Blue Fire in Helensville

On returning to Waterdeep the intrepid members of Turlough’s Steel did a little catching up with things. It seems that about two weeks had passed since they entered the Waterdeep Sewers.

Gnf assisted Calfalas in trying to decipher what seemed to be Chaundakil’s Journal, a recording of the comings and goings of an itinerant wanderer. But there are mentions of structures that he raised to assist his and other’s wanderings. These structures range from simple stone mileposts to something called The Anchor, which seems to correspond to the structure the party had just visited, and indeed where they met Chaundakil himself, freed one of the bonds on him, and came into posession of the journal.

Gnf’s and Calfalas’ attempts to find out more about Chaundakil’s Anchor and related sites met with little success. Gnf’s assidious efforts at making notations and notes to keep track of the offhand references proved afterward to read back to Gnf as merely fevered meanderings, making little sense. Calfalas said that he feared that there were strange magics at work, and that he was determined to foil any plot that kept one of the Gods from taking his proper place in the order of things. Calfalas will first attempt to index every word in the journal, just by count, and see if any patterns emerge. This will take a while, to be sure, but more direct methods seem to be thwarted.

Aprilane first went and purchased more magic arrows, and at the shop, she met and conversed with Krendel, owner of the shop, and maker of the magic arrows. Krendel, it seems is a former member of the Waterdeep Guard, until he lost the lower part of his leg, that is. At that point, he told Aprilane, he learned how to first cast rituals, and then learned the ritual for making magic items, and has stuck with making magical arrows.

Aprilane, armed with a bundle of many arrows, then made her way to the Embassy of Many Arrows, near the Waterdeep Tower in a rather posh neighborhood. Minding the front desk was an orc dressed rather fancily in lace and frills with a pair of Ben Franklin spectacles. His name was Glurk and he made haste to bid Aprilane welcome and seated her in a private reception room, where she was served tea and cucumber sandwiches. Eventually, Ugrun arrived and greeted Aprilane with a hearty forearm smash, and spiked her tea with a little bit of fine gnomish brandy. There was some discussion of trade negotiations, and particular difficulties with the textile trade. Aprilane told him of the party’s recent adventures, but no mention of Chaundakil seemed to stick with him. It was decided that Ugrun would hold a dinner and reception for his friends that evening.

Meanwhile, Max wandered the city a bit, ending up at Eldreth Deepwater’s shop, but Eldreth wasn’t there. The clerk in charge was taken aback when Max asked to do some goldsmithing, asking to see Max’s guild papers. Only the arrival of Eldreth’s daughter Melia, who identified Max as one of those who brought the gold caravan from Silverymoon, broke the stalemate.

Max spent the next several hours fashioning a gold ring, into which he set one of the gems he had obtained from recent adventures. He was quite impressed with the fine equipment the shop had, and with the meticulous care with which the raw gold was measured and logged. The final effort was quite pleasing, and he turned it over to the shopkeeper and went on his way.

Meanwhile, Lyra went to a small dingy tavern known as The Cave which was known to feature tribal-style dancing, and was a favorite among the gnolls, orcs, shifters and a few elfs of Waterdeep. The dancing impressed Lyra as being both familiar to her, but developed in a way she had never seen. It was dance not to bless the crops, ward of the spirits, or mourn the dead, but dance merely for the sake of dance, embracing all those elements and going beyond them. Lyra performed a very creditable dance for Chaundakil, which was well received, but any reference to the God was passed over as if it had not been mentioned.

Allyson Sweetvine, stayed at the inn, soaked in the bath, and got a massage to ease her tired muscles and wash away the scent of the sewers.

Alfred, meanwhile, went first to the temple of Mielikki, making offering and devotion, and thence to the temple of Sune, where he made a most generous offering and explained that the stone of Sune he had received there had guided him in a moment of need. This was well-received at the temple, as was Alfred’s generous donation.

Celine found Alfred there and told him that if he and his friends were willing, she might have need of them soon. Alfred arranged for an afternoon meeting in the taproom. At this meeting she told them of Helensville, a village a few days to the east of Waterdeep out on the fertile plain. Helensville was founded, at least in legend, by a devotee of Sune named Helen, who grew flowers there that were the most lush and full, and with the most extraordinary color. As the story goes, lovers found that a present of Helen’s flowers seemed always to be extra well received, and thus Helen, and by extension, Helensville, grew in reputation. Helen is long since passed on, but what purports to be her gardens still remain, and Helensville holds a festival of Sune every year in commemoration.

Celine is in the habit of attending this festival in an official capacity, and tends the flowers. A few days ago though, she received word from the mayor that the animals in the area had been acting oddly, and that there had been reports of a strange blue flame about some of them. The party immediately thought of spellplague, and assured Celine that they would go to Helensville with her.

But first they had dinner with Ugrun at the Many Arrows embassy. It was a night of lightheartedness. Aprilane and Alfred contrived to set up Allyson with one of the guards, a tall, burly orc named Thog. However, it did not go too smoothly, as Allyson became suspicious, and was somewhat unimpressed with Thog, despite the fact that he was taller than she, which is something Alfred knew her to find highly desirable. Furthermore, it seemed that Glurk was working against them, to purposes of his own. In fact, Glurk seemed to get the better of Alfred later in the evening, somehow contriving incessant interruptions and disturbances which would derail Alfred’s flirtations and maneuvers.

The next day, the party set out for Helensville. Along the way, they spotted many birds and animals, including a herd of wild horses raising a column in the distance. Shortly thereafter, some flocks of songbirds were seen to be behaving strangely. At first it looked as though they were chased by eagles, but then the blue flames on both the songbirds and the eagles were noticed, and the birds attacked. They were dealt with eventually, but they gave off a blue flame that sometimes scorched the adventurers, or perhaps it only touched their minds, it was hard to say. Max’s fire resistance meant little, though.

Afterward the party continued on, making it to the Helensville fairgrounds for a good nights rest.

Breaking the Bond
At least its better than "It's a Small World"

Traveling through the Waterdeep sewers, the band of adventurers from [[Turlough’s Steel | Turlough’s Steel] found an extra-dimensional space with a circle of standing stone markers, a hearth in the middle with stew in a pot, benches around it, a table with some water and bread, and a God – Chaundakil – sitting on one of the benches, mute but smiling at them.

There were five bonds on Chaundakil, one of plain rope, another of a fiery aspect, one of a sparkly, cloudlike aspect. A fourth was earthy, almost of stone, but with a shadowed aspect, and a fifth at once watery and insubstantial.

There was scarcely any time to take this in, as a group of demons apparated with soft “pops”, and battle commenced. There were three waves in all. The third wave took the appearance not of demons but of Shadar-Kai, but when they were downed, they did not leave corporeal bodies.

As each wave was defeated, the rope bonds on Chaundakil appeared to weaken. After each wave, the defenders refreshed themselves by partaking or water, bread, or stew, or perhaps just resting on the comfortable benches, gaining some benefit that would normally require a longer rest.

One of the most memorable moments of the fight was when Max ghosted through the line of enemy Shadar-Kai warriors and downed their witch-commander in a single round.

As the final wave was defeated, the ropes dropped free of Chaundakil, and he faded from view, leaving a largish tome in his place. The gray of the area cleared, and blue sky was seen overhead. It looked as though they were on the top of a rise and could see for miles. Or perhaps tens or hundreds of miles. In fact, most of the places they looked for, they could see, by concentrating.

Aprilane attempted to orient herself according to compass directions, but found this impossible to do. Several party members looked at places such as Waterdeep and Silverymoon or even the Glimmerwood. However, no one was able to view the castle of K’lenth, although they could see Dragonwatch just fine. Content Not Found: 43679 and Alfred studied this phenomena for a bit, and concluded that it was something more than simple anti-scrying, since they likely would have been able to see a blur in place of the castle. That might be present, but there is also some form of mental influence that simply makes one ignore the castle entirely.

At this, Max decided to set off for Waterdeep, with Allyson following close behind. Gnf and Calfalas hurriedly finished their discussions and followed behind. As the travellers stepped out, it was impossible for them to determine how long the journey back to Waterdeep took. It might have been a moment, or an eternity, but the now familiar walking tune echoed in their heads, perhaps because it was simply one of those songs that is hard to stop thinking about. At some point, Alfred had the thought that “if time doesn’t have any meaning, that must mean I’m already there”, they arrived at the gates of Waterdeep.

Did You Hear Something?
I thought I heard someone whistling

After their bruising fight with some Black Hoods, our band of mercenaries from Turlough’s Steel, deep within the Waterdeep Sewers decided to find a place to rest and recharge for the night. Gnf found a secluded alcove that was easy to defend, and the others settled down to set up camp, and stand their watches.

Max decided to scout the area using caution and stealth. He observed another group of Black Hoods, evidently searching for the group, but making little progress. The night was otherwise uneventful.

The next morning, the group continued to follow the arcane trail that Calfalas pointed out to them, with Gnf’s assistance. Calfalas had a metallic bowl of some sort with an enchanted needle floating on a watery substance, which pointed in the direction of something Calfalas called a “interplanar gradient”. Gnf attempted to assist by using another bit of arcane apparatus, a sort of pendulum, but couldn’t seem to get the hang of operating it. Max again scouted ahead, while Allyson and Aprilane stood guard.

Despite having a very difficult time being distracted and having their minds wander, they reached a T-junction in the sewer, and a distinct sewage smell, usually absent in the Waterdeep Sewers, was perceptible, and noticed a slight variation in the wall opposite the catwalk that seemed to be a secret door of some sort.

It was just then that they were attacked by a band of cultists to Cyric and Demogorgon. The fight seemed well in hand when a few of the cultists jumped into the drain trench and waded forward, using their fearsome screams to hit the non-melee members of the group. Fortunately, Lyra was able to heal Gnf when he fell, and Max appeared out of nowhere, slaying cultists from behind, so the party prevailed.

But their resources were fairly spent, so they decided to call it a day. Again they made camp. Somehow, though, their minds were playing tricks on them. Aprilane sought out good ambush points from which to stand guard; the first place she found seemed fine until she noticed that one side was completely exposed and open! Gnf set up his Chime of Awakening, which Allyson took advantage of while keeping watch in the sleeping area. Lyra communed with the spirits, as usual, while Max scouted. While out scouting, Max heard some footsteps marching along. Following them, he saw ahead a male figure with wild gray hair, whistling a tune. The figure turned and beckoned to Max and went around a corner. Following, Max rounded the corner to see nothing of the figure, but realized he was at the place where they had found the secret door the day before.

Meanwhile, Alfred had heard snatches of the whistling and had tried to follow it. When it stopped Alfred too found himself at the secret door. Going back to the camp, he tried to recreate the tune, but found it didn’t stick in his mind.

So the next day, the party went through the secret door. Pushing on the stones rolled them back, and a wade through foot-deep water brought them into another network of sewers. However, the fish that keep the Waterdeep Sewers clean did not seem to live here, however, these sewers also seemed to not have a lot of new effluent and the smell was musty and rank, the water was waist deep, and there were few catwalks.

Gnf rode on Allyson’s shoulders and the party pressed on, relying more and more on Calfalas’ and Gnf’s arcane guidance. Some sort of enchantment seemed to be affecting them, and would turn them around or disorient them at the slightest lapse in concentration. So they formed themselves into groups and watched each other closely while trying to progress through the sewers. As they traveled, the quality of light seemed to get greyer and greyer, and the very walls seemed to fade away. However, the sheer effort of concentration required to stay on course meant that this was little noted.

Eventually, they found themselves in what they decided was an interplanar space, similar to the one they had been in quite briefly when returning from Abeir. And like that time before, they were attacked by Chaos Shards. Unlike the last time, the shards were right among them, and gave them another tough fight. The most troublesome part of the fight was when the Storm Shards would drop a ball of lighting on someone which would require them to run away from it quickly or get caught in an explosion, while the Death Shards would inflict the same person with slowness. Eventually, Gnf managed to slow down the Storm Shards (which exploded doing further damage when they died) with his Web and Thunder Wave, Allyson and Max meleed the Death Shards, Alfred and Lyra healed the group, and Aprilane dealt damage wherever it was needed. There was a tense moment when Max went down with a thunderball on top of him, but Lyra both healed Max and cast an enchantment that enabled Max to slide away from the thunderball while still prone.

Looking around, the party realized that it could see nothing but grayish white. While they felt something solid beneath their feet, they could see nothing there, but mostly avoided looking. The arcane compass still was working, so they continued.

It is difficult to say how long this part of the journey lasted. It might have been hours, it might have been days. Continuing in the direction of travel required a supreme effort of will, and concentration at every step.

Eventually they saw some sort of obelisks or monuments ahead. There were six of them arranged in a circle or hexagon, about 100 yards across. There appeared to be some design on the inside faces of them. At a glance the stones seemed to be made of the same stuff as everything else in this place, grayish material almost indistinguishable. However, as one looked at the stone, the bas-relief carvings on the inside seemed to gain more and more detail. Only then to look like plain, gray stone bas-relief at the next moment.

There were six different figures on each of the pillars: A dragon with bones, looking bored; An orc with some hides/furs and a long stick or staff; An Eladrin with an easel, paintbrushes, and bound, blank books; a Lizardman with a collection of herbs and (how could something gray appear brightly colored?) brightly-colored flowers; A Gnome with a worktable on which there was an assortment of unfinished tools of some sort; and a Dwarf in an outdoor, snow-laden scene, with several bars of metal at his feet.

The party decided that this place had something to do with trade and travel, and it was the place that their arcane calculations had meant to bring them too, some sort of locus for an interplanar matrix. Lyra communed with the spirits of the place and found there to be but one spirit here, and it was muted and somehow odd.

All the scenes had the quality that concentrating on them made them seem more real. Looking at the Dwarf, the iron bars seemed so real that Gnf reached out for them and found that he had iron bars in his hand. Thinking quickly, he decided to take them to the Gnome, whose picture now showed some completed tools on his workbench. In turn, Lyra took the bones from the Dragon to the Orc, who made spear tips and jewelry from them; Aprilane took the furs from the Orc to the Dwarf, Alfred took the dyes from the Lizardman to the Eladrin, and Max took the works of art created from them by the Eladrin to the Dragon. Allyson completed the journeys by taking the tools from the Gnome’s worktable to the Lizardman, where they were used to cultivate and harvest the plants.

Each person saw the journey of 100 or so yards as an arduous undertaking, requiring hours (or was it days). Gnf had to sit down and rest several times (or was it once?). To the others watching it was a simple walk, though one that seemed to weigh heavily on the bearer.

As each journey completed and the picture changed, music was heard, or perhaps only felt. The sound of fluting and pipes from the Gnome was joined by Orcish drumming, a beautiful countermelody by some stringed instrument came from the Eladrin, chanting/singing from the Dwarf, a deep chuckling winded sound like a digeridoo from the Lizardmen, and the sound of trumpets from the Dragon each added to the song, which Alfred recognized from an earlier whistled tune.

As the last journey was completed, the knowledge that this was Chaundakil’s tune came upon them, or was it remembered? In the center of the circle appeared a hearth, a table with food, and a cistern with clear water, along with some cozy chairs. Seven chairs there were and a pair of boots before each, Boots of Chaundakil. Lyra let forth some oath or exclamation (it’s always difficult to tell the difference with Lyra) at the thought that the spirit with which she had been communing was that of a god, for God Chaundakil is indeed.

Before them appeared a man, Chaundakil, not completely dissimilar from what Max had seen, but with neatly trimmed gray hair and a welcoming smile, bidding them to sit down, even as the sky above them showed blue with a few clouds. But just as they relaxed into the chairs and felt deeply refreshed, demonic hands seemed to grab him, bind him in chains and pull him away, even as other demons appeared and attacked

[To Be Continued Next Adventure]

Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter...
...but get your feet in.

After a considerable shopping spree, Calfalas gathered the group of Turlough’s Steel mercenaries together and briefed them on a job he’d like them to do.

Calfalas is a member of the Order of Olde Magicks, a group mainly sponsored by adherents of Oghma, but allowing membership from other faiths as well. Their mission is to discover and preserve magical and arcane knowledge. Some of their members are former followers of Mystra, for example.

In any case, Calfalas’ studies have turned up something interesting. Teleportation, such as the teleportals between Silverymoon and Waterdeep has been having issues. The portal was arranged so as to have a target slab that those using the teleportal would land on. But the targeting has appeared to be drifting. At first, people (and cargo) might land just a bit off center, or perhaps a few inches above the platform. Or an inch below the surface level, which created real problems. Some tried to avoid having their feet crushed by sitting on wagons or stilts, but they still had problems with the explosions that happened when two objects tried to occupy the same space at the same time.

Calfalas said that all such magics were made with the assumption that there was some interdimensional, or perhaps interplanar correspondence or matrix, that reliably correlated distances and directions in one dimension with the other. But that seems to have broken down. As best as he can tell the breakdown dates to The Cataclysm.

There was a side discussion of the murder of Mystra by The Mad God, who wasn’t mad until then. To Calfalas, while some of the gods and their followers might be opposed to one’s own aims, the gods as a whole formed a system, and each had a part to play in the operation of the universe. Allyson perked up at this and noted that Calfalas must be an Invoker, since she remembered her mother speaking of this philosophy. Her brother Alfred seemed a bit put out that she had caught this bit of knowledge where he hadn’t, as he thinks of himself as the “smart one”.

In any case, Calfalas reported he has found reference to an ancient site that seems to have some connection to these matters nearby. It’s odd though, he said, almost as though someone had edited the texts. He would find a list of sites, with names and exact locations, only one of them would omit both, but just have some oblique mention. Though there is no sign of editing in the manuscripts themselves, e.g., nothing crossed out or added.

However, Calfalas has devised a method of measuring the drift between dimensions. He proposes to proceed by correlating arcane measurements with mundane ones in an arcane ritual. The Order of Olde Magicks has agreed to fund him in an attempt to locate the site. He anticipates that he will need arcane assistance, as well as protection for a journey that will lead him to goodness knows where, will the group help him.

The group, consisting of Allyson, Alfred, Gnf, Max, Aprilane, and Lyra, quickly agreed. At first they thought to use the fairgrounds just outside of Waterdeep for the first reading. However, it turned out that a tournament in honor of the arrival of Prince Ugrun was due to start, and the grounds would be occupied.

At last the party settled on taking a reading in a posh district of town during an execution taking place in the morning. The reading went off fairly well, though Aprilane was less than convincing when she attempted to act as though on official business with her, “Nothing to see here, move along”. However, she did note that there were those watching the group from behind curtained windows or from around corners. Some even were wearing black with hoods. The bad news was that the reading unmistakably pointed down. They would need to enter the sewers and storm drains of Waterdeep.

While the party gathered supplies, Alfred went to see Harry Diggs of the Plumbers and Cellarers, whom Alfred had met at the party for Ugrun. Diggs told them a good place to enter the sewer complex, though he noted that nobody, not even he, knew of everything in the depths of the sewers and below.

Once within the sewers, progress was good until when, coming around a corner, they were accosted by four hobbits and two humans bent on larceny and likely murder. The halflings were perched in high side passages with poisoned hand crossbows, while the humans attacked berserkly. Or they would have, but something in Max’s stare and flaming red hair gave them pause. Alfred pulled one of the hobbits out of his perch with little more than a smirk and a sneering comment. Gnf jumped onto Max’s shoulders and fired a spell at another. And so they were defeated. It appears that they were members of a dockside gang of some sort, maybe thinking they could find easy pickings in the sewer.

A suitable site, a crossroads in the drain tunnels was found and Calfalas, Gnf and Lyra set up shop. Calfalas did the primary ritual, while Lyra used a measuring chain to do the mundane measurement. Gnf assisted with the ritual, but Alfred, who had assisted with the previous one, decided to stand watch. This proved prudent, as the party was attacked by a group of the now-familiar Black Hoods.

This time they came in a column with spellcasters in the rear. Max and Allyson charged the heavy fighters at the front, with Alfred and Aprilane backing them up. The Black Hoods concentrated on Allyson, who took serious damage, but steadied when she assumed her regenerating stance, and they slowly cut through the enemy.

Meanwhile Gnf, having seen the ritual before and familiar with its principles of operation, realized that he could cut short his own part and join in the battle. He left his Mage Hand in his spot holding the silvered rod for Calfalas to finish his arcane measurements. Gnf then unleashed his first-ever Fireball on the group of miscreants, wiping out most of the lackeys that were tasked with protecting the mages. Meanwhile Aprilane and Alfred finished off the mages, and Allyson and Max cut down the last of the heavy fighters. So, one lackey, seeing the new situation, ran for his life, and was successful.

Return To Waterdeep
She cures a mean rabbit pelt

On the last day of the journey from Silverymoon to Waterdeep, accompanying both the gold shipment and Ugrun, there seemed to be little left to go wrong. Gnf had contracted mummy rot, but was looking forward to visiting a healer in Waterdeep. Ugrun had been saved from the kidnap plot.

However, the first sign that the last day’s journey would not be smooth came when Lyra noticed that some of nearby geese were acting oddly. Further investigation showed that they were of slightly odd marking and shape, and that their animal spirits were slightly off, much as they were during the party’s journey through Abeir. Gnf was concerned that the party might have crossed over into Abeir again, but found no evidence of it. Nor could Aprilane be sure that the rabbit she saw off in the distance was a normal Toril rabbit.

However, she did mistake the smoke from all the chimneys of Waterdeep for a great fire in the city. Looking closer, when still about a mile off, she noticed that there was some sort of disturbance at the city gate ahead, and that there was a great figure sheathed in fire standing outside the gate with sword and whip, engaging the guards of the city. A demon.

Max looked and said it was a Balor, and that we had no chance of doing anything against it. The party was debating what to do when other demons, smaller, were noted spreading out and causing chaos. These were the Carnage Demons, the Evanti. A group of them were headed up the road toward the party, so the wagons were sent to the rear and preparations made.

The Evanti were dispatched with relative ease. Though Max developed some strange new tactics wherein he ran around the battlefield like a man possessed, inviting the demons to swing at him. They did, of course, and this allowed Ugrun and Allyson extra shots. But then, with a cry of “Retribution” Max unleashed a mighty swing which staggered one of the demons. Then he followed up with a blow only slightly less potent, killing another demon.

As the party finished, they followed Lyra’s point and watched a great dragon stoop from the sky onto the Balor, landing all four claws and jaws upon it with a great crash. Then great beats of its wings slowly lifted the Balor off and toward the sea.

This was to be the last fight the party had with Ugrun. They passed through the gate with the heads of the six demons on display, which both earned the gratitude of the guards and the admiration of passersby, but served to distract them from Ugrun, who had his hood pulled well over his head, and hung back. Many of the guard had died fighting the Balor, and very generous donations were made to the widows and orphans fund by party members.

Questioned about the guard, they said simply that the dragon was known as [The Silver], and that he was known to appear from time to time to aid the city.

The caravan proceed through the city to a warehouse of the Jeweler’s Guild. The clerk there looked at the manifest and the signet carried by Alfred Sweetvine, and waved them into the inner yard and quickly closed the doors. He then commenced to uncovering the gold and counting it in the party’s presence. When all was accounted for, he made out a receipt and gave them their fee. 1000gp each.

While this was going on, Ugrun drew Aprilane aside to a private corner and engaged her in some earnest conversation. When they returned, Aprilane seemed a bit staggered by whatever news Ugrun had conveyed to her. The party was soon staggered when Ugrun revealed himself to be no less than a Prince of Many Arrows, son (though not the heir) of the King.

At about this moment, Eldreth Deepwater arrived and congratulated the group on their fine work. Ugrun, who seemed to have met Eldreth before, introduced Lyra and Aprilane. Eldreth included an extra share for each of them as members of the company, and told them all that they were invited to a reception that night as guests of [The Chairman] at [The Residence].

The rest of the day was spent by most in fevered preparations for the soire, though in Gnf’s case, it was merely spent in a fever at the healers, where he was cured of his mummy rot. Allyson, Aprilane and Lyra all obtained new garments to wear, and spent the afternoon at the Lion and Compass Inn preparing and dressing.

Allyson obtained a fairly low-cut evening dress that was blood-red in color, and managed a very convincing air of femininity, particularly when she did elbow smashes with Ugrun in the receiving line.

Lyra settled on a sort of priestess’s garb, and beads. Lots of beads. More beads than she had ever seen on one person before, in fact. The feather in her hair was cleaned and combed right along with her hair. And not very gently either.

Alfred went along with Aprilane while shopping, and gently steered her toward garments befitting nobility. Although he did manage to chisel the price down somewhat by mentioning the important friends that Aprilane had, and how noticed the dressmaker’s wares would be that evening.

Meanwhile Max bathed, laundered, and relaxed in the common room, resting his feet and watching people come and go while pondering the house that he had seen this morning where there had been an empty field just before. Indeed, no one else had seemed to notice the house.

At the reception they were all announced, and mingled. They met a variety of people, including Krendel, headmaster of a, no, pardon me, of THE young-wizard’s school in Waterdeep. Gnf made quite the impression by reenacting the morning’s fight with the Balor via his prestidigitation.

Others in the party met Harry Diggs, of the Plumbers and Cellarers Guild.

Then the trumpets sounded, and the Chairman entered and said, “Tonight we welcome a new visitor. He is an envoy from a kingdom that we believe it advantageous to have better relations with. There is much opportunity for trade, and mutual security as well. I ask you to greet our guest with our best Waterdeep greeting, not forgetting that there is money to be made.”

This brought a chuckle from the crowd.

“In any case, I give you Prince Ugrun of Many Arrows”

Of course, when Ugrun walked out, he was finely attired in Waterdeep-style clothing. He was greeted both by gasps and polite applause. The party’s applause was quite a bit more enthusiastic, though they managed to keep themselves from becoming a spectacle through assorted pokings and elbowings.

Ugrun said a few words about how glad he was to be there and how much he thanked Waterdeep for its hospitality. His words were greeted with more applause, slightly more enthusiastic than before. And thence the receiving line.

Ugrun made it clear to the Chairman and any watching that he knew the party members when they came through the line. Of Alfred he said to the Chairman, “Watch this one, or he’ll deal you out of your shoes!” Of Aprilane he said, “She makes an excellent rabbit pelt!”. With Allyson there was first the formal hand-kissing and curtsy, and the the familiar fighter’s forearm smashes and dap was given. Max, who had worn his scimitar to the party, also exchanged forearm smashes. The Chairman inquired about the sword, and Max replied serenely that death was always nearby. The Chairman replied blandly that it certainly had been nearby that morning, and thanked Max for his work. Ugrun asked Lyra if Bob (her spirit companion) had come along, and Bob promptly appeared and gave Ugrun a ghostly lick.

After this the party loosened up. Some teenage girls glomped Lyra with questions about Ugrun. Gnf found some other gnomes and exchanged family connections and geneologies. Some of the gnomes told him about the sewers, the domain of the Plumbers and Cellarers, and how gnomes were very imporant in that guild. The sewers, it seems, do not stink. There is some sort of special fish that keep them clean. Except, of course, when the Plumbers and Cellarers are unhappy with some state of affairs in town. The sewers and catacombs eventually lead into the Underdark, but the gnomes doubted that anyone knew all of them.

Alfred, of course, spent the evening dancing with every pretty girl he could find, whilst Aprilane spent the evening begging off dances, saying she needed to rest her feet.

Wiser about alcohol from her experiences with the Blackspear Tribe, Lyra mostly refrained, and thus awoke early the next morning to find Max at a corner table in the common room with scriptures before him and parchment and quill in hand. Apparently up all night, his appearance was somewhat haggard though his eyes were intent.

Alfred struck up a conversation with Celine, Paladin of Sune, whom he met at the Temple of Sune. It seems that Celine wanted to talk something over. She has taken on the task of visiting villages nearby and planting and tending flowers, especially roses. This is particularly important for the upcoming Midsummer Festival. And it seems that travel about the region is getting more difficult and dangerous. Though it could be just bad luck, or her imagination. What did Alfred think? Alfred advised her to trust her instincts and keep her eyes open. Did she want some accompaniment on her travels? Celine thanked him and said that so far, even though more dangerous, it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle. But she thought that maybe someone in the city should know about it. Alfred suggested that she mention it to Chess Silverman, make a report to him, and mention that Alfred sent her.

Lyra wandered about the city and found herself attracted to the waterfront. Perhaps it was the smell of fish, or maybe it was the skewer of something called octopus that she purchased from a vendor’s cart. Wandering among the stalls, she encountered scores of strange new creatures until she found and promptly purchased an octopus. Wrapped in a piece of oilskin, she carried it back to the Lion and Compass, where it was turned into a fine soup for her lunch. Lyra went back into the city determined to find a fishing pole, and to perhaps catch one of these octopus for herself, or perhaps one of those sharks.

Gnf went to visit Calfalas the next day, and debriefed him about everything that had happened since Gnf had last visited. When Gnf mentioned his communication with Tulvin Narnari, Calfalas gave him a scroll of Sending, with which to reply. Calfalas was most eager to hear about both the spontaneous interplanar travel to Abeir, as well as the strange portal and other planar space to which Ugrun had been kidnapped.

He then detailed to Gnf what his studies had revealed. Namely, all teleportation and interplanar travel magics had depended on a stable correspondence from one plane to the next, a sort of interplanar matrix. It had never occured to Calfalas that such a thing might change or decay, but that is what seems to be happening. To take the example of the Silverymoon-Waterdeep portal, at first, right after the Cataclysm, the landings were slightly off, and it was frankly the least of magical worries in those days, but instead of settling down to a new configuration, like most magic did, it continued to drift more and more, making travel through them more erratic and dangerous. Things would change size a bit as they came through or land a bit off. As the error grew, so did the danger, to the point were now no one used it, lest they end up in rock up to the waist, or turned inside out.

Gnf asked Calfalas if he knew any means to ascertain, for certain, what plane one was on. Calfalas said that there must be such tests, and he would look them up. It would also be helpful to visit a nearby site that Calfalas had recently learned of. Would Gnf and perhaps a few others like to accompany him there?

Last Chance Kidnap
Some folks call me Shifty

Waking with a hangover, the gold caravan (disguised as an iron ore caravan) left Dragonwatch the next day, taking note that K’Lenth was visible in the skies, flying visibly closer to the road and to Dragonwatch than they had seen him earlier when they approached.

Further attentions were paid to Alfred by Aprilane, but as the days went by, Alfred’s protestations and avoidances became fairly clear to most of the group. Even Ugrun’s glower was replaced by a different attitude. Alfred assured Ugrun that the field was clear, and encouraged Ugrun to speak his mind to Aprilane.

Accordingly, Ugrun presented Aprilane a package of some hand picked flowers, a snared rabbit and a dagger. Ugrun hesitatingly explained that he wasn’t free to pledge himself for his own sake, though he was quite interested. Aprilane accepted the gift with good grace and interest and Ugrun seemed quite elated by this result.

Aprilane consulted with Allyson about the meaning of the present. Allyson’s reply was, “Oooh, somebody likes you!” Further discussion revealed that the common custom among orc tribes was that women were taught and expected to defend themselves from unwanted advances, and that no questions were asked should any man die while within a woman’s tent. Thus entering the tent was an act of courage and faith on the part of the man. There appeared to be some confusion on Allyson’s part, however, because when Aprilane mentioned Ugrun, Allyson was taken somewhat aback.

“Oh, Ugrun gave you that?”
“Yes, who did you think?”
“Oh, never mind. Ugrun? That’s wonderful!”
Aprilane then asked, “But why the dagger?”
“His life is in your hands,” was Allyson’s reply.

And in this somewhat frothy state of mind, the caravan reached the town of Last Chance which lies at the extreme north end of the large plain to the north of Waterdeep. North of Last Chance, where the caravan had been travelling, was hilly and difficult, and the river ran under the hills and moors by some twist of The Cataclysm.

Accordingly, there was a large caravanserai and plentiful accommodations at a luxurious inn. So the caravan decided to take advantage of the hot baths. The inn had a spa-like arrangement where they took the travelers’ clothes for cleaning and mending and loaned them smocks and robes which they wore while dining in a large common room with a roaring fire.

Their serving wench, Pearl, was both friendly and comely, and engaged in lighthearted banter. She encouraged the group to visit the nearby ruins of the “old king”, and told of the local “ghost stories” which surrounded it, though assured all that it was safe enough by day.

Alfred took a break and wandered about the inn a bit, checking things out. He noticed something odd: One of the help was hanging up Ugrun’s clothes by the fire, where they should have been hanging all along, so it seemed to Alfred. Once the clothing was recovered, he and Ugrun and later Gnf examined them carefully. Ugrun saw that a button was slightly different, and couldn’t quite remember whether that button had been missing. Gnf was quite certain that the shirt had no spell on it, nor had been subject to a spell recently.

This seemed to all concerned to be related to the Kenku Assassin that Flutter had warned them of just outside Silverymoon. Perhaps the shirt could be used to locate Ugrun. Some debate was made as to whether to sleep in the rooms or in the caravan, but Allyson wanted a night in a real bed. Ugrun said that he wasn’t surprised that someone would make the attempt, and would prefer to avoid it, but wasn’t terribly afraid to face it, and maybe here and now would be better than some other place. So Alfred threw the shirt under the bed and all retired…

…to bad dreams. Alfred dreamed of meeting a pretty girl but failing to impress her. Each remark intended to thaw her chill instead made her both prettier and more icy. This continued until she turned into a statue of ice.

Aprilane dreamed of that there were a party of orcs trying to kill Ugrun, only the orcs turned out to be her brothers.

Gnf dreamed of that he entered into a portal vortex and was surrounded by some very large Chaos Shards.

Lyra dreamed that she was a cat, and every time she lay down in the sunshine to nap, she was dripped on. Each move was answered by more dripping until a downpour opened out of the blue sky.

Max dreamed of walking through an ancient temple which is deserted. It is so quiet that his quiet footsteps echo plainly. There is a malign presence. In a room off to the side, Max sees a man with neatly cropped gray hair and erect posture. His feet are chained to iron rings in the floor, and his hand are manacled together. There is recognition in his eyes, but no madness. He holds up his hands to Max expectantly.

Alfred and Gnf awoke from their dreams to find that Ugrun was not in the room. Going to the window, Alfred saw, in the middle of the town square, a blue glowing disc or sphere, several dark, hooded figures, and Ugrun, being hauled through the blue portal to elsewhere.

Alfred shouted the alarm and jumped out the window in pursuit. Gnf leapt out with a bound, as did Max. Allyson and Lyra heard the ruckus and followed suit. Aprilane had stayed with the wagons, and on waking from her dream, had felt the need to pace a bit, thus being close to the scene, rushed to join the others.

After only a score of seconds, the group entered the portal in pursuit of Ugrun and his kidnappers. Through the portal, they found themselves in an area that looked a bit like the town squate, having the same fountain in the center, but was really more like a large temple room, with pillars on the sides and a large opening at the far end. And Kenku. Lots of Kenku.

A battle ensued. A large sack, presumably containing Ugrun was dropped and lay there, tied shut and wiggling. Aprilane and Gnf rushed to open the bag, Aprilane with her free hand, and Gnf with his Mage Hand. The other party members dealt with the Kenku in the usual way, with the Kenku Assassin seeming to focus on Allyson.

After untying several knots, Ugrun was free again, and shortly thereafter, the Kenku defeated. But before the group could catch their breath, a sizable group of skeletons was seen approaching through the opening at the far end of the first chamber.

The group retreated through the portal and made ready to battle the skeletons. Alfred rushed through the inn, warned them, and grabbed Ugrun’s fighting gear, jumping back downstairs.

The skeletons gave the party some trouble, as some of the exploded in bursts of boneshards, while other threw balls of fire at them. But they were downed in the end. As the fight ended, the party saw something curious. Alfred was holding Ugrun with an arm around his throat and a dagger in his back. “What did you do with him!” hissed Alfred.

Shortly, the figure changed into a smallish humanoid with strange blue skin, wearing Ugrun’s clothes. A doppelganger, it developed. He was questioned repeatedly, and maintained that he never intended any harm. He was hired to get in the bag and pretend to be Ugrun to throw the party off the scent, but was perfectly willing to, well, help them fight, though he wasn’t the fighter that Ugrun was. Which was how Alfred had figured out that it wasn’t Ugrun.

He had learned to impersonate Ugrun by watching the group.
“How did you do that?” asked Alfred.
“Like this,” he said, and shifted to the likeness of Pearl.
“And they copied Ugrun’s clothes by magic?” he was asked.
“Or by a seamstress.” he replied.
“What is your name, anyway?”
“Folks call me ”/campaign/kalaushum/wikis/shifty" class=“wiki-page-link”>Shifty."

Shifty appeared to know little else about Ugrun’s kidnapping other than this: It had been arranged by The Hooded One, or “that guy in the hood”, as Shifty called him. And “that guy” had been insistent that the Kenku Assassin should “make sure she’s dead”.

The party decided that this was sufficient cooperation to satisfy them, and that ropes could very likely not hold Shifty. Shifty confirmed this, and they freed him and proceeded deeper into the Shadowfell? Extradimensional Space? to rescue Ugrun. For they reasoned that the ploy of using Shifty might have been to use a ritual that caused permanent, unraisable death on Ugrun.

They defeated some wights in a large circular chamber littered with so many bones that the footing was treacherous. The wights were a grave annoyance as their weapons had a reduced effect, and the wights could float about freely, phasing in and out as they pleased.

But the final battle was versus a Skull Lord with three heads of bone, a large staff, two Mummies and half a dozen Zombies at his command, and Ugrun chained upon the altar. Max, it turned out, had studied Skull Lords, and warned the party that when they downed the creature, it would sacrifice one of its heads to restore it’s own unhealth to full. They discovered that one of the heads could raise a fallen zombie, and that there were scythes that cut across the room, through the spaces between rows of sarcophagi. Max narrowly avoided one such blade. Another head of the Skull Lord knocked Allyson off the top of the sarcophagi where she had climbed with a blast of fire.

Between Lyra’s spirit animal and Aprilane’s arrows the skull lord was finally downed, at which point the zombies were dispatched. This left the Mummies, who hit very hard and were very hard to down. The party emerged victorious, if severely bruised and battered.

The Dragon in the Woods
Remember, green looks like blue

After recovering the gold from the giant anthill, there was a brief interlude wherein the part of intrepid adventurers from Turlough’s Steel regained their rest. During this time, Aprilane showed some attentions to Alfred Sweetvine. She brought some healing salve out and ministered to Alfred’s wounds and in general gave Alfred the sort of attention that caught the eyes of the other party members. Allyson Sweetvine kept a close watch on her brother, but did not manage to pick up Afred’s embarrassment at these attentions. Neither did Ugrun, who sat glowering at Alfred. Lyra tried to offer some consolation and advice to Ugrun, who declared he didn’t know what she was talking about.

When the wagons prepared to roll, there was a bit of a scramble to see who would sit next to whom, but Aprilane ended up in the lead wagon, to take advantage of her sharp eyes. This was Alfred’s idea. Ugrun ended up next to her in the front wagon, with Alfred further back, and Gnf busily studying the ritual book that they had recovered from the gold thieves.

The road led them along the edge of the Evermoors to their right, with the Lost Peaks slowly emerging from the forests on their left. It being springtime, thunderstorms were visible frequently, and wetted down the travellers sometimes. After a few days travel, Ugrun called out and pointed. Looking, the party saw what appeared to be a dragon at some great distance, flying in and out of a thunderstorm.

The dragon, it was determined, was a great distance away as yet, which meant two things. First, it was not an immediate threat. Second, it was HUGE! The caravan pressed on with renewed vigilance. Alfred recalled that there was a town in these parts known as Dragonwatch, which was known for collecting tolls on the road.

Aprilane scouted in advance, belly crawling up to each new ridge before the caravan crossed it. After another few days, she noted smoke in the distance. The smoke turned out to be from chimneys in the town, though there also seemed to be a camp on the far side of town.

As they approached the town they noted the heraldic device of the town, which was a blue dragon rampant on a dark blue field. This apparently was Dragonwatch.

The toll collector met them at the city gate. She asked what the caravan was carrying. “Iron ore for Waterdeep,” said Alfred. “Let’s take a look,” she said, lifting the canvas on the back of one of the wagons.

She then looked around and remarked, casually, “you’ve got a lot of guards for an iron ore shipment.” Alfred, who was toying with a purse, replied, “Well, you can’t be too careful these days.” and there was a glint and a clink.

“That will be 100gp for the iron shipment,” was the prompt reply. And the caravan drove into the city. Alfred noted that the toll collector appeared to note down even the bribe, and placed it in the strongbox along with the normal fee.

It developed that there was an army of kobolds, perhaps a thousand or more, camped outside the south gate. Two days earlier, the blue dragon who rules these parts, Lord K’Lenth, had flown over the city and demanded that the city pay him the 10,000 gold that they had cheated him of, or suffer the consequences.

The party fanned out and investigated. At the inn several reported how the town guard were blasted by lighting, though there was dispute as to whether the lightning came from the dragon, a machine, or a wizard of some sort. The dragon had overflown the town, and then the kobolds had presented his demands, after bloodying the town guard outside.

Alfred, Allyson and Gnf went to see Mayor Grundi. The mayor confirmed that he had been to see Lord K’Lenth recently, who had no complaint about the accounts at that time. It also seemed unusual that the kobolds would present Lord K’Lenth’s demands, rather than Lord K’Lenth speaking for himself.

Grundi agreed that it looked a lot like a scam. But the town guard couldn’t handle whatever it was that was throwing around that lightning, and he couldn’t risk more men or overt opposition, just in case it WAS Lord K’Lenth. And he absolutely, positively FORBADE the party to act on their own! On no account were they to sneak out and take out that machine that was causing him so much trouble, he wouldn’t hear of it! Would he?

“No, no, you won’t hear a thing”, replied Alfred, taking his meaning. They headed back to the caravansarai. Meanwhile, Lyra had climbed a rooftop and managed, with the help of the spirits, to spot the contraption. It had two long metal spikes on it, and a capstan around a large metal dome.

In the meantime, Max stayed with the wagons, studying his scripture. His studies were interupped by a half-elf with a walking stick and wild gray hair. “He wants you to remember that green looks like blue,” he said, nodding to the space over his left shoulder. He asked Max what he was reading; Max replied that he was reading about the prophets. Glancing over the text and conferring with the air over his left shoulder, the gray-haired man pointed to one and said, “He says that one’s his favorite.”

Max noted that the prophet indicated was a prophet who liked to travel a lot, spreading the good word about Selune, and unusually, he also preached and performed service on behalf a few other deities, such as Amaunator, Silvanus, Torm, and Sune, to name a few.

Meanwhile, Lyra decided to make the rounds of the guards, and find out more about the fight they had with the kobolds. Some of the guards had been struck by lighting, and their wounds were consistent with that. They reported the lightning coming from the machine. Others had been the victims of dragon breath. To Lyra’s eyes, however, the injuries from the breath were not lightning at all, but seemed to indicate a more poisonous sort of injury, as would come from a green dragon.

The party rejoined one another and slipped out the north gate for a reconaissance, leaving Allyson to guard the wagons and the drivers. Gnf sent out his Shadow Serpent, and was able to get a good look at the lightning machine. Gnf was of the opinion that the kobolds must have stolen the design from gnomes, since no kobold could ever think up something like that on their own.

The Shadow Serpent attracted notice however, and led the kobolds on a merry chase while they tried to dispose of it. This was convenient for Max and Aprilane, who were conducting their own survey. They found four main camps, each seemingly led by a Kobold Wyrmpriest, and as best they could tell, the highest command was located in a copse of trees beyond the ridgeline, out of sight from the town.

The approached it, and saw dimly a large winged shape speaking to the kobolds. “So, they have attempted to spy on us, have they?” said the voice. “We will need to arrange a demonstration.” However, Max and Aprilane also noticed that the shape was about the size of a single wagon, which was much smaller than the blue dragon they had seen earlier, which was about the size of the entire wagon train. And they overheard what sounded to them like the chanting of a ritual, in the dragon’s voice.

About the time they returned to Gnf and Alfred, a patrol of Kobold Skirmishers found them and attacked. They were dispatched with only a little difficulty, and any attention that the battle might have attracted was directed to the city’s south gate, where the “demonstration” was developing.

The party slipped back into the city, with someone at the gate clearing their way with the guards. The kobolds were kicking up a fuss at the gate, the dragon had overflown the city, and there were citizens demonstrating in front of the Mayor’s house, demanding that the mayor hire mercenaries or adventurers to get rid of the menace of Lord K’Lenth.

The party realized that with most of the kobold army at the front gate, it would be an ideal time to assault the lightning device and destroy it. So they bribed a guard to watch their wagons and slipped back out of the gate.

The assault on the device went well, except that the Kobold Dragonshield running it managed to get one shot off at a group of party members, singing them pretty thoroughly. The minions who were supposed to recharge the machine by turning the capstan were wiped out by a very effective Color Spray, and the Dragonshield was dispatched after he fell asleep under the influence of a Sleep spell.

After the battle, some of the party rested while Alfred set to work sabotaging the machine. He was successful, but about the time he decided to rest to regain his healing abilities, the party heard a voice coming from the trees below the ridge. “You want the blue dragon to remain at large, would you?” they heard. “I would have rid the world of a scourge, and it would have worked if not for you meddling adventurers! Now come and face me, Jareth, or I shall visit my wrath on the town and the innocents within.” The dragon within the woods continued his monologue, spurred on by the jeers and taunts of the party. This gained Alfred enough time to recover his healing abilities, and the hunt was on.

Approaching the woods, the party thought they saw a dim shape far through the trees. However, Alfred discerned that this was no living thing, merely a shape made of canvas and lumber. The green dragon was spotted by Lyra, but it ignored her spirit, and loosed its breath on Allyson and Alfred, inflicting them both with a gnawing poison. The party charged, and Ugrun knocked it off it’s feet, invoking the power of Earthstrength to pin it to the ground for a time. This limited the havoc it could wreak for a time, though it managed to instill some fear in some party members. Just as it was filling its lungs for another breath, Aprilane drilled it with a magnificent shot, and then Lyra’s spirit downed it with a Stalker’s Strike.

Whump. Whump! Whump!! WHUMP! WHUMP!!! Just as the party was catching its breath, they heard heavy wingbeats and a gigantic form landed nearby, shaking the trees with tremors. It was a gigantic blue dragon, Lord K’Lenth. “Not bad at all,” he said, turning the green’s corpse over with one giant claw. “A green, it figures.” K’Lenth rolled his eyes. “They always have some angle they are working.”

“Well, you have done me a service, and I won’t let it be said that I don’t repay favors. Please come to my keep for a feast.” And with that the dragon flew off. From the sounds of battle nearby, the party presumed that Lord K’Lenth was dealing with the remainder of the kobolds.

The party settled accounts with the mayor the following day, and set out to Lord K’Lenth’s keep. The keep was enormous and on the top of a small mountain, visible for miles. They stabled their horses and were treated to a feast before a roaring fire in gigantic hall of unusual design. It had an entrance door that was most impressive, but still on human scale. But once they entered the hall they could see that there was a very large portal in the far wall, from which the dragon could fly in and out. Gigantic wooden shutters were in place to shut out undesirable weather, though Allyson wasn’t quite sure what kind of weather a blue dragon that liked to fly in thunderstorms would find undesirable. There was a roaring fire, an enormous blue cushion before it on a raised platform, and Lord K’Lenth on the cushion.

Unseen servants served up plenty of roasted venison and pork. Orc-eye Swill, a very fine dark beer brewed by orcs in the Kindom of Many Arrows, was served, much to Ugrun’s delight. He described how he had the castle built by a group of mostly dwarves, and the portal arrangement was thought up by a clever gnome by the name of Fenster Wockle. Alfred realized that meant that castle had to be on the order of 670 years old, since the buildings he’d heard of designed by Fenster Wockle were typically the oldest building in the city the sat in.

After dinner, K’Lenth admitted that there was something he wanted the party to do for him. He brought out his account book, all 600 plus pages of it. He flipped to recent pages and when trying to read it, held it out, craned his neck, squinted and otherwise demonstrated his oncoming presbyopia. “I have heard that humans have things called spectacles, which assist one in reading. I would like some,” stated K’Lenth. So the party proceeded to measure him and try out some lenses. Alfred made a carved model of K’Lenth’s head, Gnf conjured up an assortment of glass lenses as basic magnifiers, and the others assisted in general measurement.

With that business concluded, K’Lenth told them of the time a red dragon invaded his territory, and how he learned to cooperate with humans as a result. Then it was time for sleep; the party retired to rooms shown to them. In the morning, they left, with no sign of K’Lenth anywhere, returning to Dragonwatch.

There's Gold in Them Thar Anthills
You mean I get to use my Dungeoneering?

Last time, we left the gold caravan headed to Waterdeep from Silverymoon camped at a campsite. Waking up for third watch of the night, Max, Ugrun, and Alfred discovered that Lyra and Allyson were asleep, and that the campsite was overrun with giant ants! Furthermore, the giant ants appeared to be taking the bars of gold and carrying them back down into the anthills which had erupted around the camp.

Gnf woke easily, as did Aprilane. At first, Gnf simply observed the ants, but Aprilane couldn’t observe much of anything, because it was dark! Max lit a torch from the embers of the watchfire, which had burned very low untended. Now that he could see that giant ant right next to him he smacked it over the head with his torch, and the fight was on. Ugrun equipped his shield and short sword and advanced to face down one of the larger warrior ants that had come over.

Most of the workers fled back to their home, but two warriors and some workers remained to defend the rest. Allyson and Lyra struggled awake, Lyra turning and tossing for several seconds while giant ants battled with Aprilane right over her head.

When the ants had been dispatched, a search showed some glass vials near where Allyson and Lyra had fallen asleep and a booted footprint or two nearby. Further investigation revealed some sort of ant-like smell on the gold bars, but not the iron camouflage. As the implications of this were discussed, a group of flying drones emerged from the largest hill and attacked, biting party members as they flew by them.

Once they were dealt with, the party advanced to the largest of the anthills and started climbing down. The descent was steep and somewhat slippery and at least a few of the group landed on their face in a big pile of sand at the bottom, in spite of the assistance rendered by others holding a rope at the top. On the other hand, Alfred and Aprilane decided they could slide down the slope on their feet, landing lightly.

And it was fortunate that they could, since a group of hive warriors and soldiers started attacking before they all reached the landing. Gnf set off a colossal Color Spray, dazing most of them, and stopping them from swarming around the party. The soldiers tried to grab and sting Max a couple of times, but the first was killed before he could manage it and the second missed Max once before being dispatched.

Continuing on, the party came across a group of humans, including Daval the guard from Silverymoon. The leader was a half-elf woman named Valsturia, and there were 4 more guards and a rather berserk looking dwarf woman with a big axe. They were inside one chamber, so Allyson, Max and Ugrun charged in, Gnf and Alfred filled in behind them, and Aprilane and Lyra stayed outside, firing in, and watching the corridors.

Ugrun shifted appearance slightly to look like a ram, and pushed one of the guards all the way back to the back wall, opening a path to Valsturia. As Alfred entered the chamber, a Cave Choker dropped from the ceiling onto him, grabbing him around the throat. Then, when Gnf tried to shoot the Choker, it swung Alfred around as a human shield, so that Alfred bore the brunt of the Rolling Thunder. Gnf also targeted Valsturia with the Rolling Thunder, which slid her over to in front of Allyson. Valsturia gulped hard and didn’t move, considering the ball of lighting ready to explode if she did, thinking Allyson the lesser of evils. She was wrong.

Meanwhile Daval tried to convince Allyson that Gnf was reallly the source of all her troubles, and that he had heard Gnf say that he hated half-orcs. Allyson just laughed it off though. This was after Daval had utterly failed to hide his movements from the party, so they weren’t taking him too seriously. However, he then did a more successful sneak and managed to stab Ugrun in the back while Ugrun had the remaining three guards engaged.

Gnf unleashed another big spell, downing two of the guards and wounding the third, but also getting Ugrun in the zone. Daval gave a pitiful appeal to those around him to spare him, and tried to flee. However, Lyra and Aprilane managed to cut him down at the cave entrance, having been too far away to be affected by his pathos.

After the fight, a search revealed several items, including Bracers of Mental Might, which went to Alfred, Parry Gauntlets (Allyson), Vigorous Resolve Vestments(kept for trade/sale), Goggles of Aura Sight(Ugrun), and a Pure Spirit Totem(Lyra). Along with a 700gp and 2 100gp-value gems. Also found were a ritual book and some ritual scrolls.

One of the scrolls was a ritual called Peaceful Slumber, while the other was Control Insects. The party concluded that the thieves must have put a scent trail to the gold, and used the Control Insects ritual to have the queen send out scouts to find it, letting their ant instincts take care of the rest. But that left them with the problem of finding the gold and getting it back out of the anthill.

At about this time, Gnf heard a voice in his head, the voice of Tulvin Narnari, the scholar with which Gnf had discussed unusual magical phenomena. Tulvin seemed quite angry, and said that he had gone through the planar boundary, found some elves who said that there had been a caravan including orcs and that they had killed some of the elves. Tulvin said that he owed Gnf, but Gnf and he were going to have a serious discussion.

Aprilane noticed that the thieves clothing had a bit of an anty smell to it, so they decided that the thieves must have blended scent with the ants to avoid conflict with them. So the party draped themselves in the clothing of the bandits.

This ploy seemed to work as the next chamber entered was in fact the queens chamber. The attendant ants examined the party and then ignored the party. There was a passage leading downward on the far side of the chamber, following it, the party came to a storage chamber with a big glittering pile of gold bars in it, along with some fungus and rubble.

Gnf, with Alfred’s assistance, summoned a Tensor’s Floating Disc capable of carrying the entire pile of gold (weighing about a ton) in one trip, and the party made its way back out of the anthill. They passed by a flurry of activity as the ants had discovered the bodies of the theieves and were cleaning them up. They had little trouble climbing out, and an hour or so of hard labor restoring the gold to the wagons and covering it with the iron ingots.

Journey to Abomination Elf City
Has anyone seen any odd magical occurences?

Since at the celebration of the Blackspear Tribe there was a great deal of fermented goats milk and fermented corn juice, many of the party were late in rising the next day. Except for Max.

Max had avoided imbibing, though pretended to in order to not insult his hosts. So he rose early and rather enjoyed the morning air and the chorus of groans from the rest of the party, the Redspring refugees and also most of the orcs of the Blackspear tribe. But one of the orcs, with black hair gone gray and wild, and leaning on a staff, approached Max. He sniffed at Max for a moment, then nodded.

“Take care of the Queen, and the gold will be easy,” he said, nodding sagely. He then took a bit of something that looked like dried meat from a belt pouch and held it up over my shoulder, as if feeding it to his pet monkey. When Max asked what “take care of” meant, to tend or to kill, he grinned and said, “You’re a smart boy, I’m sure you can figure it out.”

Alfred was nearby and hurling his usual gibes when the old orc turned to him and said, “You can’t put the cart before the horse, but you can put it before the bird.”

The party was still puzzling over his words as they cleaned off their war paint, took off the last bone headdresses and the wagon train mounted up. Lurtma came by to bid them farewell. They asked again about the elf city, what was it called? She said that the Abomination Elf City was as good a name as it needed, and that they should watch out for those elves that way, because they were very nasty and mean.

With that warning, the wagon train started off, hoping to perhaps find a way back through to Toril and to reach Silverymoon instead of (it WAS instead of, wasn’t it?) Abomination Elf City. Gnf paid close attention to the smell and color of magic, Aprilane to the look of the flora and fauna and birdsong, and Lyra to the nature spirits.

However nobody managed to notice the five elf archers hiding in the brush on the hill, sending their Blood Hawks to stoop on Allyson and Ugrun, the two orcs (and on Aprilane, the one with a visible bow) in a successful ambush. Alfred made a brief attempt to negotiate with the elves, but the elves were not in much of a negotiating mood, and resumed drilling Allyson and Ugrun after pausing a moment to evaluate the surprise of finding a half-elf among those of orcish blood.

Eventually, the blood hawks were downed. Alfred drew one of the scouts guarding the creek line forward off his line, Gnf put two archers to sleep after scorching a few others, and Max “phased” right by the remaining scout guarding the creek line to attack and down an archer. The elves broke and ran, and a further archer was downed.

After the battle, one of the scouts and one of the archers were found to be still alive. They were stripped of all their gear, down to a basic legging/loincloth, orc paint smeared on them, their “kill count” jewelry taken and they were told that their lives belonged to Alfred, and that they had better not interfere with the party’s travel any more. Meanwhile Lyra tended to two of the blood hawks that had been downed but not killed, making good friends with one of them, which then accompanied her. Since her new friend looked restless and ready to attack each time Allyson or Ugrun came into view, she quickly made it a makeshift hood out of a spare stocking. Aprilane volunteered to supply it with rabbit guts.

The journey resumed and soon the party realized that the heat shimmer up ahead wasn’t a heat shimmer at all, but some kind of planar boundary zone. The vegetation grew sparser and smaller, the birdsong more silent, the spirits more scarce, and the inherent magic more turbulent. The country grew flat and open.

Some strange crystalline structures were spotted headed for the party slowly. Alfred and Gnf identified them as Chaos Shards, born of the junction between the Elemental Plane and the Abyss. Chaos Shards are thought to exist due to the influence of the shard of pure evil from which the Abyss was created; some even think that Chaos Shards are splinters from said shard of pure evil. They also recollected that some arcane spellcasters will capture Chaos Shards and attempt to use them as sources of power.

The party circled the wagons and took out 4 Storm Shards and one Death Shard, peppering them with ranged fire as they slowly advanced. Alfred and Gnf managed to collect some arcane ritual components from the dust formed when the shards shattered.

Then they were through the zone and to everyone’s relief, they were back into Toril. Camping for the night Frodi Nibbleheim thanked them again, saying he figured his group would break up in the morning. He himself would head to Silverymoon and try and figure out what his next move would be. He’d like to be part of a force to take out the The Queen of Beasts, but he was sure that he couldn’t do it himself. Gnf encouraged him to contact them via sending or courier, telling him a Waterdeep address or Turlough’s Steel, also.

The party then made their way to Silverymoon. As they approached, Ugrun became nervous, and confessed that he was really worried about going into Silverymoon, fearing an unwelcome reception for one of his blood. It was agreed that Ugrun, Lyra and Aprilane would stay outside, waiting along the southern road which it was expected that the caravan would leave by.

Before they got to the city itself, the party came across a shantytown, that had a look of being there much longer than any of the shacks or tents there. It had the usual collection of poor and miscreant, though glimpses of some sort of avian humanoid were made.

Gnf also noted many magical wards which appeared to have stopped functioning. Silverymoon appears to have depended on these wards, since it has no city walls. Many of the city’s protectors The Knights of Silver were in evidence, and at a checkpoint along the main road into the city some of said Knights were highly suspicious of the party and Allyson in particular until the papers from Turlough’s steel and a few quiet words from Alfred about his sister smoothed things over.

Once past the checkpoint, Max and Gnf separated from Allyson and Alfred, heading to the college of magic. Once there, Gnf told a bored a bored young (elvish looking, but human) man at the desk that he wanted to talk to someone about some “odd magical phenomena”. The young man listened Gnf describe the odd magical phenomena that he had encountered recently, shifting from Toril to Abeir and back, and so on, then, with something of a bemused grin that puzzled Gnf, sent him upstairs to speak with someone named Tulvin. Entering Tulvin’s rooms, Max and Gnf found a silver-haired Eladrin with a somewhat aloof and skeptical attitude. When Gnf described the experience of finding himself in a place where “magic felt different”, Tulvin handed him a perfect sphere and asked him what he made of it, arcane-wise.

Gnf studied it a bit and said that it appeared to be abjuration magic with some sort of psychic tie-in, as if it were meant to keep certain kinds of people away or some such. Tulvin seemed quite impressed, and pressed Gnf for further details of his travels and observations while in Toril. Gnf obliged but felt it prudent to leave out the details, or in fact, any mention whatsoever of their encounter with the Blackspear tribe. As he spoke, Tulvin called in a scribe to take down the details, and then pulled a volume off the shelf and began thumbing through it. Gnf paid no mind to that, but Max had noticed already that the big multi-volume book on that shelf was written, in fact, by Tulvin, and was titled “Odd Magical Phenomena”.

When Gnf told him of the chaos shards encountered at the returning junction, Tulvin nodded and suggested that the important thing about them is that they have little motive for self-preservation, caring only for destruction. For this reason, most scholars think that they do not possess shen. But they should not be thought of as un-intelligent.

Furthermore, he showed Gnf and Max one of his books, that had a reproduction of a hand-drawn map showing the lands that they had travelled in and labelling (in Elvish) the “Shining Moon City” and “Abominable Orcs live here”. Some other inscriptions were written in a language that seemed to be Orcish, but neither Max nor Gnf could read it, and neither asked.

In any case, he wrote a swift letter to the city Tower describing the phenomena, gleeful at this time knowing what was going on before they asked him, and set about preparations to go out and observe the junction himself. He thanked Gnf for his information, and told him he owed him a favor.

In the meantime, Allyson and Alfred went to the office of Turlough’s Steel in Silverymoon. There they found Dunstan Oredigger, factor for Turlough’s Steel in a highly paranoid mood. It seems that one of his guards was murdered just last week, just as the other guard, Daval, was taking Dunstan into the vault area where the gold is kept. He looked over the papers Alfred presented carefully and became quite alarmed at the prospect of one of the guards being a full orc. Alfred reassured him that Ugrun had saved Alfred’s life twice already, and that seemed to mollify Dunstan.

Dunstan described his preparations: The gold was to be hidden within a shipment of iron bars onto four wagons. He had hired four teamsters that he knew and trusted. It will be shipped out of a fortified warehouse that he’d arranged to only be used by him for the time being. Dunstan wants to load very early this morning and be out of the city by roughly dawn. Alfred agreed to round up the other guards by then and meet him at the office.

Then Alfred went to a nearby temple of Mielicki, made a donation and engaged the priestess on duty in chat. It turns out she knew Alfred and Allyson’s mother from long ago. She said that she had heard of the Queen of Beasts, though welcomed Alfred’s more detailed description of her methods. She hadn’t yet heard of the razing of Redspring, but it surely was bad news. However, the Kingdom would have little to spare to deal with her, since tensions with the Kingdom of Many Arrows were on the rise; it was believed that Many-Arrows was preparing for an attack.

Allyson and Alfred then returned by Turlough’s Steel, where they had agreed to rendezvous with Max and Gnf. Dunstan had denied ever knowing or hearing about Allyson and Alfred to Gnf, who had stopped by looking for them, then told Dunstan that if they should come by, he and Max would be in that inn across the street. So the party met up, Aprilane was brought into town, and Allyson got to sleep in a bed that night, even if she had to get up and oh-my-god in the morning.

Loading the wagons went off without a hitch, Alfred used his bardic ritual to make the oxen pull the carts faster (he managed to get Dunstan to provide extra arcane ritual components to help hurry the journey along), and Gnf and Max (being a merchant’s son) inspected the wagons for anything that might break down, finding nothing.

As they drove out of the city, Gnf spent a lot of time telling Aprilane how bored he was, while Aprilane could hardly contain her amazement at the tall buildings and wonderful gardens. A few sightings of hooded figures on the roof were made.

Once out of town, Ugrun and Lyra were picked up, and they were off. A few hours later, where the road ran close to the Surbin River they saw a pushcart that had run off the road and a small robed and hooded figure trying to pull it out with markedly small success.

Allyson and Ugrun hopped off the wagons and ran down the slope to pull the cart out. The figure turned out to be some sort of avian humanoid. His said he was a Kenku and his name was Fflutter. He was quite grateful for the help, and on hearing Ugrun’s name mentioned, reported that he had heard that an assassin had been hired to kill an orc named Ugrun. “A Kenku assassin,” he insisted, “elf assassins no good! But since you help FFlutter, me no think you should die, so watch out!” And thus did the party put the cart before the bird, who marched off in the opposite direction of them.

They crossed the bridge across the Surbin at noontime, and the rest of the day was watchful, but uneventful. They made camp at a well-used caravan campsite, and made camp. However, those of the party slated for the third watch awakened to find the second watch guards asleep and their campground overrun with giant ants, who had been taking the gold!

Dances With Gnomes
What do you mean WE, elf?

The refugees from Redspring marched until well after dark, accompanied by those employees of Turlough’s Steel that found themselves in their company after the Redspring had been attacked and burned by the The Queen of Beasts.

After a nervous night, they were attacked in the morning by a band of dire wolves. The wolves seemed infected by spellplague, though of a somewhat different form than had been seen before. Alfred questioned May and her boyfriend, but he didn’t know all that much about the Queen, other than she seems to move about a lot, and doesn’t often make specific claims of territory. She holds bonfires at which she supplies drink, there is drumming, she will speak for a bit and herbs are thrown on the bonfire.

Frodi Nibbleheim said that most of the Redspring refugees figured on going to Silverymoon which was where the party was headed, so they set out moving the caravan down the road in that direction.

But soon, small but significant differences were being noticed. Lyra noticed that the spirits of the places they were traveling had changed slightly. Spirits don’t speak in language exactly, but if they did they now had strange accents. Aprilane noticed that while the same types of birds were still present, the birdsong had changed, much like it does when you visit another region. Alerted to these changes, Gnf noticed that the road had become considerably less developed than when they had left Redspring, though he’s not really sure when it happened. Gnf noticed that the mana had shifted slightly, as from vanilla to chocolate.

Lyra had been through the area before and while the caravan kept moving, she studied the area. She observed that in the large it was the same, but there were many small differences. A bluff in the distances was less eroded than she remembered. The same animals were present, but they had different markings than usual, or grew to a moderately different size. That evening, it was observed that while the stars seemed to be the same, the moon and the planets took a slightly different course through them.

Gnf realized that this probably meant that the caravan had stumbled someohow on to the parallel world. The familiar world being Toril, and the parallel world being Abeir. In his researches with Calfalas, Gnf had run across a few such stories, where travelers somehow switched from one world to the next, or even where regions of Toril had been replaced with regions of Abeir. This seems to be another consequence of the Cataclysm.

Frodi pointed out that cities often exist where they do for geographical regions, so there might well be a city where Silverymoon is. The caravan continued.

The spirits, when questioned by Lyra, mentioned that orcs and elves lived in these parts, and that the orcs liked the spirits, but the elves didn’t have much to do with them.

About noon on the second day out from Redspring, they came to a river. Allyson and Ugrun had run ahead and had found a good ford, so they proceeded to take the wagons across, one by one. Allyson also pointed out the figures on the hill about a mile off, watching the proceedings, and said that someone had run off somewhere, while two remained watching.

The water came to mid-abdomen, so the wagons were taken across without unloading. Aprilane and Lyra helped manage the animals, while Max, Allyson and Ugrun helped to pull or push wagon that became stuck while crossing. Most of them went over well enough, but one became stuck in midstream, and no amount of heaving could free it. So Gnf did a ritual to conjure a Tenser’s Floating Disc, and lots of the material from the wagon was loaded on to it.

While this was going a large column of dust was seen approaching from beyond the far bank of the river. As the troublesome wagon was pulled up on the far bank, a very long line of figures appeared on the slope above the far bank. They were orcs, and they all had spears, snf carried white banners with black spears on them.

Alfred came forward, flanked by Allyson and Ugrun, with other party members hanging back. The leader was named Lungrik, chief of the Blackspear Tribe, and his chief shaman was his sister Lurtma with a few lesser chiefs attending. Lungrik stated that they could not pass, there were elves among them. Allyson declared “I am Orc, I have passed Bak Fa” and Ugrun stated “I am Orc, I have passed Bak Nur”. This made an impression, so further questioning was made. Lungrik was taken aback when Alfred referred to Allyson as his sister, and asked bluntly if there had been rape. Allyson bristled and said that this was an insult to her mother and her father. Lungrik was more amused than offended.

When asked to explain the caravan and the refugees, Alfred spoke of the Queen of the Beasts, but Lungrik had not heard of her or any like her. Lurtma was familiar with lycanthropes, but not so familiar with Shifters, their descendants.

Lurtma seemed keenly interested the party’s story of a different world, and asked a few questions, though the others seemed less interested.

One of the lesser chiefs that attended him objected to the way the conversation was going, “They are spies for the elves, sent to count our numbers and find our paths and ways!” But Lungrik had him well in hand. The caravan was offered the opportunity to undergo Bak Nur, and if seven of them were Orc, then they would be allowed to conduct their business in Blackspear tribal lands, moving their caravan through. “And don’t worry, Oogrik,” said the chief over his shoulder to the protester, “I’ll put you in charge of the Bak Nur.”

With that they pulled back, leaving about a third of their force as guards, while the rest of the wagons were brought across the ford.

Gnf and the others who didn’t speak orcish wanted to know what to expect from the Bak Nur. Ugrun said that it would involved hardship and danger, and skill at fighting. In his lands, it is a tournament, since they aspire to be more civilized. He also said he didn’t expect there to be much in the way of rules, orcs aren’t that big on rules, especially tribal orcs.

Lurtma visited the camp and provided more details, as well as questioning others about their travels and the dual worlds. Lyra offered details about the differences in the spirits of both worlds, since she was a shaman like Lurtma, and Aprilane discussed the differences in animals. As to the upcoming Bak Nur, there were to be two tests: the Test of the Hunter, and the Test of the Hunted. In the test of the Hunter, they will be required to track down and kill wild stags, and decorate themselves with their antlers. In the Test of the Hunted, they would have to travel to a distant goal area and take a banner while being pursued, ambushed, traps set, and perhaps defenders of the goal.

Lurtma also explained that among the Blackspear, administering a death blow to a downed opponent was a crime unless it was done in the course of a war. There would be fighting and it was understood that some may die due to misfortune, but there were to be no deathblows. The party would be asked to put up a blood price as a sign of their good faith, which would go to the families of any who died accidentally. And both tests were to be completed by sundown.

The next day the tests began. Oogrik tried to stall a little at first, but the stags were released and given 15 minutes head start. At the tree line, Aprilane saw that they had split into two groups, of three and two. The group of three were tracked first, and fortunately the stags decided to fight, and were brought down swiftly. The party then returned to the branch in the tracks and followed the other group.

It seems Oogrik prepared some surprises on this trail. Alfred barely spotted a pit in time to avoid it, and later a swinging spike log gave him quite a good smack as it swung down. But the snare Oogrik left was crudely done and easily avoided. The stags were handled with ease once the one that seemed ready to run was put to sleep by Gnf.

The stags were too large to all fit on Gnf’s floating disk (which was still going), so Aprilane dressed them and took the heads with antlers as well as the heart and the best cuts of meats. These were brought back and offered to Lungrik, while the antlers were fitted out as headdresses and jewelry.

The party was asked for the blood price for the Test of the Hunted, and offered a pouch with 100 gold pieces, on Lurtma’s advice. Lungrik then asked Oogrik for his 100 gold pieces. This appeared to be a larger sum than Oogrik was expecting, but he came up with it and then hurried off to get in position for the test.

It developed that Aprilane had particular skill in covering tracks and the party moved swiftly over the 5 miles between them and the goal, a platform on a distant hill with seven banners flying on it. The only difficulties encountered were a few traps. Alfred managed to spot an ambush, which the party then avoided.

Approching the goal, Aprilane and Max managed to keep everyone hidden as they crept up to top of the hill where Oogrik waited with several Orc Raiders and Drudges. Oogrik had the Drudges keep the party at range while he blasted them with his druid spells, and the Raiders guarded the platform he was on. As he targeted Allyson with one of his powers, he called her a disgrace to orcs. However, luck was not with him, as several of his spells missed their target, and Aprilane targeted him from the outset, taking him down when her best daily ability got a critical hit. Ugrun transformed into a ram, and pushed on of the raiders deep under the platform.. Gnf had knocked two others under the platform with his Thunder Wave, and proceeded to leap up onto the platform with a single jump. Allyson and Max finished off the last Raider, with the help of Lyra’s spirit companion, at which point the resisting force surrendered and the day was won.

The party ascended to the platform and one by one took up a banner. Alfred arranged to go last and drew it out, making sure that all eyes could see that he, the half-elf, had won the day and proudly took up the banner of the Blackspear.

At the ensuing celebration, Lungrik announced that they had shown that they could serve the tribe despite hardship and opposition and that they were now Orc and members of the Blackspear tribe. He awarded them each a spear that could give them +5 endurance once a day.

Many orcs crowded around Gnf, and found one who could speak to Gnf using the goblin tongue. They wanted to know how he could jump like that and could he teach them, but Gnf said it was a gnomish secret, which he learned through reading books.

Alfred went up to Oogrik at the party and said, “If you ever insult my sister again, I will cut them off and feed them to you.” Several orcs listening approved of this, saying, “You really ARE an orc, aren’t you!”


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