DunJohns and Dragons

The Palace of Want

The Rift Walkers, joining forces with the Gold Fang Crime Syndicate, gathered in the Husk district of Priem for an attack on "Lady Opal"'s tenement building. Irini, using detect magic, noticed a powerful magic circle surrounding the door of the run-down building. Though Roxx had said that the door was difficult to open, a mighty kick from Uli immediately bashed the door in, revealing an opulent foyer inside.

The moment the building was breached, the contractees gathered by Opal from the slums of Priem flooded out of their magically enhanced new homes. With looks of terror on their faces, these men, women, and children rushed the crime syndicate thugs guarding the party's entry, attacking to kill.  A brutal melee began, and the party used the opportunity to enter. Jade quickly found his communication with Belial was badly jammed.

The foyer door closed behind them, the other side of the portal a much more sturdy looking metal door that bore no resemblance to the shoddy wooden one they'd just bashed in. They traveled up a lavish set of carpeted stairs and came upon an art gallery with 3 statues on a pedestal.  There were also 4 imposing sculptures holding crystal goblets flanking both points of entry to the room. The other door was locked, and after some testing with arrows, it seemed that the sculptures guarding the doors had some sort of caustic substance inside their mouths. 

The statues in the center were titled "A Crime Unseen" and depicted a thug facing a nobleman with a guard looking on. In a box at their feet were a prop sword, a bag of fake coins, and a lantern. Worried the chamber would fill with acid, Irini cast Water Walk before Vani tried the door. Upon turning the knob, both doors locked, and acid indeed began spilling from the statues' mouths. Thankfully, Irini's spell kept the party from coming to harm as they debated a solution and tried multiple permutations of items. Ireni put the group on the right track, suggesting the scene was supposed to depict a bribery.  With that in mind, they placed the lantern in the thief's hand and the sword and money in the guard's. The acid drained from the room.

The Rift Walkers advanced into a long, curtained hallway. As they did, golden hands slid from the curtains, offering powerful and luxurious items to the party that rattled the group's resolve; barring Jade, who, knowing how Devil pacts operated, fired an eldritch blast into the curtain and the magical rod being offered to him. He caught a glimpse of the great vaults of Mammon, a massive landscape consisting of impossible amounts of wealth.  Jade, flat out threatening the rest of the party to leave the items behind, ushered the group down the hall.

The group found Lady Opal in a palatial chamber in the next room, flanked by her two gold-masked bodyguards. The devil explained she was a servant of the Archdevil Mammon, who sought to use the rift to loosen Priem's permanence in the prime material plane. If enough people in Priem were under the sway of Mammon, the planar tides could simply carry the city to the Nine Hells, specifically, to Mammon's layer. The planes, she explained, were determined by belief; if enough inhabitants were aligned in thought or purpose, whatever that may be, it could be enough to change a place's location in the multiverse.  Normally, this is incredibly difficult on on the Prime Material plane, but the rift was working wonders, according to Opal.

Rejecting the devil's offer to join her in exchange for payment, the party attacked, but were harried by a few magical pieces of furniture in the chamber. A copy of Yuna emerged from a mirror to attempt to hurl her into the chamber's bed, while later in the fight the chandelier came to life and fired a spray of razor-sharp gems at her.

Uli was roughed up by the attacks of the devils, and Yuna was almost felled by an infernal wound caused by a bearded devil bodyguard that caused her back to bleed silver. With Jade, Irini, and Vani providing ranged damage and healing support, Yuna was able to stun and knock down Opal, setting up a brutal spinning kill from Uli that decapitated Opal and one of her bodyguards in a spinning stroke.

Belial commanded Jade to throw Opal's body into the room's strange furnace after offering it a drop of his blood. The archdevil gloatingly explained that doing so would send Opal to his layer of the Nine Hells, rather than Mammon's, who seemed to have gotten the better of Belial in a card game of some sort.  As a reward, Belial processed Opal's physical form into gold coins for the party, and invigorated Jade with a point of permanent health. This infusion of infernal energy had the side effect of giving one of Jade's eyes the aspect of Belial himself.

With its owner dead, the palace began to dissolve, prompting a swift exit from the party. The emerged to find a handful of people dead on both sides of the street brawl, with most of Opal's supplicants now badly beaten or tied up, their fine clothing reduced back to rags. The district was no longer magically altered, and each home had returned to its run-down state. Roxx and Patches were pleased, and were eager to return to the Fang and collect a promotion within their ranks.  Yuna asked Patches to forge Opal's signature to gain her access to the Rift from the messenger's guild. The theif was happy to reward a good turn and told the party to contact them through the beggar outside the Fang when they were ready.

The party helped the wounded unfortunates to the Healer's Guild, lectured the conscious ones about making pacts with devils, and paid for their hospital stay. Yuna gave Vani her Gloves of Swimming and Climbing, citing that she saw how much Vani wished for a pair in Mammon's hallway.

Vani went to check on Olwin's Clockworks in Craftsman's Row to return the documents she'd stolen. She found the home burnt down; asking around, she discovered that Olwin was inside his shop when it burnt; he was dead. 

Later, walking her dog Maximus, Uli spotted a child following her through Craftsman's Row. She gave chase, but lost him in an alley.

Disturbed, the Rift Walkers returned to the Adventurer's guild and spoke to Kaneza about the development. She told the party that a package had arrived for them, wrapped and delivered by the messenger's guild. It was simply addressed to "The Rift Walkers".  Leaving the package behind the desk, they followed Kaneza into her room, checked for scrying magic, and explained what had transpired. The halfling worried that Anna Slyveste was attempting to destroy evidence and obscure her connection to the plague and Assassin's Guild. 

Kaneza said she could call a Guild Meeting, but enough Guildmasters would have to accept for the meeting to even happen. She suggested the party ensure they were in the good graces of a few before she did so. Kaneza underscored that it was unlikely every guild would want to speak to them; especially Quink, who valued the territory and clout the rift had bought him in Priem. She suggested the Apothecary's and Hunter's guilds, but warned against approaching the Artist's guild leadership directly. The party wondered if they could win over Kess, the leader of the Hunters, if they spoke to her about the incident in the potion shop and the monster in the swamps.

With sinister actors are already unlocking the secrets of the Rifts, how much time does the party have to do something about them all?

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Kicking the Hornet's Nest

The newly named Rift Walkers retreated from the Untouched district of Priem with the surgically altered assassin's hand (severed by Uli), coin, poison-coated daggers, and the strange dispersal box that released the plague.

Back at the Adventurer's Guild, the party rested, but Ireni still felt sick from her Rat King bite. Kaneza pulled the party to her quarters when they asked about the coin, explaining that it is used to purchase an assassination within a small chamber in the Temple District.

After their talk, the Rift Walkers went to craftsman's row to track down who made the dispersal box. Jade was able to talk to enough people to trace its clockwork components back to a small shop called Olwin's Clockworks.  Olwin, the elderly proprietor of the shop, confirmed he did make the jar; it was an expensive process with a timed release mechanism. He would not share who paid him to make it, but agreed to pass on a message to his client that the Rift Walkers had purchased it from a shady merchant, a lie meant to distance themselves from what happened.  Ireni distracted him by dropping her open decanter of endless water with Uli adding to the chaos. Vani snuck behind the counter and, with some quick thinking, grabbed a year's worth of sale records and shoved them into her pack.  The party avoided paying Olwin for water damage with a casting of Destroy Water by Ireni.

Stopping for dinner at a restaurant that served very spicy dishes with a vegetable base, the party found the order for the canister under an Annah Sylveste. Yuna bit into a pepper and had a cartoonish moment involving the geyser function of the decanter.

The party returned to the Adventurer's Guild and asked Kaneza about Annah Sylveste; Kaneza wrote on paper that she was the guildmaster of the Transmutation citadel and had the ability to scry.  A troubling stop at the Healer's Guild got Ireni briefly locked in quarantine; she had contracted the plague that had ravaged the city a year ago. A cleric from the temple of Waukeen was dispatched to restore her to health, at a cost. Yuna suggested the temple stock up on scrolls with the spell.

The Rift Walkers went back to Arrold, who was a Transmutation instructor at the academy; he was less than pleased to hear about Annah, and even less to see the mutated hand, which had jointed bones much like a spine for hyper-flexibility. After using detect magic to make sure there was no scrying spell active,  Arrold painted a cold picture of Annah; she did not even fire him from the academy personally.  She also had great interest in the rift, and frowned on Arrold's objections to it being open for study.  Scrying spells require an expensive magical device, which Arrold suggested he could get to at the Academy if he had some money to bribe the guards he knew with.

Next up, the party went to the Apothecary's guild to get information on the poison in the daggers. At the guild hub, which turned out to be a small, gardenlike cottage, they met the Firbolg Guildmaster, Arana. When asked about Isz, she recalled meeting him a few years ago; he took great interest in the swamps outside of the city; they had a persistent blight and still do. She also said the best poison specialist the guild was a green dragonborn at a shop called Dragon's Blood.  Arana explained that she suffers their presence because they can produce antidotes to poisons on demand.  Yuna decided to stay with Arana after learning that the shop had a drow assistant.

At the Dragon's Blood, the party met An'Seath, a female green dragonborn who brushed off most of the party's questions. She agreed to examine the poison in the dagger, and called up her servant, a male drow named Invoro who looked like he recognized the substance on the knives.  A wood elf named Kess barged into the shop while the party was waiting, chastising An'Seath for tempting two rookie hunters with slaying a Catoblepas. She left in an angry huff after Uli asked after the reward. Pleased with this, An'Seath negotiated with Uli and settled on 200 gold per Catoblepas eye, 500 for an intact pair. Uli knew that they were dangerous creatures that had the ability to kill with a glance.  Invoro returned and said the venom was White Underdark Spider Venom, extremely potent. An'Seath shooed him away, but agreed to make a batch of antidote for it which would be ready in a day.

The party then went to the rift, which was guarded by Kenku and mercenaries they hired. Belial contacted Jade, ordering him to follow an extremely tall woman flanked by two guards at the registration booth for portal time. The woman was delivering enormous amounts of gold to the kenku, buying multiple timeslots with the rift. A bit of investigation and speaking with trees by the party yielded that the woman's name was Opal. 

Jade and Vani followed Opal to the Slough, where she was offering gold to the poor citizens of priem for some sort of contract. She then trudged into the Husk, which is considered to be gang territory. Leading her flock, she approached a building, murdered the occupants within, then inscribed a golden sigil that meant 'Contract' in infernal on the door. There was a whole street full of such buildings, and all had lavish interiors filled with people in fine clothes, a physical impossibility.

Jade and Vani spotted Patches, who led them back to Roxx. The rest of the party caught up with the group. They learned the Gold Fang had been muscled out of part of their territory by Opal, who stayed in a particular house marked 'Palace' in Infernal, the only unique marking on the row. The party was amicable enough to the criminals, and they suggested working together again; trying to gain entrance to the 'Palace' summons hordes of the contracted to defend it. The Gold Fang promised the party they would be a distraction while they broke inside.

Belial made vague excuses about politics when pressed for information by Jade, but ordered him to kill Opal and warned him "not to be greedy".  Roxx was also floored to learn the party had an assassin's coin; she explained there was a dummy in a building in the temple district that accepts the coin and records hit requests. Her men tried to stake the place out before, but were killed, so she decided to live and let live. Roxx also offered money for the coin, but the party refused.

The party returned to the Adventurer's Guild for a rest, then tried to stake out Dragon's Blood; they made some noise, however, and weren't confident they weren't spotted. They got together with Roxx and Patches again, ready to storm the Palace.

Scrying magic is powerful, costly, and naturally invites paranoia.

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Possibility Made Manifest

Returning to the Adventurer's Guild, the party spoke a bit more to Kaneza. They learned that she was an ex-adventurer who had retired after slaying an adult Blue Dragon, the very same whose skull sits in the guildhouse's display room. "Vammu the Regarded" had run a slaving empire to the south of Kaneza's hometown of Majula, raising an enormous bejeweled pillar upon which he could perch. Kaneza's party slew the creature, but she was the only one left alive.

After a rest, the party received a response from Illokas, the demonologist and expert on portal magic they had queried. They were led up to his lab through the Wizard Citadel's school of conjuration, and for the first time traveled to another plane.

Illokas, who had set up a small, fog-shrouded island in the plane of Limbo, warned the party of entering portals without knowing what they are or how they'll leave. He also demonstrated how objects could be shaped in this realm of pure chaos through acts of will by suggesting the party create their favorite foods. (Uli managed to create a veritable buffet.)

Illokas expressed concern about the rift; he'd visited it a few times, and knows that the Far Realm do not follow any of the rules of the Great Wheel, the alignment of planes across a Good-Evil, Law-Chaos, and Elemental axis. As for a course of action, he suggested that he might transfer the rift to another plane, such as Arborea, the plane of Chaotic-Good and home to heroic figures that are resistant to corruption and eager to strike down evil.

When asked about the 'Great Cat' and told whatever it was had exited a portal to the Nine Hells about a century ago, Illokas suggested it could be a Rakshasa. Illokas himself is terrified of them; they are resistant to all but very powerful magic, deadly in combat, and like all demons and devils, difficult to harm without silvered weapons.  Raksha typically chafe with the infernal heierarchy from which they were spawned, and seek to find a way to become the sole authority in a new sphere of power. Even Belial chimed in to Jade that he disliked working with them, and did not trust them.  He also let the group know that demons and evils re-coalesce in the lower planes should they ever be killed elsewhere, so that it's possible for the same Rakshasa to return  to the mortal realms with a vendetta.

The group departed, but not before mentioning to Illokas that Jade was contracted with Belial. The half-elf seemed very alarmed, and shooed the party out of his lab as quickly as he could. Yuna checked in with the sending stone, informing Natalia Volg of the possibility of a Rakshasa on the loose. She then spoke to Claire, who reported back the first hidden message from Giovanni:  Isz had been apply the rift's energy to plants, making them grow at an accelerated rate. Kiri and her dwarves had secured the rift with a large garrison, and Jandar had spent most of his time in study before leaving for a day to visit the Keep again.

The party then took a notice board request to slay extremely dangerous rats in the Untouched, an area of Priem that had been evacuated and sealed off by a plague. The plague had burnt out, but groups sent into the old quarantine zone would end up dead or be forced to flee. The party fought their way through a large number of intelligent rat-men that used the dilapidated city to set up ambushes. They eventually came to a warehouse where they fought a swarm of sick-looking rats that coalesced into a single large entity. Ireni was bitten by the mass of rats and immediately began to look ill.

During the fight, a masked figure slew some of the rat-men aiding the giant Rat-King. After the rats were destroyed, one of the surviving rat-men surrendered. Upon interrogation, the ratman named Swik explained that after the "quiet ones" opened a box in the district, the plague had started, killing those that lived above ground but imbuing normal animal rats with incredible intelligence. These rats began to organize the ratfolk, who had always lived beneath Priem, into making weapons and conducting raids on food stores in the city.

The masked figure returned, but did not respond to the party when told to stand down from killing the cooperative ratman. The assassin turned hostile, hitting the party with paralyzing daggers and attempting to flee, but the party was too fast for them. From the assassin's body, they recovered a single tin coin with strange engravings. The assassin themself was impossible to identify; there was no skin on their face, and their body had been operated on and twisted beyond identification.

Swik explained those like the assassin were constantly trying to eradicate their rat-king. The party suggested they hunt outside the city, which they agreed to in exhange for being left alone. Swik presented the plague-box to the party, which was an unremarkable wood container on the outside but had a complicated glass apparatus inside, now partially broken. 

The party had enough evidence to claim they had stopped the rat infestation in the Untouched, and were awarded their 1,200 gold bounty.

 

Limbo is chaotic, but not utterly incomprehensible. Illokas couldn't say the same for whatever is beyond the rifts…

 

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Ghosts, Demons, and Drunks

Taking the guard posted outside the Wizard’s Guild’s advice, the party tracked down Arrold, a former instructor of Transmutation magic at the Priem’s academy. They found him washing windows at a small bar called The Foamtop on the edge of the Academy’s campus.

The party shared their concerns over the Rift to the Far Realms in Priem, and examined their possibilities. Helping the Kenku and working out some kind of deal, attacking the messenger’s guild in force, and stealing the guild’s sending stone archives from a vault in the Banker’s Guild were all brought up as options.  Arrold said he had a few friends that would help the process the group decided on, but only if the party could drum up some support and coin themselves. It was made clear that no matter what the party chooses, there could be serious consequences.

Arrold also claimed to be having a recurring nightmare of Priem sinking into a boiling lake of gold. Doubtless this hasn’t helped his drinking problem.

The party also inquired after the Wizard’s Guild expert on planar summoning and demonology, Illokas. From what Arrold knew, he was interested in the Rift and might be able to identify whatever “The Great Cat” that Fossa had spoken of in Vani’s village was. The party went to the messenger’s guild and sent a message to Illokas at the Wizard’s Citadel, using both Jade’s contact with Belial and Yuna’s royal status as potential incentives for the elf to meet with them. (They also met an endearing mailman pigeon.) If Illokas accepts the meeting, he will send a message to the Adventurer’s guild.

The party then registered at said adventurer’s guild, meeting the Guildmaster, a scarred, older halfling woman named Kaneza. Vani was very much flustered upon meeting her. Uli was equally absorbed with the quest board spanning the entire western wall of the guild hall, and came back with 3 requests that hadn’t been taken yet.

Yuna inquired to the statue of a cleric of Lathander sitting in the middle of the guild hall courtyard, bearing the signature of a “Fernanda Corvi”.  Kaneza explained that it was a ‘gift’ from the Artists’ Guild in the likeness of Andros, a cleric and former guild member that was killed on Artist’s Guild premises. Kaneza said she’d received a large body of evidence that Andros had started the trouble, and negotiated with the Guildmaster to make sure the violence stopped there. Kaneza insisted that the Artist’s Guild was not to be trifled with, despite their unassuming line of work.

The party took one of the message board quests and met man named Ennio in the Courtesan’s Guild. Ennio was sure some sort of monster or demon was stalking him. The party found out that his girlfriend Deena had disappeared around the same time as when she went missing. The party looked into Rosa, a friend of Ennio who used his services as a courtesian in a non-sexual capacity. They also met and conferred with a half-orc bounty hunter named Brunnar Ulk, who said he had witnesses who claimed to have spotted Ennio and Rosa near a run-down bar near the docks.  The party learned Deena was very displeased with her boyfriend’s profession, and had spied on him with a sending stone after he joined a host club to ensure he wasn’t offering any sexual services.

The party broke into Ennio’s apartment and noticed water damage on his floor; they also found a well next to his building. They honored their promise to protect Ennio and let him get some sleep in his place while they staked out both his apartment and the well. The party encounter the drowned ghost of Deena, who kissed Uli (draining her strength as well) and shared her memories; she had been arguing with a very drunk Ennio and kept getting in his face as he was stumbling home from the dockside bar. He shoved her away, sending her careening into the water from the raised dock. Deena’s last memory was looking up at a motionless Ennio gazing down on her, certain that he could swim and save her.

After jogging his memory about what he’d done when drunk, the party turned Ennio over to Brunnar, who in turn fulfilled his commission as a bounty hunter and pried a confession out of him. He was brought before Rommeni, the guildmaster of the Courtesan’s Guild. Possessing otherworldly beauty and some sort of magical, flaming sword, she was revealed to be a planetar of her goddess, Sune. She placed an agonizing brand on Ennio’s face, severely burning half his face and, in her own words, ‘binding him so that he will never do something like this again’.  What sort of magic she inflicted with him is unclear.  

Both Rommeni and Brunnar were well disposed to the party for their aid in helping bring Ennio to justice. Rommeni forced Ennio to reveal the location of his life savings to honor the monster-slaying contract he placed with the adventurer’s guild. The party found his stash of 350 gold, and opted to take their promised payment of 250. Vani scattered the rest around Ennio’s apartment to make sure what was left was troublesome for him to recover.

 

 

Not everyone in Priem is what they seem to be.

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Ocean of Water, Ocean of People

The party set off on Ireni's new ship. The party were stopped by a Firhelmese naval patrol led by a Sgt. Gallo Ruhorne. After confirming that they were working with Astaroka, the party plumbed him for a bit of information about Priem; he had little good to say about the city, disliking its mercenary nature and weak rule of law. He also warned that the islands to the east of Priem were common haunts for pirates. Ireni lost sleep ensuring the crew was always on watch for corsairs, earning her a brief bit of friction with Yuna.

Ruhorne and Ireni weren't wrong; a dilapidated fishing vessel converted into a pirate ship gave chase to the party's vessel. Captain Ireni led it on a short chase, but fearing the exhaustion of her crew, decided to turn her ship and fire its broadside ballistas at the vessel. Aided by the skillfull archery and magic of the rest of the party, the ship was quickly scuttled and destroyed. Its captain, a goblin who had gained the loyalty of a large ogre, was quickly mutinied by its bugbear crew when its bodyguard was slain.  Ireni chose to leave the sinking crew to their fates, likely drowning and exposure.

Alfonzo Volg contacted Yuna through his sending stone, informing her he'd secured docking at the harbor in Priem for them. He also let them know that the Rift they were seeking had already been discovered in the city.

Vani befriended the nonhuman portion of the crew, Kharrak, Barkam, Elwan, and Arder. They were a bit unsure what Ireni's deal was, and many hadn't seen a genasi before. A few of the sailors were uneasy upon learning about her hatred of pirates. She quickly earned the respect of the rest of the sailors by shooting a seagull out of the air and expertly shooting an apple off the head of a very brave (or very stupid) deckhand.

Uli spent some time playing cards with the crew, and Ireni decided that half of her sailors would remain on board on a given day in Priem, while the other gained shore leave. This was considered fair by the crew, and they quickly got to planning out their respective days off among themselves.  They had a much higher opinion of the city than Ruhorne did, citing Priem's many diversions and general freedom as the reason why.

Priem was every bit the hive of activity that the rumors suggested; after docking, the party pushed through an expansive market selling every manner of supply and good they could think of. Arriving at the Barrister's Guild, the party entered a large building and were directed to Alfonzo's personal account manager, a young woman named Edna Flim. 

Locating her office basement, a closetlike space filled with papers and scrolls, the bespectacled scrivener gave them a brief overview of the city, as well as a map detailing its major divisions of power. She explained that the rift was being held by the messenger's guild, and time with the portal was available by appointment for the outrageous sum of 700 gold for 4 hours. She also pointed them to the adventurer's guild, which, after a brief membership fee and proof of competence, could provide the party with lodging and access to many jobs suited to their skills.

The party stopped by the Wizard's Guild, which turned out to be a highly guarded citadel with exclusive criteria for entry. The guard stationed by the gates explained that the magical items and scrolls present in the guild were powerful enough to level the whole city if placed in the wrong hands, and that lower level magic courses were handled by the university.  With a bit of gentle persuasion by Jade, the guard suggested they seek out Arrold, a half elf who had fallen out of favor with the academic guilds for doomsaying about the rift; while both he and the Academy want it out of the messenger guild's hand, he apparently does not want it to be studied; he believes the rift to be an instrument of the apocalypse.

 

There's a lot to see in Priem; doubtless, not all of it is pretty.

 

 

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Lit Fuses

The party spent a few days around Volg Keep, preparing to answer Vani's invitation back to her village. Yuna kept busy, visiting many old contacts including:

Claire Volg: Thinking about moving to a city and starting a career in music. Taught Yuna Violin Basics

Beth: Gave up magic, joined the militia and took up archery.

Aimee: Sleepless and losing weight, but focused on becoming a powerful wizard under the tutelage of Natalia Volg.

Dewbloom and the Pixies:  Yuna received a congratulatory High Medal of Valorous Achievement for seeing to the arrest of Megga Mundt, the woman who captured Dewbloom for her pixie dust.

Concerned over Jandar's brusqueness towards her as she inquired about the Drow House La'Frei,  Yuna spoke with the party about her suspicions about the enigmatic elf. Yuna wasn't sure how Jandar knew she was a princess, remembering the elf that had betrayed her in her first run-in with the Drow.  They also brought their concerns to Claire, who promised to keep an eye out and inquire with her parents as subtly as she could.

Uli suggested she send her old traveling buddy, Giovanni Bagni, to the Outer Realms rift. Giovanni was dispatched and will send correspondences in invisible ink back to Volg Keep to keep tabs on Jandar.

As the party left for Vani's hometown of Ghosla, Uli reared up her horse and dashed back into town. She returned with a baby pit bull dubbed Maximus the Second.

On the way to the village, Vani let Yuna and Ireni know that they would probably be met with a rough atmosphere in town due to Ghosla's incredibly tense past with the nearby settlement of Mountain Elves. The village, close to the west where the orcs had spilled out of the mountains, had been well-fortified with tripwire and sturdy walls.

Vani had a heartfelt greeting with her grandparents, Odo and Alandria, and had a slightly tense reunion with her friend Cabe, who disapproved of her striking out for such dangerous quests without asking for more help. It seemed more out of worry than pride.  Vani's family grudgingly accepted Yuna and Ireni with their granddaughters' vouching, and Alandria agreed to mingle a bit and calm the more suspicious members of the village down.

A small festival had been arranged in honor of Vani's return and victory against the orcs at Throughway Keep. The party participated in a number of fun activities, most of them while drunk following a drinking contest with some farmers. During this event, Yuna noticed a family of halflings known as the Bodifumps wearing elven jewelry; when she pointed it out, they looked perturbed and took it off.

A brief rundown of the activities:

Turtle Racing: Bet won by Vani, taking 10 gold from the rest of the party.   Pie Eating Contest: Won by a very full Vani    Drinking Contest: Uli was a close second, won by a farmer.   Archery Contest: Won by Vani after a close tiebreaker round with Yuna, receiving a well-made belt with a gnomish buckle.  Bear Wrestling:  Vani cuddled with Honeysuckle, who enjoyed the attention and petting. 

The group also drunkenly performed a <s>smash mouth cover</s> for the tavern, just managing to avoid making clowns of themselves. Odo was very tickled by the performance by his very un-musical granddaughter, and tossed some gold onto the stage. Uli had a nice drum solo that earned her a few silver pieces.

Vani made Cabe challenge Honeysuckle in the wrestling match to make up for his argument with her. To her surprise, he succeeded with flying colors. They spent the night talking and catching up, and Vani asked what was up with the Bodifumps.  Cabe replied that they claimed a merchant really liked their shoes in the capital and had been showering them with riches, a good chunk of which they used to help the people of Ghosla. The party resolved to talk to them in the morning.

The hung over (save for Yuna) party recieved a rude awakening in the form of a surprised mob at the north gate; a unit of mountain elves had approached with weapons and seige shields, holding a halfling trader and her bodyguard hostage. The elves claimed they'd found them carrying elven jewelry.  The captain explained that he did not think them the theives; a mountain elf named Fossa was suspected of hiding inside Ghosla. A former ranger, he had been murdering his own kind for weeks until he was spotted in the act and forced to run. 

Vani, Cabe, and the party filled in the mayor about the Bodifumps. Heading to their home, Cabe found them in their wine cellar…along with Fossa. The elf politely requested to be let go, promising he would let the wood elves know he was no longer in the village. The party wasn't sold. He then suggested that they go with him to kill the mountain elf unit and recover the kidnapped halflings. At that point, Uli stepped forward to restrain him.

Fossa was difficult to hit, even when backed into a corner, and as blood was drawn his neck bulged with veins and his eyes took on a dilated, glassy look. Yuna landed a stunning strike, letting the party pounce on him and restrain him very, very well. Checking under his cloak, Yuna was horrified to find that he was wearing a jerkin sewn from the faces of elves he'd killed. When he came to, Fossa insisted that he only ate elves and had caused no trouble in the village.

Dragging him out of town, Fossa shouted that the Bodifumps were complicit in harboring him, stirring up chaos amongst the townsfolk. Yuna and Uli tried to get more information out of Fossa before the mountain elves took him to be put on trial.  The captured halfling trader and her bodyguard were released to the village, as promised.

Fossa mentioned a 'Great Cat' that had been devouring people in Astaroka for a century. Stumbling upon it feeding one day, the creature apparently saw 'potential' in Fossa and granted him a drop of his blood, heightening his abilities and stoking a supernatural hunger. He also implicated the captured trader in harboring him.

The guilty halflings explained that they helped Fossa because he never hurt a halfling and was funneling his loot into the village; they had no idea he was doing more than robbery and the occasional murder. The village leader exiled the 6 guilty townsfolk from Ghosla permanently.

Before leaving, Odo and Alandria passed on an arrowhead to Vani, crafted by her father from the feathers of a griffin he'd slain and given to her mother. The arrow was in Maja's hand when the orcs attacked Ghosla in the past.  Fighting back tears, Vani accepted the gift.

Vani also made up with Cabe, who had decided she would be fine venturing out into the world on her own. Vani slipped some owlbear meat into his pocket, which he would later discover before his nightly bath.  Yuna painted a portrait of the party and presented it to Vani's grandparents, who could not decide where to put it. It was decided that it would move location monthly.

The party returned to Volg Keep to find that Natalia and Alfonzo had created a device that used the strange 'compass' found near the portal to pinpoint other rifts to the Far Realm. Using it, they generated vague locations on the map. They presented the party with small magical jars that could contain small bits of the magic of the portals for further study; the more they know, the better they can control the rifts. They also gave the party a sending stone to communicate with them while they're traveling.

Arriving at the docks, the party met with Pule Volmi, who explained that Argus Forsythe had funded the construction of a small ship for the party to use. Volmi presented Ireni with a spyglass made by his family's workshop. An ecstatic Ireni boarded the ship, named Yuna first mate, and declared that they would be setting sail immediately to track down the other portal rifts.

 

The wind is strong enough to give life to the sails. Adventure awaits.

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The Threat From Beyond the Veil

Investigating the defeated Drow, the party learned that 'Priestess Kavra' of House La'Frei had been spearheading an investigation into a series of rifts to the outer realms, a 'plane' of existence that no one knows very much about. Harnessing a small species of glowing, insectlike creatures from the rift in the orcish temple, the drow managed to infuse orcs and goblins with Llolth's essence, turning them into subservient monsters.  

The brunt of the drow forces had been sent back to wherever house La'Frei is headquartered in the underdark, where another rift was written to have been found. Also present in the chamber was an astrolabe-like device with one of the insectoid creatures in its core. It was found to be able to point the way to other weak points in the weave of reality.

Leaving Kiri and her retinue to call in reinforcements and begin securing the mountains, the party set off to investigate the nearby forest.  Many of the trees were dying or showed signs of rot. Beyond several llolth-orc corpses, the party found a single drow smoking atop a large boulder.  Ambushing him, the group quickly learned the hard way that he was in fact a Firbolg in disguise, and his seat was his earth elemental guardian.

The friendly Firbolg Isz was a traveler from Yuna's homeland of Issylra, having left his people to pursue field research into ways nature can become blighted and corrupted. The party eventually decided to tell him the full story about the rift. Yuna wrote him a note allowing him to conduct research on it as long as he reported to Kiri and the party.  He gave Ireni a preserved marsh lily from Issylra, claiming that anyone who was more interested in the flower than her appearance as a genasi might be an interesting person to converse with.  He sold the party healing tonics and gave them a wand of light as a token of his gratitude for allowing him to examine the rift.

The party made their way to a ruined tower that a very old hill giant had taken up residence. The party ambushed him and his pet owlbear, then searched the tower, finding a few relics of the human kingdom that used to be present in the area.  Additionally, Uli found a ring of acid resistance, Yuna quite a bit of gold, and Vani a very expensive platinum chain.

Leaving, they found that a large pack of ghouls led by an intelligent ghast had taken up a former orcish settlement near the mountain passes. The ghast allowed them to leave, as he and his pack were eating their fill of orcs and drow.

The party reported back to Volg Keep; Alfonzo and Natalia Volg began an investigation into the 'rift compass', while Jandar departed immediately to study the rift and guard it from drow. Vani received a note forwarded from the halfling Cade, a childhood friend, from her grandfather, who had heard of her exploits in the defense of Throughway Keep. He invited her to Ghosla and promised a feast in her honor.


Any manner of innovation can come from study of the Far Realm, but so may new and unknowable dangers. There are few with power, good and evil alike, that could resist the temptation of such potential…

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The Priestess and the Portal

The party set out from the ruined keep to continue pursuing the Drow.  Arriving at a large stretch of orcish hovels forming what was likely a crude 'city' of sorts for the creatures, Ireni was dispatched in the form of a bird to examine the area. She discovered a fair number of 'changed' orcs and goblins were lurking in the area. Vani suggested to use fire as a distraction, and after some discussion Yuna lit a few hovels aflame with her magic. 

Moving quickly, the group moved through the settlement and found several ropes and chains set up to allow access to the mountain keep to the north. Inside, there was little but signs of a long-past battle. Skeletal remains of normal orcs and their corrupted counterparts littered the entirety of the area.

Making their way to the heart of the keep, the party found an altar dedicated to the principal gods of the Orcs, holding the preserved remains of what looked to be an Orcish Warchief. Occupying the chamber were the drow the party had been chasing, along with two Drow women. One, a priestess sporting the symbol of Llolth and that of a dagger wrapped in chains. The other soon revealed itself as a Yochol, a servitor demon beholden to Llolth's will.

The Priestess was busy looking over some sort of magical experiment at a table. She spoke with the Yochol, which insisted that the upcoming confrontation would be a test to prove her might to Llolth. Kavra, the priestess, opened a bottle with a strange, insectoid creature. It vanished, and the glow in the room intensified into an eye-searing rift that seemed to allow the Yochol to possess the corpse of the Orc Warcheif.

The ensuing battle was swift and brutal. Yuna swiftly crushed the drow mage, Jade set fire to many of the drow with fireballs, Ireni created sunlight to blind the drow, and Vani eventually pierced Kavra's heart with a well-placed shot from her bow,  Shellcracker, but not before trashing the research table.  Uli and Yuna worked to finish off the possessed orc, which disgorged the Yochol.

The Yochol muttered about Kavra being a disappointment and suffered the attacks of the party for a few moments before turning into mist and flowing out of the cave. The party is left in peace to rifle through the bodies of the drow and investigate the portal and the strange research being conducted.

 

What in the planes was so important that Llolth would spare some of her most powerful servitors to oversee?

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The Secrets of the Ruined Castle

The party followed the drow into a dilapidated castle that looked to be hundreds of years old. Its outer walls had been utterly demolished, and even the keep itself had multiple points of entry. Scouting ahead as a spider, Ireni found a pair of hulking, demonic creatures with single, bulbous eyes and more of the goblin-spider hybrids guarding the first floor of the keep.  Conferring with Belial, Jade was commanded to gather some of the creatures' blood; though his soul was on the line, he almost forgot when all was said and done. If he contacts Belilal again, he could get his opinion on what those creatures were.

The group decided to knock the roof of the keep down onto the creatures. Ireni employed her decanter of endless water, given to her by Marcus and Claire Volg for her help against Gorbos, to dislodge the stone from a safe distance.  Aided by the sudden rockfall, the party defeated the guards handily. Stairs to the castle depths were found, but the party decided to pull back and attack the drow at daybreak.

 Pulling back to Kiri's party for the night,  Yuna noticed the Manticore that had escaped earlier flying overhead, looking for a chance to catch the group unaware. The party returned to the castle with the dwarves the next morning. Kiri commented that the stonework of the castle did not look orcish.

The party descended into the basement to find that the drow had abandoned the castle. Searching through the ruined, empty rooms, they eventually found a burial vault with several stone sepulchers and a dead, badly desiccated drow corpse.  A pair of hostile spirits appeared, and the sounds of a battle long passed echoed in the party's minds.  The king and queen of a long destroyed kingdom were reliving the last moments over and over again, mistaking the party for the orcs that had seiged them hundreds of years ago.

The party did not attack, and Yuna attempted to learn more, assuring the ghosts that she and her allies were not orcs. The ghost asked for proof, posessing Yuna and looking through her eyes. The party held fast, choosing not to restrain  Yuna or attack the remaining specter.

The possessed Yuna traveled through the castle, taking stock of the ruins of her castle. Upon heading outside, the Queen realized she had been dead for hundreds of years. Yuna, through an incredible act of willpower, managed to reach the ghost, showing her memories of other human civilizations and the defeat of the orcs at Throughway Keep. Making peace with her fate, the ghost left Yuna.

Returning to the vaults, the party found the ghost of the king placing his and his wife's royal jewels atop a sepulcher before following his Queen into the afterlife. With their torment ended, the party vowed to donate the jewels to a historian and give the rulers' bones a burial in one of the sepluchers.

The question now; where did the Drow skulk off to?

A restless spirit.

 

 

 

 

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Lolth's Servants

The party returned to the caves to find that Kiri Forgemantle had left a note. One of her men did not return from scouting the caves, so she gave pursuit. After a brief rest the party found the dwarves beset by giant spiders. Kiri shouted that they could handle them, and instructed the party to give chase to a group of drow they had discovered.

The party chose to help the dwarves, easily dispatching the spiders. Scouting ahead,  Ireni and Yuna found a drow mage ready to sacrifice another drow on some sort of elaborate runic symbol painted onto the ground.

The party engaged, with a furious Yuna attempting to bring down the mage conducting the ceremony. Ireni did her best to damage the markings.  The drow retreated, and though damage was done to the ritual, the sacrificial drow chose to take his own life to complete it.  A hideous demon known as a Vrock was summoned, but was defeated with the combined efforts of the party and the dwarves, in no small part to Uli and Ireni keeping the creature distracted.

The party noticed the drow were fleeing towards the hills to the north. After a rest, the group set off, eventually bumping into a starving Manticore that attempted to bargain for dwarf and human meat. The party staged a ruse after Yuna found it was deceitful and unwilling to let the group pass.  Uli pretended to be bound, attacking the manticore as the rest of the group moved in.

A second manticore was lying in wait to ambush the party by tipping boulders downhill at them, but the first one was eventually slain by Ireni's direwolves after Uli used a grappling hook to bring it down.  The second manticore fled, knowing it was outnumbered.

Yuna ascertained that the drow could have retreated to a ruined castle further to the north in the orcish lands. Meanwhile, Uli and Vani got to work skinning and cutting up the manticore, and are currently lugging well over a hundred pounds of monster meat in their backpacks.

A vrock, fresh from Llolth's layer of the abyss.

 

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