened the case. Nestled within red velvet lining were five pieces of a broken, but ornate, spear. It glowed softly, the very air in the room felt lighter, smelled sweeter, and any nagging aches and pains of their travels fadeed away in this soft golden glow.

Elenda spoke: "This is Dawnkeeper. Legendary weapon of my many-times-great grandfather. Forged by Durgeddin the Black and infused with, legend says, a drop of Pelor’s own essence. Broken 832 years ago in battle with the demon lord Alachek. This nation was founded by this weapon, and I am going to entrust it, for a short while, to you.

My father is dead. And while I love my brother more than life itself, he may never awake again. Even if he does, he has been compromised by eating a fruit, and his intentions will never be free from people thinking he is being influenced by evil.

She wiped away a tear, took a deep breath, and steadied herself. I will not allow this nation to be torn apart. With my mother’s support as Queen Regent I intend to defy tradition and stand as the first Queen Regnant of Turrion. There will be significant, but not insurmountable, opposition to this. I have many allies that will help this be a peaceful transition of power so we can concentrate on the impending invasion from the north. I intend to stand before the Lord’s Council, our nobles, the Church, and our people and declare myself Queen and I will do so with the reforged Dawnkeeper in my hand. The symbolism of this will be undeniable to our people, and put quick end to any dissenting talk of tradition from my opposition who want to play at politics while the nation burns down around us.

Our scholars tell me that within Durgeddin’s fortress Khundrukar is a Foundry. And within that Foundry a Forge. Fueled by dragonsfire, the arcane Forge has the power to remake Dawnkeeper anew. This is what I ask of you. I ask you to be the saviors of our nation. I ask you no less than to stand and change history with me. Take our nation’s, and my family’s, most precious artifact, and reforge it in the fires of its birth."

The party had few questions for the princess, accepted her charge, and took their leave.

July 9

The next day was spent preparing for their journey. Ontharr was able to once again arrange the druidic ritual that transformed the party into hawks, and they departed with all haste towards the Stone Tooth.

July 9 – 12

The party flew to the northwest.

July 12

About an hour’s flight from the Stone Tooth, the heroes could see a caravan below them being attacked by gnoll raiders. They quickly landed and ended the transformation, then moved in to combat. While they were too late to save the few civilians, they did discover a note on the gnoll leader’s body:


The party opted to rest before moving on.

Session Twenty-Two
A Royal Request


June 27 – July 6, 1482

The party travels to Exridge on horseback.

July 6

The party located Zud, who rushed them to Pelor Grove, where the commencement of the synod was taking place. At high noon, Aldgus Haspar, who had been ill but carried on, opened the synod with a fiery speech about the need to look only to the divine as a source of power and knowledge. Religious events and activities took place for the rest of the day throughout the city.

Ontharr Frume, Leosin Erlanthar, and Selebon Hogsbottom met with the heroes and there was much discussion about the events in the Sunless Citadel. The party was told that they had a meeting later in the day, but with whom could not be revealed.

The party made themselves busy for a few hours, only to return and find out their meeting had been delayed until later that night.

July 7

Just after midnight, the party gathered at Sunrise House and discovered that their meeting was with none other than Princess Elenda Exridge!

She was surprisingly well informed, but her face was full of sadness, and her eyes wet with tears. She spoke to the party: “I will address you, fittingly, as heroes. Thank you for meeting with me despite the required misdirections. All of our time is limited so I will not delay. Our nation is in crisis. Auberon Lycus is dead. Aldgus Haspar is the wrong person to lead the Holy Church, and may be compromised by the fruit from this tree? My brother lies in a coma, maybe also dying from this same poison.”

She steadies herself for a moment, and continues: “My father the King is dead. This knowledge will be kept secret for a day or two because this conspiracy has left power vacuums at the very top of two pillars that defend our people. Despite our situation, you five have done a great service for Turrion. And I’m going to ask you to do one for me as well.”

In the royal graveyard behind the High Clerist’s Tower are several crypts where the past Firsts remains are entombed. The oldest one of these also appears the smallest, a structure of golden marble, its entry flanked by statues of wounded direwolves … the left one is missing an ear. Enter this place, but beware, as each First is permitted to design their own resting place, and many conceived of them as their final chance to impart a lesson on future visitors. There are rumors of curiosity seekers entering and never being seen again.

Within, there should be a large chamber. Within the chamber, at the foot of the Altar of the Wolf, you will find a large, ornate case. Oak with golden inlays of the wolves of house Exridge, measuring about three feet long, a foot and a half wide, and six inches tall. I ask you to bring this to me."

After some short discussion, the heroes agreed, and waited until evening. They located the correct tomb, and descended. The party discovered a number of intriguing vignettes, some quite dangerous, but managed to descend further, and made their way to an enormous chamber. This was, they discovered, the resting place of Ser Jason Exridge, the Wulfblood, First King of Turrion. They located the ornate case as described by the princess, placed it within their Bag of Holding, and made their way back out of the tomb.

Session Twenty-One
Cleaning House


June 25, 1482

After resting, there was much discussion of the new information discovered, and what to do next. The heroes departed the twilight grove, and decided to explore the areas of the sunless citadel they had ignored until now. Finding nothing of interest in the lower level, the party ventured back up to the main floor.

They discovered, and shattered, the glowing orb that the kobolds had mentioned making a “light that hurts”. Reaching the end of the unexplored corner of the keep, the party discovered, disturbed, and then destroyed an undead troll priestess of whatever religion or cult originally inhabited the keep.

Finally, the group gathered up Jamna, said goodbye to Yusdrayl, Meepo and his kin, and departed the citadel. They traveled until nightfall, then camped.

June 26, 1482

The party continued on their trek to Oakhurst, arriving in the evening. They paid a short but somber visit to Kerowyn Koldricsson, and returned the signet rings of her fallen relatives.

The heroes then returned to the Inn, where they found Wump, who had volunteered to bring the party horses from Exridge. Wump filled them in on some news from the city, and the group prepared to depart Oakhurst.

Session Twenty
The Twilight Grove


June 24, 1482 cont’d

The party advanced into the darkness, killing several of the twig creatures. Soon, Belak called out to them, offering to accept their surrender and supplication to the tree. The heroes declined, and battle was truly joined. The group defeated numerous twig blights, then next slew the reanimated forms of Ser Brayford and Sharwyn Koldricsson. The fight was long and brutal, but at the end, Belak the Outcast lay dead.

The party discovered Belak’s small library, a mix of journals, published works, and profane tombs of unholy knowledge. The journals went into the group’s bag of holding, while the evil books were stacked beneath the tree alongside Belak, Ser Brayford, and Sharwyn’s bodies as kindling. The group could feel the malevolent presence of the tree while they lit the fire, and watched as the flames burned the tree down to a smoldering stump over the next few hours.

Also found were two of the mysterious fruit, one in an ornate box in the style they have seen before, the other an almost identical case but with purple highlights.

Belak’s diaries made clear – there are two kinds of fruit, “clean” and “infected”. Clean fruit carry a regenerative effect of the vampiric nature of the tree. Belak tried but failed to see if there were any other effects from the clean fruit, but mused at length about the possibilities of being influenced by the tree “just more subtly”. He also wondered what will happen to anyone who’s eaten a fruit if the tree were to suffer a “true death”.

The people of Oakhurst get clean fruit – the goblins knew to steal the clean ones – while high ranking cult members – Frulam, Dral, and Rezmir – ate infected fruit. Almost everyone in Ossington got clean fruit, but several were given infected fruits during early testing – the three that were made examples of, and one last survivor – Fen the Elder.

From a quick scan of the journals, it was clear the cult served a threefold purpose – to destabilize the region, to use the loot to fund an invasion from the Fells, and to test the infected fruit. Belak crowed in delight at news that the Sparrow watched Auberon Lycus eat an infected fruit. A very recent entry complains that the effects must have been too much for the old man, the parasite must have killed him. The final entry cryptically states that at least Haspar has “tasted of the tree as well.” He is noted as having eaten a fruit, but not which type – “Haspar is all but decided as the new First, so plans continue unabated.”

Another volume revealed more details about the Cult of the Dragon. The “leaders” of the Cult perform a ritual called “Submission to the Wyrm”, where an infected fruit is eaten. The parasite, called an Embyr, will nest in the stomach, growing slowly over time.

As an act of sacrifice, the cultist can recite a trigger phrase in Draconic, which causes the Embyr to grow rapidly and burst forth, violently emerging from the host. Premature Embyr appear as misshapen, three-foot long, wingless chromatic lizards – disturbingly malformed monsters half snake, half dragon. Meanwhile, the host bodies’ head splits apart, quivering razor-tipped tentacles emerge, and the body animates and attacks any targets within range. If not killed, the body, called a Revenake, dies after a few minutes – the Embyr after an hour.

Those “Submitted to the Wyrm” once a day vomit up a jelly-like mass of chromatic eggs. If contained and fed fresh blood, these will grow to a squad of kobold wyrmclaws suicidally loyal to the host.

If the Embyr survives initial gestation, the host will start to grow weak and sickly. They will be near death as the Embyr completely takes over their bodies, with all the knowledge and memories of the host. If all goes well, the host makes a recovery from illness, but finds themselves a slave to the will of Gulthias.

Another journal tells of Belak’s discovery of the tree. Belak, an outcast Snake clan druid became fascinated with the tree, and discovered that some of its fruit could heal the sick (and maybe even raise the dead), but other fruit also warped and twisted its victim, enslaving them to the will of the tree and its caretaker.

Belak researched a method for “planting” new trees, but succeeded only in creating the twig blights. Eventually, a plan began to form – figure out how to tell the fruit apart, and get the second “infected” kind of fruit to as many people in power as possible, enslave them to his cause, and return the Snake clan to its rightful place.

He brought in a powerful Tiso monk named Hanira Redfall (also a Snake) to help him determine how to tell the fruit apart. What they discovered is that some fruit were infested with a small graveworm from the earth beneath the tree. These “infected” fruit were the true power of the tree – those that survived consuming the infected fruit would come under control of the tree and its caretaker.

They needed someone to help distribute the fruit, so Belak and Redfall brought in Jozan “The Sparrow” Lostcaller, a renowned bard who often plays for the well-to-do and has connections in high society. The Sparrow was secretly known to be an inhuman creature not of this world, but no one knew his true motivations. Nevertheless, he agreed to join the conspiracy.

With an overabundance of new information, much discussion took place. The wounded and weary party retreated to the half-room at the edge of the cavern and rested, watching the tree burn in the distance.

Session Nineteen
Into the Darkness Below


June 23, 1482 cont’d

The heroes took a moment to catch their breath, then returned to the kobold throne room. There they rejoined Venix and Jamna, and met with Yusdrayl the Trik Clan queen. They described their victory, and told her that the goblin chief Durnn and his warriors were dead. For their reward, the party asked for the key and flask they spotted earlier sitting on Yusdrayl’s throne. There was a great celebration among the kobolds, and the heroes retired for a much-needed rest.

June 24

Leaving Jamna behind to recuperate, the rest of the party returned to the sealed passage in the floor of the goblin throne room. They key did not fit; the seal’s only feature being a small dagger-sized slit along one edge. Rather than go searching for the proper key, they used the Chime of Opening recovered from Belak’s tower in Ossington. The portal irised open, revealing a hundred-foot drop to a cavern below, lined with damp vines.

With only a few near-death falls, the heroes descend … directly into combat with some sort of ghoulish undead gardeners. The group then slowly explored the strange underground mix of natural caverns violently merged with the lower levels of the collapsed citadel. In one side room, they slew a pair of goblins torturing a giant rat, which seemed to be infected with wood-like sores and tumors. In another, they defeated a monstrous creature with no head, just a giant mouth which made a strong effort to devour Tarathan.

The heroes explored the winding tunnels deeper into the earth. They explored an old library but opted to bypass an enormous magical dragon statue of unknown purpose. Finally, the hallways and tunnels opened into an enormous underground chamber. The cavern was softly lit by the purple glow of luminescent fungus, which took the shape of the strange rambling words last seen in Belak’s tower. The ground was covered in huge thickets of thorny bushes and a scattering of ruined structures, through which they could see a number of the twig creatures that attacked them on the surface.

And, several hundred feet across the chamber, the heroes could just make out the shape of an enormous black tree, softly backlit in the violet glow.

Session Eighteen
Massacre in the Sunless Citadel


June 23, 1482

The heroes returned to the kobold-held areas, dropping off Jamna in the relative safety of an unoccupied room. Venix (not present) volunteered to stay behind with her.

The rest of the party advanced quickly into goblin territory. They explored several passageways and used pitons to spike doors closed as they went. They located a room where the goblins were keeping the captured white dragon wyrmling Calcryx, but could not decide if they wanted to kill the creature or keep their bargain with the kobold queen Yusdrayl. Meepo was left to keep an eye on his former charge, and the party departed with a promise to return for them.

Shortly after, the heroes inadvertently stumbled directly into the Likho clan throne room and main living areas. A massive, chaotic battle ensued. The heroes, buoyed by Gareth’s Spirit Guardians, managed to rout the entire clan. They slew their chieftain Durnn, his priestess Grenl, and a horde of hobgoblins and Likho clan warriors.

As the battle turned against them, the “civilian” goblins – mostly women and children, found themselves initially trapped between the fighting and the spiked doors. Eventually they managed to batter down one door and dozens of goblins fled screaming out into the citadel.

Session Seventeen
Old Friends and New


June 22, 1482

The heroes search several rooms to the north, and fought several giant, mutated rats and their rat queen, Guthash. The queen radiated a sickly aura that caused the party some issues, and escaped through a tunnel beneath their nest. Searching the chamber, the party discovered a half-eaten body which could only be the ranger Karakas.

Doubling back, the group followed Meepo to the entrance to “goblintown”. Pushing through the door, an alarm was set off, and the party engaged two groups of javelin-throwing Likho-clan golbins. The heroes managed to overcome the goblins’ caltrops and other obstacles, slew the goblins, and secured the room.

Hearing pleas for help from behind one door, the group entered a small, dark room and discovered three kobold prisoners chained to the floor, and another small figure locked within a cage. The party freed the kobolds, who made their way back to the safety of their area of the citadel.

Within the cage the party discovered, to their surprise, a badly-wounded Jamna Gleamsilver. After providing what healing they could, the heroes retreated back a bit and secured the area, preparing to rest there for the night.

Jamna, in her frustratingly dodgy manner, told the party that she was following the trail of the leader of the Tiso monk clan, a woman named Hanira Redfall. This name, while new to the party, matched the partial name in Belak’s journal. This created great interest – especially from Razar-De.

Jamna told them that Redfall left from Torsuul and came here. Jamna followed, but was attacked by some shadowy beast and woke up a prisoner of the goblins. As best as she could make out, she’d been here about two weeks.

Much additional conversation followed, including an all-but-actually-saying-it confirmation that Jamna was working for the Black Network (some oath, geas, or spell seemed to prevent her from direct confirmation).

Meepo mentioned that now the goblins for sure knew they were coming, and asked the party if they wanted to continue on this “back way” into the citadel’s depths, or if they wanted to circle around and take the “main way”. The heroes rested and discussed their options.

Session Sixteen
The Sunless Citadel


June 17, 1482

The party accepts Leosin‘s offer to arrange the ritual. In the morning, the heroes gather outside the city, and are transformed into hawks. They spend three days in this form, flying north towards Oakhurst. In the meantime, horses will be sent to Oakhurst in preparation for the group’s return.

June 17 – 20

Flight to Oakhurst.

June 20

The party lands just to the east of the small village and recited the command to end the ritual. They walk into Oakhurst, making note of the various shops and residences, and decide to first visit the Ol’ Boar Inn.

The proprietor is a human called Garon. Garon, in the tradition of small-town inkeeps, is a font of local information, and the party learns several things:

  • Back around ’69, a grim man named Belak visited town. He seemed despondent, and left after a day or two, never to be seen again. He stayed at the inn, and said such odd things compared to their usual visitors that Garon never got over the sight of sadness in his face.
  • About a year later, goblins of the Likho clan, which infest the ruins deep within a nearby ravine, started showing up in town, selling a single, perfect red fruit. Once or twice a year since, they show up and offer one for sale to the highest bidder – which is almost always Mayor Vernor Ledota. Usually the fruit sells for around 50 gold, which is more than most people can afford. Garon claims that the fruit heals those who suffer from any disease or other ailment. A few villagers have tried planting the seeds to grow their own fruit, but as soon as saplings grow, they disappear – stolen back by the goblins no doubt.
  • A little more than a month ago, a paladin of Pelor named Ser Brayford and his retainer, a Ranger called Karakas, arrived in town with the intent to clear the old ruins. The local shopkeep, Kerowyn Koldricsson, has a brother Talgen and sister Sharwyn who hired on to accompany them. They set off one morning and have not returned.

The heroes next pay a visit to Kerowyn. She is initially suspicious, but eventually tells the party that her brother and sister were hired by the visiting Ser Brayford as guides and to help clear out the old ruins. Talgen is a man-at-arms, and Sharwyn is a magic user; both are sort of the local “adventurers” and Kerowyn expected they could handle themselves. Since the party mentions they are headed to the ruins, she asks them to look into her siblings’ fate. Worst case scenario, she offers 125 gold each for the return of their family signet rings.

The party wastes no time and departs for the ravine immediately. Night falls, and while camped for the night, they are attacked by some form of creatures, seemingly made of sticks. The battle is won with little damage to the party, but some puzzlement over exactly what the creatures were.

June 21

The next day, the party arrives at the ravine. There seems to have been a huge land bridge that crossed the ravine, the center of which collapsed long ago – apparently dropping a small fortress down into the darkness below. The heroes carefully climb down, discovering some rough-hewn steps leading to the ruined citadel’s gate.

A short dungeon crawl ensues, with the group battling giant mutated rats and falling victim to several traps. Eventually they come to a room with a broken cage, and a small runty kobold, wrapped in its bedroll, whimpering nearby. They grab the creature, and discover that he is Meepo, Keeper of the Dragon for the Trik Clan kobolds. He is generally weepy and frightened of the party, but they calm him down and get some information from him.

He says, “Our clan’s dragon … we lost him! The wretched goblins stole our Calcryx! Snuck in here a few days ago and killed my team and stole Calcryx!” Calcryx is a white dragon wyrmling that somehow the kobold clan got hold of and now keep as a mascot / future object of worship.

Meepo takes the party to Yusdrayl, the Trik Kobold Queen. Yusdrayl sits on a makeshift throne deeper within the citadel, surrounded by her clan. She meets with the heroes, and they learn quite a bit from her:

  • “Trik Clan is here to take back this holy site of dragons. Our tales tell of dragon worshippers here long ago, and we will take this place for our own.”
  • “The Outcast Belak is our hated enemy! He lives below, and grows the fruit. The dragon-thieving goblins work for him!” Until recently, the Likho goblin clan occupied the entire citadel, working for Belak.
  • Ser Brayford and his party were here, just shy of four weeks ago. Yusdrayl says she told them about the Outcast and his goblins below, and they headed off into the goblin-controlled area of the citadel. She has not seen them since.

A deal is proposed – if the party promises to retrieve their stolen dragon, Yusdrayl will send Meepo with them as a guide, to show them the “back way” into the goblin areas of the fortress. The party accepts, and Meepo leads them down several disused corridors.

In one such passageway, curiosity overcomes Gareth, and he opens a side door to investigate. Within, a lit candle sits on an altar next to a small glass whistle, and five sarcophagi line the walls. Gareth takes the whistle, and ghastly undead horrors burst from the sarcophagi. A lengthy battle ensues, with the party cleverly using Turn Undead to corral the creatures and pick them off one at a time.

The battle over, the party stopped to rest.

Session Fifteen
A Tangled Web


May 29, 1482

The party spends a lot of time discussing the journal and its implications. They decide to visit the wild elves and update them on the situation in Ossington. The heroes travel to where they met the elves before, and after a short while Vesley arrives and slowly leads them to the hidden glade.

Yellis and Zarn are there, and are happy to hear the news. They agree to keep away from the villagers for now to allow them to get back on their feet. Yellis says that they’ll stay away for a few months and meet the villagers at the traditional yearly meeting when it comes around again.

In the evening, Thilvara returns. She had left to speak with others of their kind, and brings some news.

She says, “The different tribes of Wild Elves range all through the northern forest, from here to Lake Ilman. There is some communication between us, and they have been hearing strange things. The creature clans of the Hallrag Fells are flush with gold, and had a gathering at the Black Oasis. Thurik Rotten Eye has raised an army of gnolls – Rotten Eye and War Dancer mostly, with some Red Skulls. Smartist Grimgrinder of the Smartist kobolds have come down from the mountains to join them. And now the Splithead orcs have a new leader called Glasha, and her tribe has been raiding Endsport and the northern border. War is coming to this land.”

With no other path apparent, the heroes decide to return to Exridge.

May 30 – June 9

The party briefly returns to Ossington, then departs for Exridge.

En route, Tarathan asks S.HAR.M.IN. about Doomward, the sword he took from Tully. S.HAR.M.IN. recites a summary about Durgeddin, the legendary dwarven smith.

“Eight hundred years ago, the great dwarven smith Durgeddin the Black was driven from his home by a horde of fierce orcs and trolls. They plundered his ancestral halls and slew all they could catch. Fleeing his enemies, Durgeddin led the destitute remnants of his clan in search of a new home. After years of wandering, the dwarves discovered a great cavern system beneath the Graypeak Mountains.

There Durgeddin and his followers founded the secret stronghold of Khundrukar—the Glitterhame, and their forges shaped some of the mightiest weapons of legend – Echo, the Ghost Blade. Thunderguard, hammer of the Mountain Lords. Dawnkeeper, spear of the Wulfblood himself.

A hundred years later, one of Durgeddin’s clansmen was captured by orcs during a raid, and a powerful orc tribe learned the secret of their enemy’s stronghold. The orcish chieftains raised a great army and marched on Khundrukar. In a hard-fought siege lasting months, the orcs tunneled around the dwarven defenses and stormed the place, putting all within to the sword. The monsters abandoned the scene, carrying off wagonloads of booty.

In the years since that great battle, legends say various goblin or orc bands have occupied the Glitterhame and used the dwarf-hold as a base for their raids. At other times, the caverns have lain empty except for the mindless and bloodthirsty monsters that haunt such places. Today legends of Durgeddin’s vengeance, the Smith’s War, and the extraordinary blades he forged still surface from time to time across the lands."

June 10

The heroes arrive in Exridge to see the city draped in gray and black mourning banners. Word quickly reaches them that yesterday, Auberon Lycus, First of the The Holy Church of Pelor passed away from his illness. Much discussion is had concerning the impact this may have, and whether Belak or The Sparrow may have been involved.

Travelling to the temple of Pelor, the group checks in with Captain Cortes, and learn that Zud Doriglar is preparing a meeting of the Lord’s Council at the Knight’s House on the other side of the inner city.

The party meets with Zud, who informs them that Ontharr Frume, Leosin Erlanthar, and Selebon Hogsbottom are all on their way to Exridge. They were all down south dealing with some trouble with the Cult of the Dragon, but should arrive on the 16th.

With nearly a week of free time, the party members set out on individual pursuits.

June 11

While Tarathan makes himself available to the Radiant Servants, Gareth, Razar-De, and Venix take the opportunity to do some research in the Great Library. They hire a scribe by the name of Wendil, who navigates the archives in search of any mention of “Belak the Outcast”, “Gulthias”, a tree which grows underground, or a “sunless citadel”.

Some luck is had – Multiple histories and records exist of the vampire Gulthias. The story is short on exact particulars, but more than a hundred years ago a party of heroes set out from the village of Oakhurst to confront a powerful vampire in his lair. At some point they climbed a mountain to a “castle in the sky”, and staked the vampire within.

This reference to a “castle in the sky” causes some excitement, as the same phrase was used earlier by the Golden Stag. Oakhurst is proposed as the group’s next destination.

Drianna spends most of her time at the business offices for Thornehart, Inc. Maedove “The Dove” Oriver has been taking care of things, and has hired Wump as a runner and general assistant. Wump is more than happy to tell the story of how he escaped the Carnath Roadhouse and made his way here, and is excited to have the opportunity to assist with solving “some for real mysteries”.

Maedove also has a letter she was unsuccessfully trying to deliver to Drianna, in reference to Jamna Gleamsilver:

“Hi Boss!

Hope this find you well and prosperous. Business is good, word has traveled up that you’re doing good things in the south so we’ve had a few new nibbles of interest.

I had to have a good long think about this halfling you mention. I knew I have some family settled in some small villages in the Midwoods called Gleamsilver. I think they’re a distant aunt’s relations, so this Jamna would be a distant cousin by my reckoning.

Armed with this, I went and talked to my (much closer) cousin Belfrey, who came, via Wolfspear, to Exridge from up around there and he recollects them quite well. Not into what we at Thornehart Inc. might call “legitimate business” if you catch my drift. Quite the opposite, as he remembers several Gleamsilvers as hanging for one offense or another. Belfrey thinks his sister’s husband’s uncle (on their father’s side) once owned a shop or tavern that saw some of the Gleamsilvers’ come around asking for protection money. Rumors of Black Network connections, that kind of family, you know?

I’ll try to get something else to you if something comes to light, but the first response to you in Greenest came back undeliverable – I guess you’d already moved on. Let me know if this is important enough to be worth spending a bit on a Sending. I’ll expense it!

Maedove "

June 13

The heroes grudgingly submit to Wump’s request that they all get together for dinner. There is much discussion of current events. Wump reveals to Drianna that he looked into the Sparrow, and found out he was in Exridge back on May 2, and performed for the First – shortly before the First fell ill.

June 14

Tarathan, performing some routine duties with the Servants, overhears rumors that King Arendor Exridge IV has fallen ill now as well.

June 16

The Lord’s Council meets during the day, and in the evening Zud gathers the party to meet with them. Many topics are discussed:

  • The Council thanks the heroes for their work against the Cult of the Dragon. Ontharr tells them that with the deaths of Frulam Mondath and Dral Borngray, the Cult seems to be collapsing from within. Leaderless, the different raiding bands seem to have spun off on their own with little cohesion.
  • Who is Belak? Who is Gulthias? Where is the Sunless Citadel? Oakhurst is proposed as worthy of investigation to follow up the connection to Gulthias. Oakhurst is a small, remote village of no real import. No one has connections there, it’s out of the way and of no real political or military import. It’s about 10 days away by horse.
  • What are these fruit? What do they do, and who may have eaten them?
  • Is the Sparrow the PCs met the true Jozan Lostcaller? And if so, where is he and what is his part in all of this? Ontharr explains that The Sparrow just performed for Tammen’s birthday on May 31. Both the King and Prince Tammen were present. The Queen and the princess Elenda were busy elsewhere during the performance. Now, the King is ill. If he dies, Margery will become Queen regent and Tammen will succeed the King even though Elendra is older. Elendra is brilliant, and would make a formidable Queen regnant, but tradition says the title goes to sons. Or to the church if there are no sons. There is discussion as to whether or not the King and Prince received the strange fruit from the Sparrow, and what effects it may have on them.
  • Leosin speaks about the First’s death. A synod will be called to replace him, and Second Aldgus Haspar is favored to be the new First. Haspar comes from the north, and is a hard-line member of the church who views divine magic as the only acceptable form of magic and “has been known to burn a witch or two.”
  • Who is this “…fall” person? Is this the Red Woman from Rezmir’s letter?

Time becomes an issue, as the heroes want to get to Oakhurst and return as quickly as possible, before the King dies or the synod begins. Leosin offers to arrange a druidic ritual that would transform the party to hawks so they could fly to Oakhurst in three days, but would have to arrange their own return transport. Someone proposes that they could make arrangements for horses to be delivered to Oakhurst so they are ready when the party wants to return.

A decision is made to travel to Oakhurst, but no decision is made as to how.

Session Fourteen
Secrets of the Tower


May 27, 1482

The party awakes in the morning and chats with Henwen a bit more. Drianna receives a sending from Maedove letting them know that Wump arrived in Exridge. Drianna responds by having “The Dove” offer the young man a job.

The heroes then depart for the area Henwen indicated on their map in search of the wild elves. After much travel through the thickening woods, they find themselves ambushed. Drianna and Gareth are waylaid by pits and snares. Several archers and a mage fire from cover, and an earth elemental tosses stones while a treant animates several trees to attack as well.

In a stunning display of diplomacy and persuasion (back to back natural 20s!) the party manages to halt the attack and engage the wild elves in conversation. They speak with their leader, the elvish woman Yellis. Yellis introduces her compatriots Zarn and the sorceress Thilvara, and their allies Gnarlroot the treant and Vesley the earth elemental.

The party is led to a grove where the elves are staying, and they hear their story from Yellis and Zarn (with suspicious interjections from a still-unconvinced Thilvara):

“We wild elves have lived here for thousands of years. About 35 years ago, humans arrived and built a few homes in the old druid circle. We had always stayed away but were respectful of the druids, who left to join some great war two hundred years ago but never returned. But these new villagers were friendly enough, and kept to themselves. We would see them sometimes in the forest, and as long as they left us alone we got along well enough. We would meet with their leaders once a year to keep the peace between us. Things were good.

About a year ago, something happened. They didn’t come to the yearly meeting. We thought they may have trouble, so we left them to their business. But something had happened – some new people came to town, and there were deaths. None of our business, you understand. Then the forest began to change, to grow quiet, and we heard about the disease.

This was about six months ago – January. We sent a representative to them, to offer our help with their sickness. Their new leader, called Dyson, turned us away – said it was dangerous there, and showed us a body – a human woman, diseased, her guts fallen out and head rotted away. Said there was a sickness within her. We were afraid, so they said they would meet with us outside the town.

They came to parley, we met with them – the man Dyson, his swordswoman, and some others. It was an ambush. Why? We do not know, but it must be an aspect of the disease – to make them want to kill. Our people were murdered. We are the last.

We must not allow this sickness to spread, so we took an oath. For the good of this land, we must quarantine them. None can be allowed to leave and spread this infection. We set traps, drove them back, killed them when they tried to leave or we could get a good shot into the village.

In March Ser Petyr came. He found us, wanted to talk. We told him about their disease, about the ambush. He asked about what happened. He asked, with so many dying from sickness, where were they being buried? We showed him some we had killed in the forest, but as for town … we don’t know – we’ve seen no pyres. (Thilvara: “Maybe they eat their dead.”)

Ser Petyr thanked us, and headed back to the village. Said no disease could harm him, he was protected by Pelor. We never saw him alive again, but his ghost haunts these woods. (Thilvara: “Maybe he got sick anyway. Maybe they killed and ate him too.”)

Understand, it is a hard thing, but these villagers must die to protect the rest of the world. They are sick. Ones who do not appear to be sick may still spread the disease. We will carry on until we or they are dead."

The party listened carefully and began to piece together what they think really happened. They explained that the “disease” may actually be part of the cult they are hunting, and came to an agreement with the elves to hold off on any attacks on the village for one week. The heroes said they would return to the town tomorrow and confront the real enemy.

May 28

The party bids farewell to the elves and thanks them for their hospitality. The elves offer them several gifts in a gesture of hope for a resolution and wish the heroes luck.

Several plans are discussed as the group heads back to Ossington.

When the PCs arrive, Ossington looks like a ghost town. Everyone has locked their windows and doors and appear to be hunkering down, as if they are expecting trouble.

The only person visible in town is Tully, sitting on the steps to the tower sharpening her sword.

“Welcome back,” she says. “I’ll get right to it with you – we haven’t been able to 100% keep track of you, so I’m not certain what you think you’ve discovered or who you’ve talked to. But we’ve obviously underestimated you, and someone would like to talk to you about maybe taking up positions within our organization.”

She gestures to the top of the tower, where the Sparrow appears, and proceeds to make a short speech:

“Hello friends!

“The man you know as Dyson is in fact a great leader. He is Belak, a revolutionary fighting against the literal extermination of his people. Fighting to free a group that has been systematically persecuted for more than a thousand years. Fighting for innocent people, including every man woman and child that lives in this town, to live without fear of being hunted down and murdered for no reason other than cruel, prejudiced tradition.

And if his methods seem extreme to you, please know that it is only after his own great personal suffering – outcast from society, hunted for no crime other than being born – only after years of this did he conclude that there were no other options. Neither Church nor Crown will bend. Extreme measures must be taken in order to right this evil. Set aside your personal qualms about the means and join us to reach the justified end."

While curious about these statements, the party has already decided that these are the bad guys, so spells are cast and combat begins.

Tully runs into the tower, saying “So that’s it then? No reason, just blood?”

The party assaults the tower, finding Tully joined by many monks – monks obviously of the Tiso clan, wearing the robes and weapons of those that killed Razar-De’s family. An extended combat takes place as their enemies are driven back to the second floor of the tower and fought there.

While this is taking place, the constant song the Sparrow is playing begins to take on a darker, more gutteral tone. No one can see what he’s doing on the roof, but suddenly a small earthquake cracks the tower, then fire begins to rain down on the area outside. Shortly after, a great screech is heard from the roof, then a sound as of the movement of great wings, then finally silence from above. Tully and the monks are cornered and slain.

Several items that Dyson/Belak had been studying are recovered from the second floor, and the party moves up past a magically-sealed door to the third floor.

It is here that much is finally revealed to the heroes. All one large room, the third floor is part library, part twisted laboratory. They find several tables with rotten fruit on cloths, and a large jar in which one of the worm-like parasites is preserved in fluid. Elsewhere they find two human torsos, each cut open and also preserved in large tanks of fluid. There are also several pots of foul-smelling soil. The walls themselves are covered with a glowing fungus, that has been shaped to form long, rambling sentences:

Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms that gather in the darkness and surround the world with the power of their lives while from the dim-lit halls of other places forms that could never be writhe for the impatience of the few who have never seen or been seen. In the black grove with the sun shining at midnight, those fruit shall come ripe and in the darkness of that which is golden shall split open to reveal the revelation of the fatal softness in the earth. The shadows of the abyss are like the petals of a monstrous flower that shall blossom within the skull and expand the mind beyond what any man can bear. There shall be a fire in your chest that knows your name, and in the presence of the strangling fruit, its dark flame shall acquire every part of you. All will shed their skins. All will crawl in the grass. None shall stand over others. Equality and justice for those outcast, equality and justice for the expellers. All the same. All the same. All the same.*

Moving on to the roof, they find a large magic circle, cracked by the earthquake and rendered useless. It also appears that the Sparrow had been burning papers, but they party manages to rescue several entries in a journal apparently belonging to Belak.

The group leaves the tower as villagers emerge from their homes, several of which are burning. The party helps put out the fires, then speaks with Fen the Elder. Now that their captors are dead or fled, he can tell the party the villagers side of the story:

Back in the 50’s, some of the Snake clan – refugees you understand – came across abandoned ruins of an ancient village within the standing stones. A small group settled in the area. Over the next 30 years, word traveled and the village grew as persecuted Snakes arrive seeking a peaceful life. Things were good.

Then, on July 6 of last year, this wizard Dyson arrived with Tully, that bard, a dozen monks and a four bushels of fruit. They distributed the fruit to all the townspeople. It was amazing, most everyone was amazed how delicious they were and how healthful they made us feel.

Three days later Dyson called a meeting with the village elders. And they killed all but Murdows and Henwen. Don’t know what happened to her, but Henwen went off her nut and the Sparrow took her as his lover, which only seemed to drive her deeper into madness. Poor thing. They left Murdows alive to “run” the town (under Tully and the monks’ watch) and handle the deliveries from the south.

That went on for a while, then in September, they killed Tymon. He was talking about going to the elves for help, and we don’t know how but he just … his body fell apart and his head just … melted. They spoke some words, and the worm thing just fell out of him while … poor Tymon became some whip-headed zombie. Tully just laughed and … they killed him. Said the jokes on us, you know, the fruit was like a poison that we ate, and they could kill any of us at any time.

Dyson lived here for a while, leaving a few times over the winter, we don’t know how or for where. We were all afraid, starving. It was a hard winter.

But January was when things got worse. Some people tried to leave, maybe make it to the elves. We never saw them again, but they said old Maggie helped them, so they did her in the same as Tymon. Then the elves did come, but Dyson scared them off. That was the last we saw of them until they started killing us. End of the month Dyson left again, and left Tully in charge of dealing with the elves.

In March Dyson came back. But then that knight arrived, and we thought, oh maybe we’re saved now, right? Well I guess one of us, Kivo, must have said the wrong thing to him – while the knight was gone, they killed Kivo and then a bunch of them set off to “deal with” the knight. Never saw him again neither … until his ghost showed up. Dyson left again for a while, and the Sparrow too – said he was leaving to play for a big show in the capital. But Tully and the monks stayed.

Then just a week before you showed up, they all came back, waiting for someone. Then one of your cultists – a fearsome creature like half dragon but walking and speaking like a woman – shows up. Went into the tower, and again, never saw her/it again.

Three days later you all arrived."

When asked about the deliveries, Fen says everything went right into the tower – “Into the tower. We don’t know more than that. There’s no basement to the tower, unless Dyson and his people dug them in the past year without us knowing. They were always messing about on the roof of the tower, but it’s not like a dragon flew down and took the things away or anything. Just into the tower and never seen again.”

The party surmises that the magic circle on top of the tower was being used to transport both the pillaged treasure and the bodies, but with no means to repair it can not tell exactly where it went.

The heroes agree to keep this settlement a secret for now, allaying the villagers concerns that, as Snakes, they’ll all be hunted down and killed if their secret is revealed.

Drianna sets to work investigating and salvaging what she can from the journal, and is able to discover the following entries:










What and where is this “sunless citadel”? Who exactly is this Belak, and who is the woman mentioned as running the cult? Who is Gulthias, and what does he have to do with a tree? What do these fruit do normally – and what when infected with these parasites? And is the whole Cult of the Dragon a money-making scheme with some other secret purpose? With so much new information to sift through and digest, the party gathers to discuss their next move.

* (My apologies to Jeff VanderMeer, this just fit so well! Go read Annihilation!)


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