Curse of the Crimson Throne (TRU)

Mandraivus the Fallen
Episode #38

 

Mandraivus the Fallen

 

                The Harrows were faced with a strange wraith-like creature before them as the dark shadowy figure advanced. Jathan charged forward looking for a chance to get a quick strike in as he swung his dagger through the spirit. The blade passed through the monster but its magical properties allowed it to damage the incorporeal entity. The creature shrieked in pain as it retaliated with its own attack. The monster’s hand penetrated into Jathan’s body as it clutched onto his very life force and drained him off it. The life force seemed to help sustain the monster as the half-elf was looking quite weak and emaciated after the attack.

                Meanwhile, a number of the group was struggling with the aftermath of the haunt that drove them mad. Xandak was confused as he thought he heard something near him and swung wildly, his greataxe hitting the stone wall with such force it drove it backwards and caused him to cut his own shoulder. Even Rey’la was lost as she injured herself trying to draw her own bow. Laori got into position as Asyra charged forward to let her spiked chain deliver a hit into the monster. Barilut followed up with his own attack as the flail swung through to damage the enemy. Bauble had also succumbed to the madness as the elemental swung wildly and connected with a heavy impact to Laori’s back, causing her to stumble forward a bit in pain.

                “This confusion is causing trouble. I need to fix this.” Philo said as he reached into his robes and pulled out a wand. He raised his hand and let the wand of Magic Circle against Evil ring out, shrouding over himself, Sial, Bauble, Rey’la, and Xandak. The magical effect would protect them from evil magic and helped Bauble and Rey’la shake off the confusion effects. Unfortunately, Xandak couldn’t fight it off as the confusion still held on him. “I will handle him.” Sial said as he backed up and used a Dispel Magic to wash the Confusion off.

                With everyone back in the right mind they could now focus on dealing with the monster. Jathan let two more quick strikes against the creature before jumping back to get some distance between himself and it as he was feeling quite weak after the last attack of the creature. The shadowy monster looked at the group before it’s eyes locked onto Barilut. The creature seemed to focus its anger towards the dwarf as it suddenly flew through the wall and vanished. Moments later it re-emerged from the wall right next to Barilut as it assaulted him. The spectral hand touched the dwarf as it drained the paladin of some of his energy.

                The rest of the Harrows took this chance to surround the shadowy wraith on all sides as they attacked it from all angles. Even Bauble tried to hit it but his attacks were futile as they swiped through the incorporeal creature with no effect. However, it seemed that no matter who hit the monster its gaze was fixated on Barilut as it once again sapped some of his life. Philo prepared to blast the monster with an acid dart but it seemed quite nimble as it avoided the magical attack. This quick little dodge left it open to Jathan as the rogue stabbed the dagger into the wraith and pulled it up through the incorporeal form until it sliced the head in half, causing the monster to dissipate and vanish.

                With the monster defeated, the group of adventurers had a moment to patch up their wounds and investigate the set of armor on the skeleton. The armor had a series of designs on it that Phil recalled seeing as being from Lastwall, a region that was tasked with keeping the Whispering Tyrant in his eternal slumber. The armor itself turned out to be a suit of Celestial Armor and they decided to let Xandak wear it so he could better fight on the frontlines.

                The Harrows moved onward, deciding to check one of the many doorways that led out from this room. They discovered a corridor that ran along one of the rooms with a number of arrow slits and dead bodies scattered throughout. It appeared to be a defense corridor and they took caution in case any of the bodies weren’t truly dead but it seemed the hall was safe. Moving past they discovered a stairwell that led up to the second floor but decided to check out the rest of the first floor before heading upstairs.

                They walked into another room that had arrow slits that looked outward from the castle, but that wasn’t the main point of attraction in this room. On the wall was a message scribbled in blood in a strange language with a dead orc’s body laying below it dressed in hide armor and a battleaxe.

                “I can understand this.” Xandak said as he moved up to look at it. “It’s Orcish. It says “Beware of Ukwar””.

                “Who is Ukwar?” Jathan said, curious what that meant. They all looked at each other and no one knew that name so they chose to press on and see what else this portion of the castle contained. They found a series of doors and began to explore them one by one.

                The first room seemed to be a small bedroom that had been ransacked and destroyed. Jathan rummaged through the rubble and found a golden locket with an inscription to “Lashton” in it. He pocketed it in case it would prove to be useful and moved on to the next room. This room was similar but less destroyed. The desk was damp and covered with rotten scrolls as Barilut moved over to try and read them but sadly they were damaged beyond any use.

                When they tried to leave though, Barilut was suddenly grasped with a sensation that Castle Scarwall wasn’t well supplied for the impending attack. He had failed Kazavon in his duties and had to do something about it. For a brief moment he had the urge to run up to the top of the gatehouse parapets and hurl himself off the castle so he wouldn’t have to suffer the wrath of Kazavon. When the dwarf shook his head, the sensation was gone and confused him a bit. However, he strangely had an understanding of the gatehouse and knew that the stairs they had previously found led up to the second floor of the gatehouse and that the structure was symmetrical.

                This left one final room for them to explore. They opened the door and saw a similar bedroom to the last two except this one wasn’t unoccupied. A figure dressed in armor and a sword sat on the bed muttering to himself as he begged forgiveness from Kazavon. When the figure saw the intruder, he jumped from the bed as he brandished his sword. “I will not fail you again Master Kazavon!”

                The first thing the Harrows noticed about this enemy was that he was undead but quite intelligent. The second was that his weapon seemed to pulsate this green aura and they quickly discovered the effect of that as he swung his sword at Barilut and delivered a strong slice into his armor. The blade seemed to also burn the armor with acid as the dwarf was caught off guard by how strong he was. As Barilut looked at the monster he realized he had heard about such a entity.

                This was a Graveknight, an undead knight with immense power comparable to liches. The knight’s power originated from his armor and as long as the armor remained the creature would never be fully dead. Barilut responded with his own flail attack as Jathan came in with a quick stab finding an opening in the armor. The rest of the party made their way towards the small room to try and corner the graveknight in there.

                The graveknight took a step back as he suddenly unleashed a burst of green energy from his blade that engulfed half the party. The acidic blast scalded the walls as it burned those that couldn’t get out of the way in time. Jathan quickly ducked behind the wall near the door to avoid the blast as he was already quite weak. Xandak had enough of this undead knight as he screamed out and swung his axe wildly, filled with rage. He let two shots connect, chipping parts of the armor with his weapon as Barilut and Asyra attacked from the other side.

                The graveknight known as Knurlott was beginning to show signs of weakening as the assault from the Harrows was relentless. He swung his greatsword again, letting the blade dig deep into the half-orc as Xandak’s knees buckled a bit at the hit. However, this gave the opening needed as Asyra ran behind the knight and wrapped her spiked chain around its neck. She pulled it tighter and tighter until the chain sliced through the neck and beheaded the monster, causing its body to collapse to the ground dead.

                Even though the graveknight was defeated they weren’t out of it just yet. Barilut struck the armor a few times with his flail to try and destroy it but remembered that it would take much more than that to get rid of it. Philo took this time to summon a Lillend Azata, a monster with the torso of a woman and the lower half like a serpent. He used it to help heal the group up while Rey’la also worked on patching up many of their wounds.

                Once all their wounds had been taken care of the adventurers knew that they were feeling quite spent and needed to get some rest. They moved to one of the other bedrooms to try and set up a place to rest for the evening. Philo tried to use his Rope Trick spell as the rope emerged to take them to their extradimensional space to rest. However, when he tried to climb the rope and enter he failed as he couldn’t enter the magical space. The wizard thought for a moment, trying to figure out what could be happening as he tried to dimensional travel and saw it didn’t work either.

                “Well I have some bad news.” Philo said to the group. “It seems something in this castle is prohibiting dimensional travel. That may make things…complicated.” The group was cautious as they prepared to rest for the evening and continue their journey in Scarwall the next day.

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Skeletons of Scarwall
Episode #37

 

Skeletons of Scarwall

 

                The Harrows were in a bit of disbelief having seen their trusted friend Zellara torn apart in front of them by the spirits that haunted Castle Scarwall. However, they couldn’t stop here as they turned their attention back towards the massive structure before them and continued the journey across the causeway. As they neared the entrance they saw two crossbow bolts fly out from the second story of the castle at them. Xandak ducked under his as the shot flew overhead and Barilut held his ground as the bolt deflected off his armor.

                “We’re taking fire from the windows. Let’s double step and get to the castle to avoid taking any hits!” Barilut said as he directed the group to follow him towards the castle.

                As they neared the castle they could see the iron portcullis raising and a group of skeletons marching out wielding swords and shields. Among them was a skeletal horse being ridden by an armored skeleton who had a lance in his hand. “Seems we have brought out the welcome party.” Sial said, looking at the small battalion in front of them.

                “I’ve got this. Stand back.” Rey’la said as she moved up to the front and began to cast a spell. Suddenly, the ground around the skeletons began to soften as it stirred to life and tried to pull the undead warriors down into the ground. With the Hungry Earth spell in place the skeletons were stuck and unable to move. The spell didn’t grab a hold of the nightmare though as the skeletal house was a few feet off the ground and not in contact with it.

                The skeletal rider moved out over the water on his horse to get into a better position as the rest of the skeletons struggled to move. Barilut ran up to the nearest one and crushed it with his Dwarven flail while the rest of the group unloaded arrows and crossbow bolts at the skeletal horse. The arrows pierced between the bones and didn’t have that strong of an impact but they were slowly wearing down the undead beast. The rider charged ahead as he drove the lance into the shoulder of Xandak, piercing the half-orc’s body with a solid blow.

                Meanwhile, the spell continued to pull the skeletons in deeper as they were rendered useless by the spell. Xandak and Asyra moved up to the undead horse to try and break it apart with their weapons as the axe and spiked chain slashed and pierced into the bones. With the situation unfolding as it was it limited many of the options that the adventurers could do. Jathan, Rey’la, and Philo stood in the back and unleashed constant barrages onto the skeleton while Xandak and Asyra got in close. While their attacks didn’t seem to be the most effective against the skeletal horse it eventually wore it down until the nightmare died and crumbled into bones.

                The skeleton rider jumped off the crumbling horse as he landed on the edge of the bridge still wielding his lance. He let two quick thrusts out with the weapon, one into both Xandak and the other into Asyra. Rey’la moved up near the frontline to heal Xandak’s wounds so he could keep attacking while the Hungry Earth spell consumed the skeletons into the ground below. With only the skeleton leader above ground he was no match for the group as they attacked him from all sides. In the end, Xandak sliced right through the rider and destroyed him with a violent swing.

                All that left were the skeletons stuck underground. Barilut ordered Bauble to smash as the Earth Elemental went underground and proceeded to destroy one after the other. Once he was done crushing them all he resurfaced and the battle was over. They quickly patched up any wounds that they had before heading into the castle at last.

                As they entered the castle they had a strange sense of dread overcome them. The castle felt uneasy as if eyes were watching them from all over and that this place was stained with darkness. The Harrows entered the guardhouse and saw numerous arrow slits and murder holes along the entire length of the corridor that led to the other doorway. It didn’t take much for them to figure this had to be dangerous so Barilut had Bauble do some scouting. The earth elemental went into the ground to try and see what was around them but quickly came back up in a panic. He relayed to his Master that there were spirits that lived in the walls and the moment he entered they tried to attack him.

                With that information the group knew that they would have to be careful on how they proceeded through here. The next task that the dwarf had for Bauble was to send him down the corridor to see if anything happened. Sure enough, as Bauble moved through the hall four crossbow bolts shot out from the side arrow slits. Luckily two of the arrows had missed and the others only chipped bits off from him.

                “I can help us get around this.” Laori said with a bright chirp. She cast Obscuring Mist as a misty vapor surrounded her making it incredibly hard to see. The adventurers stayed close together and moved as a pack down the hall. Due to the mist blocking sight it meant that whatever was shooting at them wouldn’t be able to see them. The plan worked as they navigated the corridor and moved into the next room.

                This room also had many arrow slits that lined the walls and Barilut and Bauble slowly moved down to make sure the coast was clear. This time there didn’t seem to be anything shooting at them as they turned their focus to the contents of the room. The place was a bloodbath as bodies were strung all over. It was a mixture of orc and human bodies and many could be seen having died with a death grip still on their weapon or their blade plunged into the corpse of their last victim. A large number of bodies had been tossed and piled in the corner as the blood decorated the chamber.

                As the party moved into the room the pile of corpses began to stir. Arms and legs pulled and scuttled to move the large mound towards them as a strange extraplanar language came from the creature. They quickly jumped into action as Philo began to prepare summoning a creature to help them in the fight. The group of corpses all moved their heads as the jaws opened and let loose an ear-shattering painful shriek that filled the room. The shriek rattled the adventurers as some felt it worse than others. It was so painful that even Philo lost concentration on his spell and watched as the magic fizzle away. Xandak and Asyra moved in to attack the pile with their weapons as they sliced body parts off from the creature. Rey’la had to stay back and help heal up Jathan who wasn’t feeling so well after the shriek.

                Barilut took a position up behind Asyra as his flail could reach from a distance as he crushed one of the heads in the pile. The corpse file moved towards them slowly as the bodies tried to slam and grab a hold of as many of the intruders as it could. It wasn’t able to hit Asyra or Barilut but it did hit Xandak as the undead arms grabbed a hold of him and pulled him closer to the pile. Philo saw that Xandak was in trouble and used his Forceful Hand spell, summoning a phantasmal hand that tried to push the pile away. It slammed the corpses with tremendous force and was able to push it back just enough that it lost its grip on Xandak.

                With some of his wounds now taken care of, Jathan was ready to get into the fray of battle as he moved in and found a spot where he could strike from. He drove his dagger at the pile of bodies but as he did felt a pain shoot through his legs as he hadn’t fully recovered yet and swung wide. The phantom hand kept the monster at bay as the corpses lashed out again at the heroes. This time it slammed into Xandak, Asyra, and Jathan as it grabbed a hold of the half-orc and half-elf pulling them closer in. Laori saw them getting grabbed by this creature as she began to cast a spell and shoot out a blast of Searing Light into the monster to burn some of the bodies away. Philo followed up right after with an Acid Dart as that melted the corpses and Asyra delivered another powerful strike with her spiked chain before the monster was dead and the corpses dispersed along the floor.

                “That was….something.” Xandak said, dusting himself off.

                “Indeed.” Barilut answered. “Just a sign of the horrors that await us in this place.”

                The adventurers attempted to move on but was stopped when they felt the door before them barred on the other side. One by one they tried to break through the door but it seemed to be heavily fortified. Eventually, they decided to break the door down as they struck it over and over with their weapons. The wood splintered along the floor until nothing was left and they could finally go through.

                In the next room the group saw another pile of skeletons and bodies, signs of battle evident in the room. Almost all the skeletons were picked clean except for one left in a corner that still had its full plate armor covered in a sheet of dust. While the Harrows were looking around the room, Jathan and Philo heard the faint sounds of battle. It was hard to determine where it was coming from and the elderly wizard used a Detect Magic spell to try and help him identify what was in the area.

                The first thing he noticed was that the entire castle itself radiated a slight necromantic aura to it which only troubled Philo even more. Beyond that, the room seemed to have its own strong necromantic energy as well as the full plate armor on the skeleton was magical. Before Philo could relay the information to the rest of the team the room exploded with cacophony as sounds of battle filled the chamber. Dying screams and clashing of weapons continued to fill the room making it impossible to hear what anyone was saying as a swirl of angry spirits began to spiral around the room shrieking in madness. The screaming was so intense that it disorientated Rey’la, Xandak, and even Bauble making them confused.

                As the spirits died down the Harrows were preparing to deal with the aftermath of the strange haunt. However, they weren’t able to as black smoke began to come out from the skeleton and form together into a dark muscular mass of a male figure. The smoky wraith looked at them all with its glowing yellow eyes as it moved towards them with a look of vengeance and wrath as another battle was upon them.

               

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Approaching Scarwall
Episode #36

 

Approaching Scarwall

 

                A night’s rest did the Harrows good after their terrible ordeal down in the sewers near Deathhead Vault. They had not fully recovered from the damage the poison had done to them but they were well enough to continue on in their quest to Scarwall. The group left their rooms in Janderhoff and went outside to join up with Laori and Sial. The Brotherhood of Bones was waiting for them outside as Laori waved them over.

                “Are we ready to make our way to Castle Scarwall?” Sial asked.

                “Indeed. Let’s make way.” Barilut answered. The next matter to discuss was how they were going to get there. Philo could teleport them all there but it would take quite a bit of magic to do so. Instead, they decided that Laori could transport them there. It would take a lot longer but it would be less costly in their overall resources, not to mention the Elven cleric was eager to do so. When it was agreed upon, Laori used Shadow Walk and transported everyone to the Shadow Plane. On that plane, they were able to travel much faster and cover more ground. A trip that would take them weeks would only take them a matter of hours.

                When the trip had finished they came out near Castle Scarwall. They could see the castle off in the distance in the center of a large crater. The tall structure covered most of a small island in the center of a massive lake that seemed to fill up the entirety of the crater with only a long 400 foot walkway connecting it to the mainland. Before they made their way into the crater the Harrows decided they should do some scouting first.

                Rey’la took it upon herself to be the scout as she used her druid magic and transformed herself into a giant eagle. She took to the skies so she could check the surroundings and see if there were any dangers that they needed to be aware of. Two small barbicans were set up near the entrance of the causeway and Rey’la swooped down to take a closer look. One of the buildings appeared to have crumbled apart but the other was mostly intact. She could make out a figure walking around in the road between the buildings and recognized it as an orc. She made a mental note of that as she moved on to scout out the waters around the castle.

                The lake appeared to have nothing of note in it as the eagle turned and made her way towards the castle itself. The structure appeared to be quite large and have numerous towers and roofs spanning its entire area. As Rey’la drew near she could make out various statue-like figures on the roofs that began to stir and uncurl their stone wings. Gargoyles. Rey’la thought as she saw them lift off the castle and begin to give chase. She turned around and started to make her way back to the rest of the group, outrunning the gargoyles with ease.

                When she rejoined the party she relayed all the information that she had discovered. The Harrows decided that a land approach would be the best way to come at the castle so not to deal with the gargoyles. This meant that they would have to deal with the orcs in the barbicans though and that would require a plan. Xandak and Barilut would go up ahead invisible and take care of the orc, allowing the rest of the group to come up with them. With both Invisibility spells cast, the two of them headed down the road in the direction of the guardhouses escorted by Philo’s faerie dragon Foster and Sial’s female companion, Asyra.

                They made sure to move slowly as they neared the orc that was standing in the middle of the road keeping an eye out for anything down the path. When everyone was in position they struck as Xandak’s axe, Barilut’s flail, and Asyra’s spiked chain all ran through the orc and killed him right where he stood. Their stealth assassination went off without a hitch as they sent Foster back to tell the rest of the party to move on up. The Faerie dragon flew back while the three of them moved up through the buildings and towards the small doorway that led inside the structure.

                When the rest of the adventurers heard the guard had been taken care of they made their way towards the barbicans. However, they assumed everything was clear as they walked without regard. This wasn’t the case as in one of the upper floor windows an orc was stationed and keeping an eye out. The orc saw the rest of the group as it shouted out, alerting whoever else was inside the tower that intruders had arrived. The orc turned back to the window as it fired an arrow out towards them. When the Harrows saw that they were spotted and under fire they quickly started to book it towards where Xandak and Barilut were.

                Meanwhile, the party that had gone ahead to take out the first orc stopped to talk and figure out if they should wait for the rest of them to join. Unfortunately for them their talking seemed to have been noticed as they heard the sounds of commotion from inside the building. They took up positions around the doorway so that when the first orc stepped out to investigate he would get jumped. Sure enough, one of the orcs ran outside to check on what was causing the noise and when he did the group once again unleashed a deadly triple combination of attacks that brought the orc down.

                With two orcs defeated it gave the Harrows an advantage as battle finally broke out. Unfortunately, the rest of the adventuring party was doing their best to catch up and join in on the fight. They had to dodge a few arrow shots from a number of orcs in the windows but managed to make it past their vision without much harm done to them. They could hear Xandak and the rest of the group dealing with the orcs as the battle had moved indoors and into the barracks.

                One thing that was quite apparent was the deadliness of Asyra as she swung the spiked chain with a combination of might and deadly precision. Not only was the spiked chain in her hand dangerous, but the chains on her body animated to deliver another strike as one more orc got defeated. By now, the rest of the group had arrived and joined them as they ran into the barrack to fight the remaining orcs. Suddenly, a sound of cracking was heard as an orc jumped through a small hole in the roof and came crashing down to join the fight. This orc was much more decorated then the rest and wielded a greatsword as he barked orders out to the rest of them.

                “Looks like the leader.” Jathan said as he dodge a swing from an orc’s battleaxe, peeking over at the new enemy.

                “I got him. He seems a bit hot-headed.” Philo said as he began to cast a spell. Suddenly, a sphere of force energy surrounded the orc leader and trapped him in there. The Resilient Sphere prevented him from getting involved with the fight and he had to stand there and watch as the rest of his group was killed by the Harrows. Once all the rest of the orcs had been killed, they surrounded the leader and waited for the sphere to fade before they unleashed their wrath on the orc chieftan. The hotheaded leader barely got a swing from his greatsword off before he was killed as Bauble grabbed him and smashed him into the ground forcefully.

                The Harrows scavenged the bodies, taking as much as they could that was worth it. The orc leader had a unique weapon as it appeared to be a greatsword magically enhanced to kill dragons. They made a note to keep that in case it might come in handy as they turned their attention now towards the causeway that led to Scarwall. With the barbicans now secure they took a moment to heal up any wounds before beginning to cross the 400-foot walkway.

                As they crossed the bridge leading to Castle Scarwall they had an uneasy feeling as if they shouldn’t be here. The entire area felt dark as if evil itself filled the air. While walking they saw the spirits of the dead floating around in the air like brief wisps. Suddenly, the spirits forced Zellara’s spirit to manifest as she appeared before the adventure party scared and surprised. The spirits began to dive down and surround Zellara attempting to grab a hold of her and bring her into their folds. Jathan wouldn’t allow it as he tried his best to protect and save her but no matter how hard he tried it wasn’t enough.

                The spirits grabbed a hold of Zellara and pulled her up into the air as they began to rip and tear her apart. Zellara screamed out as her spirit faded and the wisps faded along with her. For the first time since the Harrows had been formed, they were no longer guided by the spirit of the harrower that brought them together. Zellara’s spirit was gone, lost to Castle Scarwall and the evil that it housed as the entire party all looked at each other in solemn silence. They hadn’t even arrived at the castle and they had already lost someone. What kind of place were they getting themselves into?

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Brotherhood of Bones
Episode #35

 

Brotherhood of Bones

 

                The Harrows were preparing themselves for the next step in their journey. They knew they would have to go to Scarwall to try and find what this Serithiel is and how it would help them in defeating Kazavon, but they didn’t want to rush into things too hastily and be prepared for the dangers awaiting them. It was during their preparation time that Jathan suddenly got a strange message in his mind. It was a female voice and it told him to return to Korvosa and come to the Dread Warrens for a chance to strike back at the enemies has presented themselves. He relayed the information to the team and they decided it was a worthy lead to investigate. At the least, they needed to head down in that direction to sell some of the treasure they had been holding onto for some time now.

                The group bid their farewells to the Sklar-Quah as they teleported back down to the grasslands and near Korvosa. They made a quick stop at the Dwarven city of Janderhoff to sell some of their treasure and buy a few pieces of equipment to better themselves. After buying what they wanted, they headed off to Korvosa and slowly snuck their way into the city. They knew that the city was a dangerous place for them to be in and they were right to be cautious as it appeared the Grey Maiden patrols had become more frequent in their time away.

                Eventually they made their way over to the Dread Warrens, a place the Harrows hadn’t been since the beginning of their formation. As they wandered the graves they were greeted by a familiar face in Cressida, the Field Marshall of the Korvosan Guard. She told them to follow her as she led them to the warrens. The entrance was guarded by two guard and she waved the guards off.

                “In case you need to come back here the password is Blackjack.” Cressida said which made Jathan smile a bit. The group walked down into the warrens and were surprised by how different it looked. The last time they were down here they had done battle against a dangerous owlbear skeleton but now the place had a table in the center with chairs all around. A number of people were in the room and the adventurers recognized some of the Korvosan Guard and even Amin Jalento here. An elderly woman walked up to them and nodded.

                “I’m glad that you received my message.” She said.

                “So you were the one that contacted me…” Jathan replied, looking her over trying to figure out who she was. The woman was dressed in long black robes.

                Cressida stepped in and introduced her as Bishop Keppira D’Bear, the head of the church of Pharasma here in Korvosa. The young Field Marshall went on to explain the situation in the city and how more and more power was being given to the Grey Maidens. To make matters even worse a number of the churches have allied themselves with the crown, including the Bank of Abadar. The church of Pharasma is one of the few that haven’t and have proven to be a valuable ally in the upstarts of this revolution in the works.

                It was during this conversation that the Harrows recognized there was a figure seated at the table that they didn’t recognize. Cressida saw their gazes and introduced the man as Boule, guildmaster of the Cerulean Society which was the largest thieve’s guild in Korvosa. “Go ahead Boule, tell them what you told us.” She said. The man smiled with a slight arrogance to him as he began to speak.

                “Yes, let me get right to the point. We may operate on different sides of the law, but we can agree that Ileosa is not good for Korvosa. I want her gone as much as you. And while I feel that neither I nor my… associates… are the right ones for the task, you, brave adventurers, have proven time and time again that you are precisely what Korvosa needs. “Without the Gray Maidens to police the streets or the Red Mantis to stalk the alleys, Ileosa’s grip on Korvosa will slip. Yet in their fortress at the Longacre Building, the Red Mantis and the Gray Maidens are bolstered against attack, and many who work within the building may yet be innocent, forced to comply with the queen against their will. But as it happens, I know of a back door into the chambers below. I know the secret to Deathhead Vault.”

                “Deathhead Vault?” Rey’la asked. Cressida interrupted and explained that Deathhead vault was a prison area underneath the Longacre building. Boule went on to explain that for quite some time his guild had an agreement with the derros that lived in the tunnels adjacent to the vault that allowed his men passage into the prison secretly in exchange for bodies now and then. They had used these secret tunnels and passages as a way to free some of their brethren that had been captured or taken care of someone on the inside. However, in the past few months they had lost all contact with the derros and he could only assume that meant the Grey Maidens and Red Mantis had discovered the tunnels.

                Cressida sighed as she wasn’t happy working with the scheming guildmaster but knew the opportunity was too good. If they used Boule’s information and resources to get into the Deathhead Vault and lead a successful raid it would prove a significant blow to the Grey Maidens. If they could discover why Arbiter Zenobia Zenderholm had decided to allow the church of Abadar to ally with the crown as well would be another winning point for them. And finally, if they could take out or capture as many Grey Maiden or Red Mantis leaders that they could and rescue any prisoners that could turn the tide as well. One such person that Cressida had received word of was Marcus Endrin, the ex-commander of Sable Company that was presumed dead.

                Boule went on to explain that he had a key to help navigate the tunnels as well as notes from his men that would help to find the secret passages leading into the vault. He also had another surprise for them. When they were ready to go into the vault, he would have his men release a set of encrypted documents to fall into the Grey Maidens hands. One of their leaders named Kordaitra loved breaking codes and would be engaged in trying to break the set of documents in her office at the Deathhead Vault. This would guarantee that she would be present during their assault and give them an opportunity to fight one of the higher ups in the Grey Maiden hierarchy.

                With all the information laid out the Harrows took it in and reviewed it amongst themselves. While they were planning on making the trip to Castle Scarwall soon the opportunity to strike back at those that had been harassing them for so long was one that couldn’t be overlooked. They agreed that taking some time to launch this attack sounded like a good idea and agreed to do it. They would need some time to plan and make sure that they were ready but when the time came they would let Boule and the rest of them know.

                It was during this planning stage that Barilut suddenly received a strange message in his head similar to the one that Jathan had received. It was a young female voice and the dwarf recognized it almost instantly.

                “Hi there! It’s Laori! Been talking with some friends, and we all want the same thing. We should meet! And talk about stuff! Ummmm… damn.”

                Barilut pondered about the message, explaining what had just happened before he was interrupted by another message from the Elven cleric.

                “This spell frustrates me. Anyway. It’s me again. We should talk! You choose where and when, and we can be there. Ummmm… see you soon?”

                Barilut recognized that the spell in question was a Sending spell which meant that he could reply back to her. He told her that they would meet her outside of Janderhoff in a few days. That would give them ample time to handle the Deathhead Vault and not feel rushed. With the interruption out of the way, they finished up the last of their preparations and told Cressida and Boule that they were ready to proceed. Boule nodded as he handed them a silver key and some notes about the tunnels as he directed them to a sewer. The easiest way to get to the tunnels would be through the sewers and the notes he provided would aid them in navigating the waterways to their destination.

                With that the Harrows were off and made their way through the streets of Korvosa. They found the sewer entrance in question and slipped inside as they began to navigate the waterway tunnels below the city. Just as Boule had said, the directions allowed them to arrive at a sewer tunnel with an iron gate. The adventurers slowly opened the door and walked in as they saw a strange creature before them. It resembled a boar with its boar-like head and hooves but had a strange body shape and spines all down its back. The creature’s skin was also stark white like an albino as the beast just wandered around aimlessly in the water.

                Jathan checked the notes and according to Boule the entrance to the tunnels was hidden somewhere in this portion of the sewer. However, there was no mention of this beast and it troubled the Harrows believing that they were deceived by the man. Philo stayed back by the door as the rest of them eased in closer to the beast. The monster heard them coming as its ears perked up and it growled in their direction.

                “Looks like we made it mad.” Jathan said as the Harrows opened with a volley of arrows and crossbow bolts into the creature from afar before moving in. The beast roared out at them as it let a toxic green cloud out from its mouth that filled the entire sewer tunnel. The party coughed as they tried to resist the poison but it had made its way into Jathan, Xandak, and Barilut’s systems. They could feel their body growing extremely weak as they struggled to remain on their feet.  

                Xandak rushed in and slashed at the monster with his greataxe as Barilut and Bauble followed up with slams into it from the other side. Jathan on the other hand had to stay back near the iron gate as he was frail to begin with and the poison just made him even weaker. The monster charged at them, slamming forcefully into the earth elemental as it knocked them around the tunnel. While the monster was strong it was the poison that seemed to be the real nemesis for the adventurers.

                Rey’la saw the team wasn’t looking so good as she tried to combat the poison damage with a Lesser Restoration spell. Unfortunately, the poison coursing through three people at the rate it was was too much for her to keep up with. Barilut had Bauble stand in front to block and keep the creature back as they planned what they were going to do.

                “We…need to….retreat…” Jathan said as he started to run back through the gate to where Philo was before stopping suddenly. He began to sway a bit before before collapsing to the ground as the poison took over and had killed him. The situation grew dire when one of their own had fallen and it didn’t look like the tragedy would stop there. A few moments later, Xandak’s body hit the ground as the half-orc succumbed to the poison as well. With two of their group dead the Harrows had no choice but to retreat and save themselves. This monster was proving to be quite a challenge for them and now it was all about survival.

                Rey’la transformed into an Earth Elemental as she grabbed a hold of Xandak and Jathan’s body and ran back out through the sewers with Philo. Barilut was following behind them but very weakly as he collapsed to the ground. For a brief moment the group thought they had lost their third member but the dwarf proved to be quite resilient and manage to hang on. He weakly got back to his feet as he told Bauble to come back and leave with the rest of them.

                Once out of the sewers they made a mad rush back to the Dread Warrans for desperation. They laid out the two corpses and had to quickly get to work on trying to bring back their fallen comrades as Rey’la worked on Jathan and Keppira on Xandak. Between the both of them and using most of the adventuring party’s funds they were able to bring the rogue and bloodrager back to the land of the living. The Harrows looked at each other, stunned by what had just happened in the sewers. They weren’t sure if it was a ploy by Boule and wasn’t sure how much they could trust him.

                During the next day the Harrows took some time to recover from their ordeal. They also decided to get back on track and focus on Castle Scarwall where they might not have to deal with that dangerous monster known as a Catoblepas again. They remembered that they had a meeting set up with Laori and headed over to Janderhoff to meet up with her. When they arrived outside of the Dwarven city on the designated day they saw the Elven Cleric coming towards her with her usual bubbly attitude. She wasn’t alone though as a man and woman were with her.

                The man was dressed in a robe and had long white hair that passed his shoulders while the woman was blue-skinned with red hair. Her entire body was covered with chains as numerous piercings decorated her face. The man introduced himself as Sial, another member of the Brotherhood of Bones that Laori was a part of. He thanked them for their help in defeating Lady Andaisin as she was a highly wanted criminal in Nidal.

                Sial then went on to talk about how both of them wanted the same thing. They wanted to retrieve the Fangs of Kazavon from Ileosa as they didn’t belong in her hands. The ancient relic belonged in the hands of the followers of Zon-Kuthon to ensure that the dragon warlord never was revived. In turn, Sial offered their services in helping them on their quest as they knew where Castle Scarwall was located.

                “What do you want in exchange?” Barilut asked.

                Sial looked over at him as he spoke slowly and firmly. “When the matters are finished, regardless of what you decide to do with the Queen we ask the Fangs be given over to us for safe guarding.”

                The Harrows weren’t certain they could trust this strange man and the Brotherhood of Bones but the assistance did sound tempting. It appeared that Sial was also telling the truth about keeping the relic so no one got it and they did agree that it didn’t belong in Ileosa’s hands. In the end, the adventurers agreed to working together as they now had three new allies in their quest for Scarwall. All that was left was to head to the ancient castle and explore its secrets to find what they truly needed.

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Flameford Assault
Episode #34

 

Flameford Assault

 

                The Trial of the Totem had taken an interesting turn of events as the adventurers were now in combat with a group of bulettes that had stumbled upon them. Thanks to Philo’s Confusion spell they only had to deal with two bulettes up near them while the others were confused and unable to successfully attack. When their minds had a brief moment of clarity they clambered up towards the ramp eager to get at the party but unable to make a leap up there due to how small the plateau was.

                “Going to need to slow them down somehow.” Barilut said as he invoked the magical power of his Thrallkeeper’s Mark, summoning another earth elemental to follow him. The elemental moved down the ramp to block the charging bulette as it slammed into it with one of its stone fists.

                Back on the second plateau, Xandak and Bauble were determined to keep totems up as they each held their own respective totem through all the mayhem. Xandak’s totem had taken considerable damage and he didn’t want to risk it breaking on him during the battle. One vibration from these massive beasts slamming around or in the midst of combat could topple a totem with ease. Jathan was focusing on the nearest beast trying to get his dagger between its thick plate-like hide as Philo was once again trying to help control the battlefield.

                The wizard reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pebble, tossing it over near Barilut and his totem. He then released the Shrink Item spell on it transforming the small pebble into a large boulder that provided additional support to the totem. The dwarf thanked him as he was now able to focus on fighting, switching from his bow over to the flail as he crushed it into the side of one of the bulettes. As the adventurers managed to kill one of the bulettes another one jumped up onto the plateau to replace it creating a loud impact when it landed that caused Jathan’s and Philo’s totem to fall to the ground, snapping the ropes used to support it.

                Philo came up with another idea as he summoned forth a succubus demon to help them in the battle. The succubus used her magic to charm one of the bulettes, keeping it occupied while the Harrows took care of the other one. The battle continued on and in a few minutes, it was all over. The bulette corpses littered the plateau except for two that they had charmed and Rey’la used her animal handling skills to calm it down. The totems had taken a beating though as three of them had visible cracks from them falling throughout the fight.

                The rest of the day proved to be uneventful though as the group healed up their wounds and keeping the totems up throughout the night. Eventually, the third day arrived with the sun peeking out once again and with it the arrival of the Sun Shaman and surprisingly the rest of the tribe. All the Sklar-Quah wanted to see the outcome of the trial as they watched quietly while the Sun Shaman examined all the totems. He told them that he hoped their time here in this trial showed them some of the harshness that their people have to live with and endure constantly and that through their ingenuity, strength, and teamwork had improved. With that, the shaman proclaimed the Harrows as part of the Sklar-Quah tribe.

                The announcement caused an eruption of jubilee as the tribe celebrated. Before the celebration could get too far out of hand, the Sun Shaman raised a hand and silenced the crowd. He went to the adventurers and said that they must be exhausted after the trial. He helped them out by casting a Restoration on each of them to remove their fatigue. He then told them that they should come back to the village and rest up. Barilut took this opportunity to thank him for accepting them and asking about the Midnight’s Teeth and Kazavon. For the first time since they’ve been here in the Cinderlands someone seemed to recognize those words as the Sun Shaman grew pale briefly. He told them to wait and that they would get their information in due time. He would need to consult with the ancestors to get the information they sought and it would take him about a day. They were more than welcome to rest in the village until then. With that, the Sun Shaman along with Chief Ready-Klar and a few warriors left on their journey to the Kallow Mounds.

                The Sun Shaman was right about one thing. The Harrows were certainly exhausted after their two-day trial. They made their way back to Flameford and the guest yurt and spent the entire day eating, drinking, and resting up. It was a huge relief to not have to hold up the 10-foot-tall totems anymore as they all took it easy and ended up falling asleep quite easily. Unfortunately for them, they awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of people screaming. They peeked out of their yurt and saw commotion as figures seemed to be attacking the village and ripping up tents. It was then in the light of the campfire that they recognized the red armor of the Red Mantis on these assailants and jumped into action.

                The village seemed to be under attack by a full force of Red Mantis assassins. The adventurers watched as these ashy gargoyles swooped in from the air with Red Mantis hanging onto them before dropping the assassin off and continuing their own assault. All around them, Shoanti roused up and began fighting to defend their home as sounds of weapons and combat rang out. The Red Mantis spotted the Harrows as they called out to the Shoanti people. The assassins declared that if the Shoanti gave up the party that they would stop the fight and spare them all. The Shoanti looked at each other before declaring that the Harrows were Shoanti and the proposition only riled them up even more.

                Jathan charged forward towards the nearest gargoyle he saw as he thrusted his dagger into it, leaving a nasty wound in its body. Rey’la and Philo followed up with ranged attacks that dropped the gargoyle as they pushed outward through the village. The Red Mantis continued to close in on them from all sides, their gargoyle allies fighting alongside them. Xandak, Barilut, and Bauble once again ran in to confront the enemy as they fanned out to cover all sides of the attack. The gargoyles did their best to try and cut and slash Barilut but the dwarf was quite sturdy and shrugged off their attacks as he would slam one of them with his flails. Even when the flying monsters took to the sky for an aerial assault the dwarf would just extend the chain on his weapon to reach them.

Off in the background, gargoyles could be seen attacking the Shoanti stables slaying some of their horses before the warriors brought the gargoyles to the ground. The battle continued to rage on as gargoyles and Red Mantis were falling left and right. The Sklar-Quah were proving to live up to their name as brave warriors as they were putting up a proper fight thanks to their ferocity and sheer numbers. The party was firing on all cylinders as their teamwork helped make short work of a number of assassins and gargoyles. During the fight, Barilut looked around to see if he could spot Krojun. Off in the distance he saw the brave champion in the midst of a fight.

After a few minutes, the Harrows had secured the center of the village and disposed of the small group of Red Mantis that were coming after them. They turned their attention towards Krojun and ran over to where he was. The Shoanti barbarian looked to be in rough shape as he was bleeding profusely and had a number of broken crossbow bolts in him. His opponent was a human dressed in an explorer’s outfit with a large hat who wielded a repeating crossbow. Next to him, a firepelt cougar roared as it violently defended its Master from anything that got too close. All around them bodies of gargoyles, assassins, and Shoanti laid scattered to show the bloodbath that these two had been partaking in so far.

Barilut made his way over to Krojun as he placed a hand on the Shoanti and started to heal some of his wounds with his divine magic. The heal was just in time as the stranger readied his crossbow and fired three bolts one after the other. 2 of the bolts pierced Krojun’s side while the last one grazed Barilut. By now, the rest of the Harrows were arriving to the scene to witness the action unfolding. Philo quickly began to summon another monster to help them in the fight as Jathan and Xandak rushed in.

Krojun however would not let the fight continue without him as the near death barbarian charged ahead. He ran up to the cougar and drove his large hammer into its back with a thunderous sound before finishing it off with his klar. The animal collapsed to the ground lifeless as Krojun’s eyes now fixed upon the famed Shoanti killer. The Cinderlander looked at Krojun with a smirk as another two bolts were shot in his direction. One of the bolts was a crimson red and it shrieked through the air sending shivers down the spines of all who heard it. The barbarian would not be deterred though as he continued his advance.

It was then a sudden burst of darkness appeared as Philo had called forth a shadow demon to join them in the fight. The dark monster moved in as it used its telekinetic powers and drove the Cinderlander into the ground, tripping him and keeping him there. This gave Jathan and Xandak time to catch up as they slashed at the man while the demon kept him down. Bauble was the last one to join the fray as the large earth elemental grabbed a hold of the Cinderlander and picked him up before slamming him back and forth on the ground until the man’s body laid still and lifeless.

Krojun looked over at the Harrows. “You fought bravely and along our people. And you saved me. You are nalharests to me.” He said, referring to the brave adventurers as his brothers. The battle was shortly over after that and the result was quite fortuitous. Only a few Shoanti had perished in the fight but a lot more Red Mantis and Ashwings died. The destruction was cleaned up before the Shoanti decided to throw a party in celebration of their battle. Everyone joined in as they now treated the adventurers like one of their own, sharing stories of their great deeds and laughing over food and drink. Rey’la helped tend to the injured while Barilut and Krojun had another friendly rematch of sredna. For one of the first times in the Cinderlands, the Harrows were able to enjoy themselves and not worry about the terrible things out there trying to get them.

In the morning, the Sun Shaman and tribe Chief finally returned to the sight of their village after the attack. Chief Ready-Klar jumped into action going around and organizing the rebuilding process for the damage that was done to the village. The Sun Shaman went to the party and told them to make preparations as he was ready to convey the information that they requested. The Harrows gathered their belongings as they joined the shaman and travelled once again to Bolt Rock. When they arrived, the village elder built a fire on the plateau as he sat and had the Harrows join him around the fire as he began to chant in a droning rhythm, calling the spirits of the ancestors to come visit them.

During this chanting, the rest of the Sklar-Quah joined them up on Bolt Rock to witness such an event as they watched on curiously. After a few hours of the ritual chanting, the Sun Shaman collapsed before coming to slowly. He began to tell the Harrows the story of a man named Mandraivus who gathered a small group of heroes to fight the ancient dragon warlord Kazavon in his castle. One of these heroes was a Shoanti ancestor and when she had returned she wasn’t the same. She told the tale of how they slain Kazavon but his will to live was so strong that it carried on and into his skeletal remains. Try as they could they were unable to destroy the remains and the only thing that they could do was separate them and keep them far apart.

The Shoanti ancestor was responsible for the Fangs of Kazavon, referring to them as the “Midnight’s Teeth”. They hid the fangs away deep in a secret room in an ancient pyramid and protected it for generations ensuring that no one discovered the terrible truth buried within. Then one day, an invading force came and drove them away and established themselves in the area. Thus, Korvosa was born. Built and created around the pyramid that housed the fangs of Kazavon while the Shoanti could only watch from afar.

It was at that moment the Sun Shaman asked the group if they were close to anyone in the spirit world that could help partake in the ritual. The group all looked at each other and it was obvious to them who their choice would be as they called Zellara to come out. The harrower’s spirit manifested above the fire as the shaman asked her for advice on defeating Kazavon. Zellara’s spirit looked towards the Harrows as she suddenly began to sing a haunting melody as if the ancestors around them were speaking through her.

Fate of steel—Serithtial Her cage for years sustained. Four enthralled in lost Scarwall; Undead to keep her chained. A spirit first, red war his thirst Still stands at post of old; A second foe, infernal soul Waits high in tower cold. In kennel’s grime, third bides his time Then vents his killing breath. And on a stone ’mid ash and bone, The final dreams of death. The spirits worn and battle torn And locked in their damnation, The chained one’s hold at last grows old And ushers in salvation. Yet hope remains amid the chains When blade’s stone cage has crumbled, Friends to dread and death of the dead, Keys to Kazavon humbled.

 

With that, the spirits faded and each of the Harrows could feel their soul touched by the ancestors as if blessing them. Chief Ready-Klar looked upon the display and said how honored he was that these people walk with the blessing of the ancestors and battle the evil that has plagued their lands. The Harrows all looked at each other as they tried to figure out what had just happened. Not only had they received a lot of information but they also were blessed by the spirits on their journey. One thing was for certain though. The answer pointed them in one direction:

 

Castle Scarwall.

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Trial of the Totem
Episode #33

 

Trial of the Totem

 

                The tribal village of Flameford was the home of the Sklar-Quah, the most aggressive of the three Shoanti tribes in the Cinderlands. The Harrows had been escorted into the village by a number of Shoanti riders and their presence certainly drew the attention and eye of every member in the village. They all looked on, shocked to see tshamek in their midst. Eventually, the adventurers were brought into the center of the village as a man stepped out to look them over. It didn’t take much to realize that this person was the Chief of the village and he didn’t look like a pleasant man in the slightest. As the Harrows scanned the crowd that formed around them they noticed the familiar image of Krojun amongst them, his eyes locked on the group.

                “Tshameks.” Chief Ready-Klar spoke. “What has brought you here to our land?”

                Barilut stepped up to speak as he was one of the more cool-headed ones in the group and the situation seemed to require a bit of tact. “We are here to speak with your Sun Shaman. We’ve heard that he may know information that can help us save Korvosa from an evil that is plaguing it. We’ve travelled these lands, performed great deeds to try and earn your respect so that we may have this honor.”

                The Chief looked at them while scratching his chin. He glanced over at Truthspeaker Akram who nodded and confirmed that what they said was true. The man then spoke out. “While your deeds are impressive, you are still tshamek and not worthy of the Sun Shaman’s advice.”

                Barilut looked at the rest of the Harrows before responding. “Them allow us to take a trial to prove ourselves.”

                At the sound of them wanting to take a trial, an audible gasp was heard through the crowd before they grew silent. The silence lasted a few moments before a man behind the Chieftan placed his hand on the leader’s shoulder. This new figure had skin that seemed to glow with sunlight and quietly motioned for them to retreat to discuss this turn of events. The two of them turned and retreated back into one of the tents to discuss the idea of these outsiders taking a trial.

                Truthspeaker Akram leaned over to Philo and whispered. “The Sun Shaman is deciding on if our request should be granted or rejected.”

                Philo looked over at the old man. “And if he rejects it?”

                “Then we shall all be disemboweled for trespassing on Sklar-Quah land, myself included.” Akram answered.

                “Oh joy.” Jathan said, overhearing the conversation as they waited for the outcome.

               

                Eventually the two elders came out and everyone looked on to see what decision had been made. The Sun Shaman stepped in front of each of the Harrows, asking them their names. They said their name and once all had been introduced the man repeated them back for all to hear. “You all have been permitted the opportunity to prove yourselves to our people by enduring the Trial of the Totem.”

                The proclamation startled many of the Shoanti as it was unexpected. While many of them were outraged at the idea, they held their tongues in protest. All but one, as Krojun lashed out and stepped forward angrily declaring what an outrage it was to have tshamek partake in Shoanti trials. He then realized that speaking out against the Sun Shaman was a poor choice and angrily stomped off with a few of the Shoanti riders to the apparent amusement of the Sun Shaman. With the outburst now behind everyone, the Sun Shaman proclaimed that the Trial of the Totem would take place next morning just after dawn. With that, the meeting was concluded and people began to disperse.

                The Sun Shaman escorted the adventurers to a guest yurt for them to rest in until tomorrow. He told them that he will be back tomorrow morning to start the trial. With that last piece of information, the Sun Shaman departed leaving the Harrows alone to begin preparations for tomorrow. Truthspeaker Akram told the group that his customs wouldn’t allow him to make camp with the Sklar-Quah and that he would be leaving soon as well. He was going to speak with the Chief before his departure and wished them success in their trial. Akram left the group and the adventurers were then able to rest for the evening.

                The next morning, the Harrows were awoken by the Sun Shaman and a few Shoanti warriors in the early hours before dawn. He looked at them and told them that it was time for the trial. The group gathered their belongings as they joined the Sun Shaman on a hike through the Cinderlands that lasted about 20 minutes before they came upon a plateau. The Sun Shaman said this area was known as Bolt Rock and was special to his people and the location of the trial. The plateau was separated into two different summits, one at 30 feet and another at 40 feet that were connected with walkways. At the base of the plateau a series of massive hollow totems sat there on their side.

                The Sun Shaman began to explain the rules for the Trial of the Totem. Their task would be to take these totems up to the first plateau and keep them upright for a whole day. When the first day was over, they would have to move these totems up to the second plateau and keep them upright there. At the third day, the Sun Shaman would return to see the results. Anyone whose totem remained would be proclaimed a Shoanti and earn the respect that they sought. He continued on, telling them that they had an hour to move the totems. No food or water would be brought to them in the two days but many eyes would be on them as Bolt Rock laid directly to the East of Flameford. With that, he left the Harrows to decide on how they were going to move the totems as the sun was beginning to breach the horizon in the distance.

                The first thing they did was test the weight of these massive totems. It took all of Xandak’s strength to even lift one of them up off the ground as he staggered around barely able to move. Barilut was also struggling to lift one as Philo and Jathan tried to drag one between the both. Eventually, the dwarf paladin had an idea as he called Bauble out of the ground. The large earth elemental came and he ordered it to help move one of the totems. Bauble picked one of them up and carried it up the ramp to the first plateau. When Rey’la saw this she realized that wasn’t a bad idea as she transformed into a similar earth elemental to grab one and move it up to the plateau. Between the two earth elementals, Xandak, Barilut, and Philo/Jathan working together they were able to get five totems up to the first plateau.

                With all the totems up now it was time to steady them and get them in position. Bauble and Rey’la each took one, having no problem with it due to their elemental strength. Xandak and Barilut each had their own as they uprighted the totem so it now stood proudly. Philo and Jathan were the last ones and they shared a totem between the both of them. The trial was now officially underway as they stood their next to the totems.

                Up here on the plateau there was no trees or anything to block the sun as it beat down on them throughout the day. The adventurers had to endure the hot, arid air and whips of dust and sand kicking up from the ground around them at time. They had to remain focused cause one slight slip might lead to a totem hitting the ground and with their size it would certainly leave a mark. Not only was the environment harsh but the strain of just standing there holding a massive totem would grow tiresome and slightly boring at times.

                It had been about 7 hours into the trial and one such lapse occurred as Xandak lost grip on the totem. The large stone totem began to waiver and he tried to stabilize it but the totem crashed to the ground with a massive thud. He looked it over and saw that there was a slight crack beginning to form in the totem. The group looked at each other and knew that while these totems were certainly strong and durable they weren’t invincible and enough mistakes would certainly cause them to crumble.

The group thought fast about what they could do to help support the totems. It was then they came up with a tripod system, using a bunch of rope in their bags and all the sabres they had taken from the fallen Red Mantis assassins to pitch the totem up like a tent. Three swords around the totem held up a number of ropes that tied around the totem to help stabilize it. They used this method on Xandak’s, Rey’la’s, and Jathan and Philo’s totems to provide a bit more support to them.

Day flowed into night as the party was certainly feeling the effects of standing here for almost an entire day. As night came, the totems began to glow a bit acting like massive pillars of light. “Guess that’s what they meant by they would know. Can probably see it from Flameford.” Jathan said as he held onto the totem. The group took turns resting as they had a wand of Lesser Restoration and a wand of Create Food and Water. Between the two magical items everyone was able to eat and drink and not suffer the effects of being tired for staying awake for more than 24 hours at a time.

As the second day began, the group was ready to move the totems up to the second plateau. In similar fashion, they had Bauble and Rey’la carry them up to the second area and then had the other members hold them up while the two elementals did the heavy lifting. In less than an hour the Harrows had all the totems moved and supported by the ropes once again. As the morning began the sun once again started to beat down on them and signal another grueling day out here.

This morning though they had a visitor as a figure was seen walking up the ramp. It was Krojun and he quietly observed them, walking between them and looking over their ingenuity. He smirked a bit at Jathan and Philo as if surprised to see them holding their own. It took all of Xandak’s willpower to resist saying something to the man as he feared that Krojun was here to interfere with the trial.

“You are all lucky to have one another as nalharests. Brothers in arms.” Krojun said as he broke the silence and gave a quiet nod before leaving and heading back down the ramp.

“Well that was interesting.” Barilut said from his totem as they just shrugged and returned to focusing on their totems. The morning continued without any other interruptions as only Rey’la had dropped the totem once during these hours. It was now running into the afternoon of the second day and the adventurers were beginning to think it was going to be a peaceful day before they suddenly heard the sound of rumbling. The group looked at one another and before they knew it the ground erupted on the first plateau and six bulettes appeared roaring.

The Harrows had to now try and juggle balancing the totem with combat against a group of curious bulettes. Barilut took aim with his bow and fired at one of them trying to pierce its thick armor plating. The arrow bounced off as the bulette jumped in the air and landed on the second plateau between them all. Philo took this chance to unleash a Confusion spell in the midst of the group of bulettes, confusing half of them. This would buy them some time as they wouldn’t have to worry about getting swarmed by monsters.

Another bulette made the jump to the second plateau and was now amongst them, swiping its claws angrily at the nearest thing it could. Xandak grabbed his greataxe and swung back, leaving a deep cut into the side of the beast. But then he heard a thud as his totem fell over once more. He cursed as he quickly turned around and picked up the totem, seeing a visible crack along it now. Meanwhile, the confused bulettes seemed to be wandering and fighting with one another down on the first plateau so Philo’s plan was working.

It was up to the Harrows to overcome this challenge as they couldn’t afford to lose a totem. The Trial of the Totem had taken a turn of events that they didn’t expect but were in a way relieved to have something occur to break the silence of standing around holding one of the totems.

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Temple of the Moon
Episode #32

 

Temple of the Moon

 

                The Harrows were making their way towards the Temple of the Moon with the small group of Lyrune-Quah Moon Maidens that they had encountered on their way here. The Shoanti had told them that there was a terrible monster in their temple and it had killed many their own already. While they were making their way to the temple Barilut wanted to inquire about the beast. The Moon Maidens told them that the beast was something they called a “Red Reaver”. It was a terribly powerful monster and extremely territorial to the extent that it would fight well beyond normal means in keeping its home.

                “Any weaknesses that you know?” Jathan asked.

                Tekrakai nodded. “The thing has a strange attraction towards beauty and arts. Music and performances tend to distract the beast.”

                Barilut chuckled as he nudged Xandak. “Guess he won’t be attracted towards you then.” The half-orc growled a bit at the dwarf and the playful jest as they came upon the temple. The temple was a small two story building with a domed ceiling. As they walked up to it they saw the structure was made of polished white marble and seemed to be a temple to a deity. They asked where the beast could be and Tekrakai said it likely will be on the main floor. The Harrows took a quick rest before to make sure they had everything in order and then walked into the temple.

                The main lobby of the temple had a large starknife design painted on the floor of it with two staircases leading up to another floor. It was then they saw the Red Reaver, a large beast that prowled on all fours walking around the main lobby. As they stepped into the building the monster spotted them and it let out a terrible roar that almost shook the building. The roar ran down the spines of many of the Shoanti and the Boneslayers and even half of the Moon Maidens panicked and ran back out of the building. Even Jathan didn’t like the sound of the beast and dropped his dagger and ran out of the temple to cower with the Shoanti.

                With half of the group scared the rest of the party had to focus on fighting this monstrous beast. Rey’la took a position in the back to shoot arrows at it while Barilut and Xandak ran at it to confront it in close combat. The Red Reaver charged at them as it let a massive swipe tear into the side of Barilut as the dwarf coughed up some blood. Xandak let his anger loose as he raged and swung his greataxe, delivering a deep cut into the side of the beast. It turned and growled at the half-orc as it slammed him hard with another forceful series of rending claws. Blood trickled down from the wounds as Xandak stood there, barely standing.

                Rey’la saw the condition that he was in and ran over to help heal him. Her job had switched from one of providing ranged support to one of support as she focused on keeping Xandak alive. Philo called upon his specialty as a Conjurer and called forth a Lillend Azata, a creature that resembled an elven woman with wings and a snake body from the waist down. He ordered the Azata to distract the beast as it tried to charm the Red Reaver. Just as the Moon Maidens had said, the beast appeared to be susceptible to such means and it seemed distracted by this creature. That gave Rey’la enough time to heal Xandak of his wounds and for Barilut and Xandak to get into position.

                The two of them unleashed a deadly combination of powerful swings at the beast to weaken it. However, the monster wasn’t going to give up its new home without a fight as it staggered a bit on its feet but slowly stumbled back onto all fours to continue the fight. The beast retaliated with its own combination of claws and bites as it tore through Xandak. For a brief moment, the half-orc saw white as his life flashed before him and he also stumbled to the ground. The bloodrager got up slowly, using his greataxe as a crutch to steady himself while blood dripped from all his wounds.

                Xandak wiped the blood and sweat from his forehead so his vision was clear as he roared back at the monster showing that he was not afraid of it. He swung his greataxe right at one of the Red Reaver’s knees, slicing through it causing the beast to fall forward in agony. With the head now down on level with the half-orc, Xandak jumped up onto the monster’s back and raised his axe once more. This time, he brought the weapon down right through the beast’s neck slicing through and cleaving the head of it off. The head hit the ground with a heavy thud before rolling a few feet and coming to a stop. The rest of the body collapsed and so did Xandak, tumbling off the monster and onto the ground below.

                The Red Reaver had been defeated and the temple was now safe. Rey’la ran over to help heal Xandak as the Boneslayers returned to help with the healing. When everyone had been patched up the Moon Maidens took the time to thank the Harrows for their heroic deed. They told them that the Truthspeaker was set to arrive in a few days and that they were welcome to stay here and rest until then. The group agreed, enjoying the opportunity to not have to walk through the harsh conditions of the Cinderlands for another day and getting some time to recover. The Boneslayers told the adventurers that by their culture they couldn’t camp with the Lyrune-Quah and would be out a way, keeping watch. Barilut understood and nodded, thanking them for what they have done so far.

                The next few days were peaceful for the adventurers as they were able to recover and rest from the ordeals that they had been going through. On the third day, the pilgrimage finally arrived and with them the man known as a Truthspeaker. When the Harrows asked about the person, a frail old man stepped forward to greet them. He also had a starblade on his back as he looked them over and asked what they were here for. Barilut explained to them their quest of trying to earn respect and be one of the Shoanti so that they could speak to the Sun Shaman to learn the knowledge they needed. The group showed off the Thrallkeeper’s Mark that they had acquired and told the tale about saving the Temple of the Moon from the terrible beast. The other Moon Maidens vouched for them and the Truthspeaker listened to it all before nodding.

                “I see. Your tales are quite heroic and you certainly are telling the truth. But it also has intrigued me. I will accompany you on your journey. That way I can vouch for your deeds to the Sklar-Quah.” Truthspeaker Akram said. “My people and the Sklar-Quah have been in conflict many times, and I hope to also visit with them to try and ease any tension that our two tribes may have.”

                With that news, the Harrows had completed another task on their quest to earn respect. They decided the last thing to do should be to head to the Sklar-Quah’s tribe and ask to take one of their trials to prove themselves. With that they most certainly should’ve proved their worthiness to the Sun Shaman. They bid farewell to the Lyrune-Quah as they left the temple now in tow with Truthspeaker Akram.

                As they made their way towards Flameford, the tribe of the Sklar-Quah, Akram kept by Philo’s side. He asked the old wizard questions about how he did things and how he was faring out here in the harsh environments as it didn’t seem like the place Philo would normally be. The wizard chuckled at the attention but answered the questions respectfully. While they were talking they heard the sound of horses as four horses came at them. Each one of them had a Shoanti rider on them and the tribal tattoos resembled the ones they had seen on Krojun and his men.

                “You know. I’m getting tired of all these welcome parties.” Jathan said with a slight sigh. The Shoanti riders demanded to know the purpose of the group for coming onto Shoanti land. Barilut told them they wished to speak with the Sun Shaman and Akram vouched for them. The riders looked at each other a bit doubtful, but knew that if the Truthspeaker was with them then their intentions were true. The riders escorted the group to their home, navigating a complex path through a series of sharp stones before finally arriving at their destination.

 

Flameford.

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Acropolis of the Thrallkeeper (Part Two)
Episode #31

 

Acropolis of the Thrallkeeper (Part Two)

 

                With the Thrallkeeper’s Mark finally acquired, the Harrows were ready to leave the acropolis and move on to their next task. They went back to the emerald light shaft that was now coming down from the ceiling and wondered how to get back up. Jathan braved it by stepping into the circle and felt himself begin to levitate and ascend through the shaft. It seemed that the same magic that let them come down was helping them come up as they made their way back up to the first level of the ruins.

                They checked one last door from the light room to make sure nothing else was up here and discovered another strange statue in a room. The statue was of another female figure with a serpent lower body and six wings but instead of a face the statue had a Sihedron symbol. The one thing they did notice was that Krojun and his men weren’t around waiting for them in this room. After exhausting their options the group was ready to head out and made their way into the main chamber.

                When they entered they saw that they weren’t alone as by the entrance three figures all dressed in red armor stood there waiting for them. “Red Mantis” Jathan said, spotting them there. “Looks like they found us.” Barilut said as they prepared to fight and engage the assassins that had tracked them down here to this area. The adventurers moved into the intersection between the walkway and the bridge as they took up positions. The Boneslayers set up in the back and on the bridge as they used their bows to try and shoot at these enemies from afar. Xandak and Barilut charged in to confront them while Rey’la and Jathan were joining with the ranged support from the bridge. Philo used a quick Haste spell and the group was off.

                As the battle began and went on, the party was caught off guard as suddenly two more Red Mantis assassins appeared on the other side of them. They had snuck up behind the group and were attacking the backline as their sawtooth blades slashed through the Shoanti Boneslayers. Jathan moved to try and intercept one of them while they were fighting on both fronts. All of a sudden, the entire structure shook around them as the water sloshed around and stirred. Everyone looked at the pool wondering what that was before refocusing on the battle at hand.

                Philo saw the pincer attack by the Red Mantis and had to think quickly. He used Telekinesis and tossed one of the assassins into the water to give the boneslayers some breathing room. Before he could relax though, the ruins shook once again and two long slimy tentacles emerged from the waters below them all. At the end of the tentacle an eye opened up looking around and it was at that moment the Harrows knew that the water wasn’t a safe place either.

                The fight was now separated into two main clusters as Barilut and Xandak tried to confront the assassins at a chokepoint near the entrance and the rest fought in a large clash on the bridge. The Boneslayers were struggling to stay up though as they were not prepared for assassins and tentacles coming at them from all sides and needed to use what little magic they had to heal themselves. Jathan, Bauble, and the boneslayers worked on keeping the Shoanti safe as Philo tried to control the battlefield. Between elaborate uses of Telekinesis to toss assassins into the water and make sure they stay there if they tried to climb back out to using Grease to slow down movement he was doing a solid job. Rey’la helped out with some of the healing as well before deciding that she needed to contribute to the fight and with a scream she transformed herself into a large earth elemental similar in size to Bauble.

                It was then another of the doors to the room slid open to reveal Krojun and his men as they ran into battle. One of them began to swing the spear around and the air passed through the holes in it to create a melody. The melody echoed out through the chamber but it inspired the Shoanti and made them fight with more bravery. Krojun roared out in anger as he raged and charged towards one of the tentacles swinging his large hammer at it. The hammer connected and released a thunderous boom that rang out as the tentacle writhed in pain at the hit. With Krojun and his men now in the battle the odds were starting to turn towards the Harrows.

                A few of the Red Mantis had fallen allowing Xandak and Barilut to push through and try to get around the others that were attacking them, reversing the pincer attack they had been stuck in. One of Krojun’s thundercallers cast a spell on him and the raging barbarian was suddenly able to fly as he jumped through the air and crossed the pool of water, landing onto the bridge and looking for combat. He focused on the tentacles and smashed them with his hammer before following up with a stab from his klar and a vicious bite with his teeth, tearing into the tentacle and ripping it as it submerged once again.

                It seemed that as the battle continued, new tentacles just kept replacing the old ones making the fight one long conflict. However, the Red Mantis were certainly struggling as they were falling one by one to the might of the adventurers. Krojun was displaying his strength as he managed to slay a tentacle with a series of hammer swings in one go and the Harrows began to understand why he was so revered by his people. Xandak wasn’t going to let him get all the glory though as the half-orc swung his great axe with vicious ferocity and slashed through a tentacle as well, matching Krojun in his might.

                Eventually, the tentacles ceased coming out and the Red Mantis had been disposed of. The battle had raged on for quite some time and exhausted many of the adventurer’s resources. The Boneslayers had also used all their resources and were not without causality as one of their own had fallen in the battle. With the dust all settled, Krojun and his men gave the Harrows a nod as they left without saying anything. For a brief moment, there was peace in the acropolis for the group to try and figure out what to do.

                Rey’la had a plan but it was a risky one. She was going to try and reincarnate the Boneslayer and bring him back. The group knew that letting one of the Shoanti guides die might hurt their chances of earning the respect needed for the Sun Shaman to speak to them. The druid extended her hands out over the corpse as she began the Reincarnate spell and watched as the Shoanti’s body began to fade away and a new body formed. However, this body was much smaller than a human and when the magical light faded it revealed the body of a goblin. Everyone gasped, not knowing if this was a good thing or not as one of the Shoanti told them that they would take their brother back to the Kallow Mounds. It might be best for Thousand Bones or Ash Dancer to see this first and not upset the rest of the tribe. They thanked them for bringing their friend alive as the two guides were off back to their home.

                This now left the Harrows with only two Shoanti guides with them. However, they had completed one of the tasks that they sought out to achieve. The Thrallkeeper’s mark was theirs and now it was up to them to decide their next step. The group realized that the Temple of the Moon wasn’t that far from here and could make the hike there in half a day. They recalled Thousand Bones saying that the Lyrune-Quah had a member known as a Truthspeaker who could vouch for their deeds and bravery and having him on their side would help the cause. Once everyone had rested, they gathered their belongings and headed towards the temple.

                After a few hours of hiking, the adventurers were nearing the temple and could see it in the distance. It was then they heard a noise and looked as six Shoanti surrounded them, dressed quite differently than the previous ones they had encountered. Not only were they dressed differently, all six of them were female. One of the new Shoanti stepped forward, a large starblade on her back as she looked the group over.

                “What brings you here to this land?” She asked.

                Barilut stepped up and spoke. “We heard the Lyrune-Quah were here and the Truthspeaker was to be here. We wish to speak with him.” He motioned to the two Skoan-Quah Boneslayers. “We are on a quest. Trying to earn the respect of your people.”

                After a few seconds of tension, the female relaxed a bit and nodded. “Very well. My name is Tekrakai. I’m the leader of this group of Moon Maidens…or what’s left of them. A terrible monster has invaded our home and made the temple its territory. It has slayed many of my people and I fear that if it remains, the Truthspeaker and the rest of the pilgrimage might deter its route if it is unsafe to travel here.”

                The group of adventurers looked at each other and they knew what had to be done. It sounded like a terrible monster needed slaying and that was what the Harrows did best.

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Acropolis of the Thrallkeeper (Part One)
Episode #30

 

Acropolis of the Thrallkeeper (Part One)

 

                The Harrows were debating what quests they should do to earn them respect with the Shoanti people. The one thing they all agreed upon was that trying to replicate the legendary deed sounded like a deadly task and they weren’t going to attempt that one. The rest they would though as they ended up checking out the acropolis of the Thrallkeeper first. They asked Thousand Bones if he knew anything about the Thrallkeeper’s mark and the shaman said that he knew it was a seven-pointed star. Philo thought for a moment as he it sounded like to him the symbol was a Sihedron, an ancient symbol of Thassalonian.

                Before they left, Thousand Bones said that he wasn’t going to let them go out into the wilderness without some help. He gave them a number of potions and even some Shoanti war paint to help them on their quest. He also told them that in the morning four of their Boneslayers, the Skoan-Quah hunters, will be accompanying them on their journey as a guide through the Cinderlands. They will also act as witnesses for any deeds to help document their heroic and great deeds. The Harrows thanked him as they rested for the night, ready to leave in the morning.

                The next day they were off with their new supplies and their escorts as they traveled through the Cinderlands. Unlike down in the grasslands, there were no roads up here and they had to rely on the wisdom of the Boneslayers and Rey’la to get them through the dry plateau. The journey was long and took them a number of days, stopping in rock outcroppings and places where they could find relief from the harsh conditions. In one such resting area the group had taken a break in they heard sounds of the ground rumbling around them. When they looked they could see these large fins emerging out from the ground. Before they knew it these large beasts emerged from the ground, their bodies covered in a thick hide that resembled armor plating as they roared out at the party.

                “Bulettes.” Rey’la said, drawing her bow. The rest of the Boneslayers did the same as everyone prepared to fight the beasts. Philo unleashed a Confusion spell that clouded the minds of a number of the Bulettes, making them easy pickings for the adventurer party. In a matter of minutes all the bulettes had been defeated. They checked to see if the monsters were worthy of being trophies but the Boneslayers said that they weren’t. They decided to leave the corpses and resume their hike to the acropolis. While they were gathering their belongings Jathan peeked out and over the horizon on one of the dunes he could see a group of people who seemed to be following them. He tried to make out who they were but couldn’t. He told the group and they wondered who it might be but knew they best keep moving and not let them catch up.

                In a few hours the Harrows had finally arrived at the Acropolis of the Thrallkeeper. The ruins sat amongst the rocks and sand of the Cinderlands like a thorn in its side. As they moved near the ruins they could see the mark, the Sihedron, carved into the stone wall near the door. The large set of double stone doors was open letting some of the sand blow into the hallway. They slowly entered and made their way down the hallway to a set of stairs. As they did, Rey’la stopped them and pointed out the disturbances in the dust and dirt indicating tracks of someone else here. Jathan motioned for the group to be quiet as he moved ahead to scout what was out there.

                The path opened up into a large space that consisted of a 5 foot walkway around the entire perimeter of the room. The center of the room was filled with dark murky water that made it hard to see if anything was in there and a small 10 foot walkway bridged the pool near the center. Multiple doors on all sides led out from the chamber as Jathan continued to look around. One thing he did noticed was the floor here was quite polished and clean and the tracks that Rey’la had found earlier had vanished. It appeared that the coast was clear and he motioned for the rest of the group to come up and join him. They all took a moment to look at the strange room before them before they decided on what door to open first. They decided on the nearest door to their left as they opened it to reveal a narrow hallway that ran parallel to the main chamber. They followed the hall through to another door that opened up into a large alcove space.

                The adventurers turned to examine this room and saw a large statue of a female figure with six wings on her back and a serpent-like body for her lower half, coiled around a seven-pointed star. As they looked closer they noticed the tail shimmered cause each scale was a sliver of sapphire or emerald to create a beautiful mosaic. They debated on if they should take the time to pry the scales and salvage the gem but they ended up not doing that. Barilut tried to see if he knew who the statue represented but wasn’t sure and the Harrows decided to just move on exploring the acropolis.

                They discovered another hallway that ran along the main chamber and followed it until it took them to a long tunnel. The tunnel went on for 50 to 60 feet on either side before resulting in a cave in, blocking whatever else might’ve been part of this complex when it was in its prime. However the tunnel did lead them to another room and this one caught their attention. A set of ancient glyphs and writings lined the walls of this chamber like a ribbon. A few skeletons were laid out in the room, their gear still on them as the group took caution whenever they saw skeletons around. Philo investigated the language but couldn’t make it out. He used a Detect Magic spell on it and could sense that the language had a strange magical effect cast upon it that resembled a Suggestion spell. His only thought was that the language was cursed and didn’t want to try and understand it. The party chose not to disturb the skeletons to get their gear as they were afraid it was another trap to keep them in this room.

                The Harrows moved back into the main pool chamber still trying to find the Thrallkeeper’s mark. They went to the other side of the pool chamber and began to explore the rooms on that side. They found another hallway similar to the two on the other side except this one wasn’t empty. Inside the hallway were four Shoanti, three of them wielding these strange spears while the fourth was a familiar face. Krojun turned and looked at them as he let out a stoic nod in their direction to acknowledge them.

                “Why are you here?” Barilut asked him.

                “I wanted to make sure you didn’t dishonor this place.” Krojun said. “And make sure that you don’t try to cheat and lie about your deeds.”

                Xandak gripped the hilt of his axe, clenching his teeth as he had to use all his strength to resist the urge to hit him. Jathan put a hand on his shoulder to calm him a bit as Krojun watched the group. “What happened in the Council Fire? Why are you here on our land?”

                “We are looking for information from the Sun Shaman to help Korvosa fight an ancient evil.” Barilut said. Krojun scoffed at the notion of them speaking with his shaman and just moved to the side to let the group go on their way. The adventurers slowly moved on and into the next room which had a five foot diameter hole in the center of it surrounded by a bunch of tangled runes. Inside the hole, a shaft of emerald light shined into the depths below. The group all gathered around the hole trying to figure out if it was safe to enter.

                Philo used a Detect Magic and determined that there was a magical effect that filled the shaft that had a strong aura of a Feather Fall spell. While they were exploring the shaft they noticed that they weren’t alone as Krojun and his men were watching them from the doorway. They were beginning to grow tired of them and decided to just take the plunge as they jumped into the emerald shaft. The fall seemed to be drastic but after a few feet the fall slowed to a gentle descend as the Feather Fall spell took over and eased them down to the ground.

                The adventurers ended up on the ground of a new chamber. The room was a long rectangular one that had an opening at the end that continued onwards. The entryway was not open though as a large stone statue stood before the opening. As the group moved down the hall the statue came to life and charged at them. The party quickly circled the golem as they struck at it from all sides. While a golem is usually quite a resistant beast to engage with, Barilut had no trouble as he excelled in dealing with stone. Each time he swung the flail it landed cleanly and chipped parts of the monster away. In a brief moment the Harrows had disposed of the only threat they had seen inside the acropolis this entire time.

                With the hallway now clear the party had a chance to examine their surroundings. They noticed that one part of the wall seemed a bit different and Barilut sent Bauble through to investigate. The elemental revealed that there was in fact a hidden room on the other side of the wall but a massive stone plugged the hole. The party tried as hard as they could but they were unable to budge the massive boulder that seemed to be too large and too heavy for them. After a few minutes, they gave up and moved on to continue exploring this level of the acropolis.

                The group ended up in a large room that was painted to resemble the night sky. Stars and constellations surrounded them on all sides as the room was empty except for a stone globe in the room. They moved over to examine it as Rey’la checked it out and noticed that while it did seem to be a map of the world it was severely outdated as if the map represented the ancient world. They placed a hand on the globe and could feel that it had some sort of magic in it. Philo tried his best to determine what the globe did but couldn’t figure it out.

                After about an hour of exploring the lower level, the globe, and everything else they could think of the adventurers finally made progress. Jathan placed his hand on the globe as he thought of the stars and sky. Suddenly, he appeared in a void as if he was floating through space. He could see the world from the outside looking in. When he thought about where they were on the map he suddenly appeared right back into the room. As Jathan removed his hand from the globe he felt a strange sensation and looked at it to discover that a strange seven-pointed star mark had appeared on his palm.

                They had done it. They discovered the Thrallkeeper’s Mark and acquired one. The next moments were spent getting each member of the party a mark so that they all bore it. The four Boneslayers that accompanied them didn’t want anything to do with it as this magic was very overwhelming to them. In the end, the Harrows had acquired the mark and were one step closer to earning the respect that they were seeking.

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Into the Cinderlands
Episode #29

 

Into the Cinderlands

 

                The Harrows were leaving Korvosa and heading down the road to a small town known as Harse. It was the first time in quite awhile that many of them had left the city but it was a necessary evil. Queen Ileosa and the Red Mantis had been on them recently and between that and the increased Grey Maiden it wasn’t safe for them or their two guests, Vencarlo and Neolandus, to be around. Luckily for them Vencarlo had a friend that could keep them safe for a bit while they all planned their next move.

                As they neared the town of Harse they branched off from the main road and headed towards the Blackbird Ranch. This wasn’t the first time that some of the Harrows were here though as they had been here a few months ago escorting another wanted individual out of Korvosa. Sure enough, as they approached the group saw the barrel-chested man known as Jasan Adriel greet them with his loud bombastic voice. He gave Vencarlo a hug and was glad to see his old friend here. While everyone was introducing themselves a figure could be seen balancing on one of the ranch’s wooden fences jump off and run towards them. The figure was a young woman with short blonde hair who Barilut and Jathan recognized as Trinia Sabor, the artist framed for the assassination on King Eodred II. She greeted them with a warm smile as she was glad that her saviors were still alive and strong.

                Jasan began to usher the group to the ranch house so that they could settle in for the evening and rest and as they approached the building the front door opened. Out from the ranch house a half-orc man came out with a greataxe strapped to his back as he looked out towards the Harrows. The adventurers stopped for a moment as Barilut and Jathan looked across and came face to face with Xandak once again.

                “Xandak.” Jathan said, surprised to see the half-orc here. “We were wondering where you had gone.”

                “I…needed some time to think and work on myself. After everything that happened down in the temple I knew I had to improve. Get better.” The bloodrager said as the group took him back in with warm regards. They had certainly felt the void left by their powerful bloodrager and with him back in the group it only helped to make them stronger.  Everyone rested and retired until the evening where they gathered in the basement of the ranch house to finally discuss everything that happened.

                Neolandus began to explain his story and what had happened to him. He had discovered Queen Ileosa snooping around the vaults of the castle and shortly after that an assassination attempt by the Red Mantis was sent out on him. He managed to escape with his life barely intact and ran to his friend Salvator for hiding which the group had discovered while talking to the artist when they had saved him. The seneschal believed that the Queen sent the Red Mantis after him and that she likely was the one who killed King Eodred II.

                He also believed that the queen had changed recently and discovered something while down in the vaults. There were stories of ancient artifacts down there with great evil and that Ileosa must of discovered one of these. It was an item known as “Midnight’s Teeth” that was said to be an ancient Shoanti relic and believed to be related to an ancient evil known as Kazavon. There were no records in the Korvosan archives but the Shoanti tribes out in the Cinderlands might know something. Vencarlo turned to the group. “I believe that you have some experience with the Shoanti previously.” He said, referring to their time dealing with Thousand Bones and helping him retrieve his grandson’s body. The Harrows nodded, remembering that time and knew they could head to try and meet with him. Neolandus told them that Thousand Bones was part of the Skoan-Quah tribe and that they were in the Kallows Mounds in the Cinderlands. The adventurers thanked him for the knowledge as the two of them left the group so they could plan their next moves.

                Gren and Nicodemus told the group that they were going to stay here in Harse to make sure Vencarlo and Neolandus were ok and that the Queen didn’t come after them. They thanked them for bringing them along and getting them out of Korvosa and wanted to repay the favor by ensuring the two were safe. With them not joining the group out into the Cinderlands they would need to find some more assistance. The adventurers asked Jasan if he knew anyone who could help them in the Cinderlands and act like a guide in some ways. The rancher thought for a moment before coming up with a name. He told them that he would try and get in touch with them and have them come by the ranch.

                The Harrows took a day or so to gather their stuff and wait for their new member to join them. Eventually they arrived and Jasan introduced them to Rey’la, an Elven druid and a guide that had experience in the Cinderlands. They welcomed her in as they began their journey towards the Cinderlands. The journey would take them North and they would have to go through Kaer Maga, the City of Strangers, to get up the Storval Plateau and into the vast wasteland of the Cinderlands.

                The Cinderlands was a stark difference to the grasslands down below as it was dry and rocky. The adventurers made their way slowly towards the Kallow Mounds which was the burial grounds for the Shoanti tribes. As they traversed the arid lands they saw signs of just how barren the place was. A corpse could be discovered now and then, lost due to the extreme heat or the wildlife in the area.  They came upon a strange sight of a few Shoanti heads on spears, red crossbow bolts through their eye sockets as the group gulped a bit not liking the strange display. They decided to proceed with a bit more caution as they came upon these small rock groupings that piled up with a skull on top of them. As they moved through they were suddenly stopped by a number of figures that emerged all around them.

                The figures were dark skinned and had various tribal tattoos all over them with animal hide on their shoulders, bows aimed at them. They asked the party what brought them to the Kallow Mounds and Barilut responded by saying they were here to speak with Thousand Bones. The tribesman looked at each other before lowering their bows and telling the group to follow them as they escorted the adventurers into the Kallow Mounds. The deeper they entered the more rock cairns they saw all around them as they arrived at the encampment that the tribe used for their living quarters. Many yurts decorated the entire area as they looked around taking everything in. While they were looking around they saw a familiar face in Thousand Bones approaching them.

                The man smiled and welcomed them to his tribe’s home and with the public display the rest of the tribe relaxed a bit. The shaman walked with the adventuring group towards one of the yurts that was a guest place. He told them that they could stay here and relax after the long journey they must’ve certainly had. Jathan mentioned they were here to discuss the “Midnight’s Teeth” and the situation in Korvosa but Thousand Bones just waved a hand to brush that conversation off.

                “In the evening we will have a Council Fire and meet with the Elders to discuss why you are here.” Thousand Bones said. “For now, rest and recover your strength.”

                The Harrows thanked him as they relaxed in the shade of their yurt until evening came. However late in the afternoon they heard sounds of a commotion and peaked their head out from their structure. They saw another group of Shoanti had arrived but these had different tattoos on them. Their leader seemed to be a tall man with a large spiked hammer in one of his hands and he seemed to be coming their way as he approached their yurt.

                “What an outrage. Tshamek here in the Kallow Mounds. Your kind don’t belong here!” The man said to them, his voice seething with disgust and anger. His outrage drew the attention of the Shoanti chief as the man looked to see what was going on. The new arrival looked at the chief, “Why do the Skoan-Quan harbor tshamel trespassers?” The Chief looked a bit nervous on the right words to say to diffuse the situation but Thousand Bones had arrived to save him as he leaned on his staff a bit.

                “Tell me, Krojun, when did the Sklar-Quah become judges of who trespasses upon the Kallow Mounds where the ashes of our fathers lie?”

                “Your words change the question Thousand Bones.” Krojun said, turning his attention towards the Harrows and pointing at them. “These ones bring trouble to the Cinderlands and you know it. The coming days shall reveal to us who is right about them.”

                “Perhaps.” Thousand Bones responded. “But not today, and not here. Would you have word that Berak’s burial was tainted by bloodshed get back to your Sun Shaman?”

                At the mention of the news reaching his Chief, Krojun paused a bit as his muscles tensed before relaxing. He exhaled and grinned, changing his expression. “You misunderstood me. Certainly though, guests of the Skoan-Quah must be brave to come this far. You wouldn’t mind if I tested the courage and strength of your guests would you?” He said while pulling out a long leather cord.

                Thousand Bones turned to look at the Harrows, letting them decide on if they would take Krojun up on his challenge. The group talked amongst themselves deciding what they should do.

                “Can I kill him?” Xandak said, showing his frustration towards the arrogant Shoanti.

                “No, that might not help us with why we are here.” Barilut said. “I will take his challenge. See what this man is made of.” The dwarf turned and stepped up to the man as Krojun smirked at the notion of a dwarf challenging him.

                The challenge he had for Barilut was a game called Sredna. They would get on all fours facing each other as the leather cord would be wrapped around both of their heads. The game would then become a tug of war as they would fight and resist the tugs from the other. A failure meant that the cord would slip over one’s head causing that person to “bow” and submit to the other. When they were in position the game began. Before they could begin though there was a intimidation phase to the game as Krojun slung dwarven insults, growled, and spat at the dwarf. Barilut was quite stoic but even he didn’t expect such a display as it threw him off his game a bit.

                When the tugging began the two of them went back and forth in a true struggle of strength. After a few moments of neither one making progress in pulling the other down Krojun got angry as he started to growl. Barilut recognized this as a rage, something Xandak and Trigeji had done in the past. To deal with the enhanced strength that Krojun now had Barilut hunkered down in his defensive stance, refusing to budge. It certainly surprised Krojun as this helped Barilut resist the forceful pulls and continue the deadlock struggle between them. The game had continued on for quite awhile and had drawn the eyes of many Shoanti, surprised to see a tshamek be able to hold their own in one of their games.

                Eventually soreness began to kick in and both Krojun and Barilut seemed to be weakening. It was now just a matter of time before one of them slipped and the game was over. In the end, Barilut was the one that cracked first as the cord slipped over his head and caused him to bow. Krojun got to his feet as he clapped a hand on the back of Barilut. “Almost as good as an auroch’s calf. Nothing to be ashamed about.” With a hearty laugh he picked up the leather cord and headed back to the rest of his people and left the Harrows alone.

                Thousand Bones came to them to check on how they were. He told them that Krojun was the champion of the Sklar-Quah and one that they needed to be careful with. He is very respected by his tribe and if they wanted to prove him wrong then they should tread carefully. The old shaman mentioned that the Council Fire would begin in a few hours and that they would receive their answers then.

                In a few hours night fell and the Council Fire began. The Harrows emerged to the fireplace in the center of the village to be greeted by three figures. They recognized two of them as Thousand Bones and Chief One-Life but didn’t recognize the third. The third was a female and as the Harrows settled in she approached the fire and sprinkled a strange greenish-brown dust on it from one of her pouches. The dust caused strange fumes to fill the area around them and gave a strange sensation as one’s vision blurred slightly but their bodies felt at ease. Thousand Bones then stepped up and looked at the brave adventuring group.

                “You have already done my people a great favor by returning the body of one of our warriors. I sense now you come to me to ask something in return, yet know that by asking for this, you are helping us all. The Skoan-Quah are a peaceful people, yet we are also all but shunned by our kin. Our willingness to mix with tshamek shames many of my brothers and sisters in the other quahs. Only their respect for our tradition of guarding and protecting the dead of all Shoanti keeps them from open hostility against us. My words do not reach their ears when I warn them of Queen Ileosa and her rise in power. They hear tales of the city in flames, of its king dead, of disease ravaging its people, and they see this as a just punishment for a hated enemy. My people do not see that a greater threat is growing in this turmoil. And now, you come to me with concerns, seeking the aid of my people. Speak of what you wish of the Shoanti, and perhaps we may find our needs are the same.”

                Jathan told him about what they had gone through and how they believe the answer to stopping Queen Ileosa involved something called “Midnight’s Teeth” and someone called Kazavon. At the mention of that, Thousand Bones grasped his staff tightly as he let out a deep sigh.

                “My people dwelt where your people live now, not so long ago. We remained there for many, many generations, but across the centuries my people have always kept the lore of our ancestors in mind, passing knowledge to the new generations. Yet when Cheliax came to us with war and drove us to the Cinderlands so many years ago, we fought. And died. And many of those who died took this lore to their graves. The name ‘Midnight’s Teeth’ is unfamiliar to me, but the name ‘Kazavon’ is not entirely so—it is a name associated with a great and ancient evil, and many Shoanti believe to repeat such a name aloud is to preserve the evil. This, coupled with the deaths of so many lore keepers, has sequestered the knowledge I suspect you seek in the minds of a rare few: the Sun Shamans of the Sklar-Quah. They alone preserve the history of the Shoanti time in the lands you now call Korvosa, but they do not readily share this with tshamek… or fellow Shoanti, for that matter. Yet if you were to build your names among my people, to earn proper respect, even the eldest of the Sun Shamans would agree to provide the knowledge you desire.”

                Thousand Bones congratulated them on their bravery of accepting Krojun’s challenge and told them that such deeds can only help them in earning the respect they needed. However, it would take a lot more than just that and there were many methods they could attempt. One method would be to travel the Cinderlands and defeat some of the dangerous wildlife out there and collect parts of them as trophies to show off their kills. While this was a viable option, the shaman felt this would take some time and knew of a few other methods they could use.

First, there was replicating a legendary hero’s achievement. One such example that came to mind was the story of Skurak who had gotten swallowed by a terrible beast known as the Cindermaw and fought his way out of it.

Second would be to seek out the endorsement of a Truthspeaker. Truthspeakers are rare Shoanti who are born with a gift of speaking only truth. One such man currently lives among the Lyrune-Quah, The Tribe of the Moon. Thousand Bones knew of a Temple of theirs that they used frequently and the Harrows could go there to try and speak to him.

Another method would be to seek out the Thrallkeeper’s Mark. There was a ruined building from many ages ago, an acropolis that many Shoanti had entered bravely to try and earn the rare mark. Some of them never returned.

Lastly, they could head to the tribe of the Sklar-Quah and demand to take one of their trials. If they survived the trial the Shoanti would have to admit that they deserved some respect for that.

The Harrows now had their task set in front of them. Travel through the Cinderlands to earn respect with the Shoanti people in hopes of learning about Kazavon and the “Midnight’s Teeth”. What brave challenge would the adventurers take on first?

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