The Shadow of Dragons

Session Twenty Six
An Expeditious Retreat

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July 15, 1482

After a few hours, the heroes’ attempted rest was interrupted by a knock at the door. A voice, identifying themselves as Adonin Redfall, attempted to ask the party their intentions. Opening the door, they saw that Adonin, was a cambion monk of the Tiso order the party encountered in Ossington and that Razar-De had been seeking. He and a half dozen human Tiso monks had piled oil-soaked wood and refuse against the door and created makeshift barricades for cover.

Uninterested in palaver, the heroes attacked; Tarathan struck a critical blow and killed Adonin nearly outright. This triggered a massive response from the monks, remaining gnolls and larger flinds. Fires were lit, and the party, still not recovered from their previous battles, found themselves hard pressed to survive.

The party fell back deeper into the caves, locating a wide stair leading down into darkness. Hoping to delay their pursuers, they closed a portcullis behind them and made their way down the steps. They proceeded a short ways through natural caverns walls studded with glittering stones, and found a small side cave in which to rest.

The gnolls from above did not pursue the heroes into this area, so they spent an uneasy but uninterrupted night listening to strange chittering, slithering, sounds echo through the cavern.

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Session Twenty Five
Against the War Dancers

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July 14, 1482, cont’d

The battle against the War Dancer gnolls continued, moving through the caves and bringing in more enemies from the surrounding areas.

After an exhausting fight, the party, believing they’ve cleared the area, locked themselves in a storage room and attempted to rest.

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Session Twenty-Four
Through the Mountain Door

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July 13, 1482

The heroes traveled the remaining distance to the Stone Tooth, a tall, steep hill that rises to a prominent bare knob of rock. A thin spire of smoke rose from some unseen point high on the hill’s slopes, but the party instead chose to focus on a steep, narrow track that ran back and forth across the face of the mountainside. Nearing the top as evening came on, they decided to rest on a rocky outcrop near the path.

July 14

Broad, shallow steps led up a steep fissure to the south and turned east into the mountainside. Here, a broad entrance had been carved out of the stone. Marble steps cracked with age and veined with green moss led up to a strong double-door of carved stone, 8 feet wide and almost 10 feet tall. On closer inspection, the doors were left just slightly ajar, and the party proceeded inside.

The great door opened into a large hall, guarded by two rough-looking gnolls and a large bestial dog-like demon. Drianna took the initiative, firing at the creatures and battle was joined. Combat continued down the hall, with other gnolls joining the fray.

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Session Twenty-Three
Northbound Again

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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:

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The party opted to rest before moving on.

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Session Twenty-Two
A Royal Request

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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.

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Session Twenty-One
Cleaning House

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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.

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Session Twenty
The Twilight Grove

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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.

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Session Nineteen
Into the Darkness Below

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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.

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Session Eighteen
Massacre in the Sunless Citadel

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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.

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Session Seventeen
Old Friends and New

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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.

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