DunJohns and Dragons

Five Weeks in the City

With the assassins defeated and Annah shunted off to another plane with none of her belongings save for what she carried on her person, the Rift Walkers gathered their loot and returned to the city, getting the first good night's sleep they'd had in weeks. Annah's belongings included a set of letters from her sister, Tryndrey. The two had a falling out after Annah sent a magical stasis ward to her sister that kept their ailing mother in a painful stasis while she worked on a solution. Disgusted at Annah's overpragmatic and heartless 'solution', and the fact that she was too absorbed in her research to visit even once, Tryndrey seemed to have cut ties with her.

Uli suggested a bar crawl to celebrate; Brunnar, Ianward (attendant at the artists' guild poorhouse and artist of Uli's cow painting), Danna (former co-star of Wesson's Modron play and self-help author), Borp (Messenger guild pigeon), and Kaneza were all invited. The party hit multiple establishments, including, with Borp's guidance, an illicit den run by the Gold Fang. Patches gave the group drinks on the house. Borp proved to be quite the party animal, more than capable of consuming his own weight in liquor and drugs. Uli and Ianward flirted, with the latter offering to pay for Uli's drinks after a certain suggestion by her. After a spiral of increasingly lewd nightclubs at the Courtesans' guild, the party ended up at the Foamtop, Arrold's former place of residence and favorite drinking spot.

After a toast by Vani for Arrold, the group was shocked to see Arrold himself joining in! Kaneza admitted that she owed him for saving her life, and that she pawned her set of platemail to pay for his resurrection at the temple.

Over the next week Yuna, Jade, and Vani tried to shop for maigc items. With Jade's help, Yuna eventually found an enchanter willing to make her an arm bracer with the Shield spell embedded inside it.

Irini endeavored to find Uli's sword, Chimera, which is still at the bottom of the swamps somewhere.

Vani began training with Illokas, going through a rigorous process to learn the basics of magic and the Weave. Her training ended a few weeks later with a trip to the ethereal plane; walking through the city, she saw that the Artists' Guild was secured against magical travel, that the Mortician's guild animated corpses to sell as workers in some sort of voluntary paid contracting process, and that Kaneza possessed extraordinary strength; she was able to do hundreds of chin-ups in her room, but a log she kept showed that age was slowly catching up to her; she finished with 1 pull up less than previous months.

Outside the Adventurer's guild, Vani saw a spectral man clad in garb associated with Lathander sitting on the base of the statue 'donated' by the adventurer's guild. Vani approached the ghost and learned that it was the very same person; Andros, a cleric of Lathander who had tried to defeat the Corvi family single-handedly after learning they were vampires. He remained in the ethereal plane as a ghost, unable to find peace with his death and his failure to do enough good works before his death. Vani spoke from her heart and reassured him that his failure was not a reflection of his intentions. Andros drew strength from Vani's resilience and asked her to walk a righteous path in his stead. At peace after two long years, Andros departed to Elysium, the plane of Neutral Good.

Uli, while wandering through the city with her newly restored taste buds after paying for a Greater Restoration spell, found a crowded stall run by an irate hippo-man chef. His previous attendant had accidentally served moldy bread to a customer, prompting him to shoo him away with a strange weapon that propelled a ball of iron with incredible force and racket. Uli just barely managed to win this strange being's tolerance, and began learning cooking from him. Battling her new phobia of oozes after her demise in the swamps, Uli eventually was able to expertly prepare a berry dish that required gelatinous cube ooze from a tiny, albeit live specimen to neutralize the food's bitterness. Uli gained proficiency with chef's tools, a culmination of her years of interest in the craft.

Uli also paid a large sum of gold to get herself tattooed, and had a romantic encounter with Ianward. An artistic nude called "Tattooed Woman with Axe" now exists somewhere in the world.

Over time, Uli learned that the hippo-man's name was Sargent Forth Rank Torvald Touchdown, and he was of a race called "Giff".  Originally part of a plane-travelling mercenary group, Torvald was separated from his unit after their ship took damage in a battle over the Elemental Plane of Water.  Having some skill in cooking just about anything his unit could scrounge up around the planes as one of his ship's galley chefs, he set up his stall to raise money to bribe a wizard to get him back to his people.  Uli kindly directed him to Illokas, who took on the task pro-bono. Grateful for her assistance and possessing an inherent sense of duty, Torvald offered Uli one of his badges, saying that presenting it to a Giff will immediately be a sign of good faith, and that they would be sure to render assistance. Excited to resume his adventures, Torvald forgot his chef's tools in Priem, leaving them in Uli's care.

Jade traveled to the healers' guild and managed to convince Mira to grant him some of her blood by saying he had a method to determine what exactly she was. Saniel took great umbridge with this, and, even weakened after manifesting to fight the assassins and shackled by Mira's willingness to give Jade her blood, manifested through sheer willpower to choke Jade. Jade's eye met Saniel's, and the Deva's hand was scorched by the power of Jade's personality and his pact with Belial. Mira felt suddenly ill and retired to bed. Jade, at Belial's behest, set the handkerchief with Mira's blood aflame with his magic, delivering it to Phethelegos and Belial's clutches.

Belial told Jade that Mira was an Aasimar, a being with celestial blood. He explained Tieflings were similar beings, only touched by the infernal powers, and neither were necessarily always created through intercourse and birth. Jade resolved to let Mira know about this at some point. Belial suggested Jade lie to the party about what had transpired; he agreed, but Yuna caught a slight recalcitrance in his voice while he was relaying his false account of what had happened.

Yuna went on her date with Brunnar, who took her to Create Food, a new restaurant run by younger members of the Wizard Citadel eager to pay off their tuition. The two of them found themselves levitated up into the sky and served food with a variety of magical means; clams were opened with an ice knife while a bigby's hand squeezed lemon onto them, stuffed peppers were created with teleportation magic, and more. The two talked about their pasts and futures; Yuna expressed regret about Annah getting away. Brunnar said he was sure she'd get a second crack at her, and at that point she'd be experienced enough to terrify her. Brunnar elaborated a bit more about his past; he had a troubled home life and spent a few years as something close to a thug until an old man he tried to rob beat some sense into him and taught him methods to calm his emotions.

The date continued with a visit to the Sunspot Ballroom, the premiere music venue in the Bards' Guild. Yuna was enchanted by the main act, a quartet of Eladrin who played a shifting symphony that went from an energetic dance to a swaying rhythm to a slow dance to a cheery jig complete with bubbly liquor.  The quartet was credited as:

Durqis- Winter Elf; pale, almost bluish skin, white hair that shines cobalt in the light. She plays a violin.
Wress- Autumn Elf; hair the color of a pumpkin tied up with wicker. Plays the lute.

Pinarra- Spring Elf; pink-white hair, shiny yellow eyes; plays the flute.
 Rizora- Summer Elf; bleach blonde hair and deeply tanned, sunkissed skin. Has tattooed her cheek with firey orange ink depicting a sunburst. Plays an impressive, stacked drum set made of animal hide.

Yuna expressed interest in tracking them down to ask them some questions.

Brunnar then reluctantly took Yuna to his favorite haunt, Sagah's, a bar on the edge of the craftsman's row and impoverished district of the city. It was a noisy, energetic place filled with mostly half-orcs. A fighting ring was in the center of the establishment; a half-ogre revealed that Brunnar is currently the reigning champ.  Much to Brunnar's chagrin, Zunasha, a sometimes-lover of his, entered the bar after returning from a mission with her mercenary company, the Stonechewers. Zunasha flirted with Brunnar and made some unkind remarks about her in Oricsh that Vani would later translate as “Don’t worry, I’ll still be here after she snaps in half under you.”  (Brunnar also muttered 'take both my eyes' when she entered, which calls to Grummush's loss of an eye to Correlion's arrow. Roughly translated as 'fuck my life'.) Yuna got in the ring with her and took a nasty punch, but returned with her own and bested her. Zunasha seemed amused at the display, and respectful of how she kept her temper down.

The date ended with a horseback ride into the woods; Brunnar wanted to show off his favorite spot to think in the woods, but the pair had to divert course after finding a family of sleeping owlbears. They ended up at a lakeside with comfortably warm water, and Yuna returned home the next morning with a spring in her step, if not just slightly sore.

Kaneza admitted she was going to sell the adventurer's guild, visit her homeland of Majula, then build a cottage out in the forest for her retirement. The group made her promise that she'd visit them in the future, which she did.

About three and a half weeks into their downtime, a ship arrived, captained by Uli's brother Von. A young halfling entered the adventurer's guild with a menacing Goliath and a quiet Assimar companion, shouting "Aunt Kaneza, I'm here!"

A fateful meeting is afoot…

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The Clash in Limbo

The party discovered the Assassins' new base of operations in the Untouched. Using the severed hand from the corpse Elavor had tossed through the Rift Walkers' window, the party and their allies traveled through a portal into a stone chamber.  Annah Sylveste wished to settle the matter peacefully, explaining that she was in complete control of the Bhaal Avatar and was merely using it as test to see if a mortal could ascend to become a god through the power of the rift. She implored the party to let her finish her work; if multiverse really was under threat of dissolving, such advances would be needed to stop it.

The Rift Walkers did not see merit in causing so much harm for a potential greater good. An enormous battle began against Annah, her Shield Guardian construct, the Bhaal Avatar, and a large number of assassins, some of whom were the magically altered variant.  Invoro, the Drow who assisted the now slain An'Seath at the poison shop, was shot through the throat by Yuna. As the battle raged, the chamber split apart to reveal the roiling chaos of limbo, forcing the party to navigate bubbling acid, spiderwebs, a vacuum vortex, and other shifts of the chaotic plane as the battle raged.

The Bhaal Avatar had become stronger with those it had killed; Annah suggested defeating the Rift Walkers and their allies would be enough to allow it to reach the next level of its godhood. The party was wracked whenever it screamed; those that were injured found their wounds intensified and reopened as the unnatural being called them to their deaths. 

Sadly, Lavhik Irongrip and Arrold met their deaths by the Bhaal Avatar's hands before the party defeated them, thanks in part to the might of Saniel, the Deva manifesting through Mira Kass. Yuna, Illokas, and Brunnar cornered Annah, who escaped with a Plane Shift Spell after shrugging off a number of Stunning Strikes through sheer force of will.

The party found a number of interesting items Annah was trying to escape with; her notes, a large amount of gold, and a few items belonging to the assassins' guild, including 3 goggles of night and the Bhaal Avatar's swords, pulse and breath.

 

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One Way Forward

After an uncomfortable night in the basement of the damaged Adventurer's guild, the Rift Walkers tied up some minor loose ends.

They told Kess they would restore the swamp after the Catoblepas' taint on the land cleared up, a time period Irini determined to be in a little over a month. They also asked Arrold about the sigil on the assassin's hand, who explained it didn't have any actual spell upon it, just a magical rune. A visit to Brunnar confirmed that the assassin it came from was human, and there was no trace of a rift insect inside his head. Illokas suggested that the assassins may be using a portal of some sort to hide. The Rift Walkers considered that the formerly 'Untouched' district of Priem was now free of plague-carrying ratmen and could be used as a covert staging point within the city.

With all that taken care of, Kaneza called a meeting of the guilds of priem, and the party spent the next morning in quiet preparation. They were greeted by the full roster of guildmasters in Priem on the third floor of the Barrister's guild headquarters, including the unprepossessing Annah Sylveste.

Kaneza gave her best introduction to the Rift Walkers and gave the floor to Yuna. She and Vani laid out everything they knew about the world, the rifts, and the possible activities of the assassins' guild.  A good many of the guildmasters were incredulous, but the party had enough evidence that the rift itself was very volatile and dangerous. A narrow majority agreed to putting the rift on some sort of protective rotation in the hands of the Barristers' Guild, and even the paranoid head of the Messengers' Guild, Quink, was swayed a bit by the prospect of not having a massive target on his back.

During the talks, Jade noticed that Annah was covered in illusion magic. As it became clear the guilds were willing to put the site of the rift on rotation, Annah asked the assembly if any of them wanted to become gods. That was enough for the Rift Walkers, who zapped her repeatedly with a wand of dispel magic. Annah melted into water, revealing a bundle of magical wands primed to trigger. Still more frantic dispel magic stopped them from detonating.

The Rift Walkers wished to head directly into the Untouched, afraid the assassins might run again. Kaneza, the shipwright goliath Lavhik, the celestial-touched healer Mira, and Brunnar were convinced to join the party. Arana, the Firbolg in charge of the Apothecary's Guild, offered up 5 moderate healing potions and 2 potions of poison resistance to the group in support. Illokas and Arrold were also gathered up.

With a veritable unit of powerful allies, the Rift Walkers ventured into the Untouched, utterly unsure of what they would find.

It remains unclear what sort of role Annah Sylveste is playing in all of this.

 

 

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Blood Ties

Vani rushed forward and stabbed Wesson; the young man barely flinched. He  unleashed some sort of hypnotic spell on the party, but Yuna and Vani were able to resist whatever its effects were. They called to Uli to help, but found her unwilling; she seemed to have been enthralled by Wesson and seemed deadset on protecting the stairwell back up to the theater.

An extensive battle began; Ireni and Vani engaged the swarm of creatures under Wesson's command while Yuna was caught up in a life-or-death grapple with the playwright. He seemed to dislike Yuna on principle, citing that elves had all the time in the world to hone their craft. Wesson also claimed to know who had sent them, and said that it was Elavor's decision to 'embrace and free' him, and that he had sent the Rift Walkers to kill him out of petty jealousy and possessiveness.

Uli grappled and tied up Jade, while Yuna was carried by the throat across the ceiling of the basement by the clearly undead Wesson.  Irini and Vani struggled against his regenerating spawn, who were pinning them in place and feeding on their blood. Irini was able to use her grasping vine spell to catapult her and Vani to the top of the stage, while Yuna rolled past Uli after a well-placed spell from one of Vani's arrows pinned Wesson briefly to the ceiling.

Yuna ran for the door, screaming for help, while Vani and Irini fought against the vampire spawn that had given chase using their uncanny climbing abilities.  Wesson threatened the party by grabbing a restrained Jade, who used his wand of the pact keeper to beseech Belial for one more spell. As Wesson bit him, Jade released a hellish rebuke that severely harmed the previously confident Wesson.  Uli caught up with Yuna and grabbed her, prompting a drawn out struggle. 

Irini began incinerating vampire spawn with moonbeam, using her magic to fry Wesson and allow Yuna to finish him off with a desperate firebolt. Wesson turned into mist and began sinking into the basement of the theater while the party dispatched the rest of the vampire spawn. Irini and Vani tracked Wesson down to his coffin-crate and brought a moonbeam to bear, destroying him completely and leaving only a skeleton behind.

Yuna and Uli pantomimed an argument when a guard and a concerned passerby arrived at the theater. The party found a strongbox inside of Wesson's coffin with a large amount of gold and several items;  a magical dagger with the artists' guild crest,  a magical raven icon, a hat of disguise, and a ring of mind shielding.

The party returned to their room in the Velvet Voice and tried to get some sleep, only to be interrupted by a mangled corpse getting hurled through their window.  It had a present-style bow on its head and a coin pouch stuffed into its mouth. A strange magical sigil was carved into the corpse's hand, emanating a magical aura in Jade's magic eye.

Fearing another magical explosion, the party evacuated the building and called Brunnar. Yuna followed him back up to the room, striking up conversation about the Artists' guild. He revealed that a cleric, upon learning that the Guild was run by vampires, barged into their headquarters and was ripped apart. Kaneza had a lengthy meeting with Fringilla Corvi, and things managed to settle down.  Brunnar did not approve of the Artists taking control of the rift; Fringilla could spend 500 years studying the rift at her leisure, consolidating power slowly until she was a true danger to everyone around her.

Brunnar searched the corpse, noting it had concealed weapons and was missing a tongue, a clear calling card for the assassins. The man's throat was ripped out and all blood was drained from his body. The pouch in his mouth contained a pouch with 25 platinum pieces; the rest of Elavor Corvi's payment. Brunnar checked the hand, hoping it was inert since the assassin did not use it to defend himself from his attacker. The party removed the hand and took it with them.

The party chose to sleep in the basement of the adventurer's guild, asking Arrold to identify the magic items for them. Yuna attuned the ring of mind shielding to find that it contained the soul of Barvoril, the late husband of Fringilla Corvi.

Barvoril's story was a sad one; a moon elf artisan hailing from Issylria, he met Fringilla through her architectural studies. They had a whirlwind romance and wed after a year, having two children.  Fringilla was the descendant of the man who tried to rebuild the Lost City of Junia, Fiernzo Holland. She was a passionate architect, and her dream was to restore her dissipated family name and status by properly restoring Junia, succeeding where her ancestor had failed.  Her dream of witnessing her children set foot in the corrupted city became an obsession, one that led her into the embrace of a Vampire. Before Barvoril could stop it, she had turned his children as well, entering into the creature's service. 

Barvoril crafted the ring of mind shielding to combat the creature, but was unprepared for its might and was slain. The ring passed into the posession of his vampiric family until their master was presumably destroyed, granting Fringilla and her children freedom from his thrall.  They then began establishing a power base in Priem, slowly collecting wealth, power, and magical items for their work ahead.

Barvoril said he dared not communicate with his undead family through the ring that had trapped his soul, and so remained in isolation for over 400 years, waiting for someone else to come into possession of the ring.  Yuna allowed Barvoril to see through her eyes ,and was amazed to recognize the features of the Queen of Issylria.  He explained that he refused to depart for the afterlife while his family was still 'alive'. He hopes to one day see them released from their terrible curse so that their souls may find peace.

Yuna filled Barvoril in on the details of their quest.  The next morning, the city was abuzz with the news that An'seath, the green dragonborn who ran the poison shop they'd visited, had been killed. The shop had been looted, and her drow assistant Invoro was nowhere to be found.

Putting Wesson to rest, the Rift Walkers have unwittingly confronted a tragedy four centuries in the making.

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Performances and Lies

The party met the enigmatic Fringilla Corvi, head of the Artists' Guild, who looked just as young as she did in her portrait.  She let the Rift Walkers know she'd already heard of them. The party discussed the Rift with her, and she agreed that it should be taken out of the Messenger Guild's hands.  Fringilla suggested that her guild should control it; she says she has a great eye for people and would not let anyone untoward study the rift.

The party also probed about Wesson, her son Elavor's friend. She described him as highly creative and driven to create art, and brushed off concerns about his dalliances as being part of an artistic temperment. Fringilla confirmed that Wesson was her son's friend, and that her daughter Fernanda, a realism sculptor and mage student, did not know him well. She seemed gently suspicious about why he was brought up. 

The party discussed what was going on with Wesson and the Artists at length, with Belial laughing heartily the entire time, as if he saw a joke no one else did. Uli went to the gallery of the half-elf at the orphanage and purchased a discounted portrait of a cow he did.

The party then met Illokas in his office in the Citadel. Though he now understood the rifts as actual portals, further research would be needed to gain insight on them. They informed him of the attack on Kaneza and taught him their secret time-color code. When asked about the artists, Illokas made it clear that it would be best not to mess with them, and told them it would be best for them to be in the dark about their true nature if they were going to call a guild meeting in good faith.

The party traveled to the Bards' guild next, finding the playhouse Wesson had purchased. They found a teenager taking tickets and asked a few questions, eventually learning the whereabouts of his home, a dormlike low-cost housing building called The Velvet Voice.

Ireni became a mouse and let the party into Wesson's third story apartment. It was a small room with nothing in particular hidden, aside from Wesson's savings hidden inside a hollowed-out book. On his desk, the party found a folio of reviews of Wessons' poetry and plays, with many highlights and markings made. They also found a bust of his face with the inscription "To my muse, with affection -E".  The party discussed Elavor Corvi's involvement with Wesson.

The Rift  Walkers rented an apartment on the 5th floor of the building and grabbed dinner before heading to Wesson's play. Ireni assumed her mouse form, holding most of the party's more visible weapons to avoid drawing undue attention.  The play was strange, short,  experimental, and anticlimactic, featuring only Wesson and a halfling named Danna Thatchwell as the two modron leads.

The party went backstage after the performance and met Wesson, who said he was striving to break new ground with his plays by writing from the alien psychology of extraplanar beings. Danna revealed herself to be a transplant from a small town and writer of a self-help book called "But I only know livestock: getting started on your dreams from scratch."  Vani purchased the book and got her signature, eventually seeing her outside and working up a rapport with her. Danna didn't think badly of Wesson, and had never heard anything particularly negative about him.

Irini, still in mouse form, searched the theater's dressing room, then went down a trap door to the cellar beneath the stage. She found eight crates filled with earth, seven of which were occupied by figures that looked dead. Upon examining one of them closely, Irini found the dwarf within was very much 'alive', and it attempted to grab her with a clawed hand. Irini hid beneath a crate while the dwarf shambled about for a moment, then returned to its rest. 

Meanwhile, Wesson was amicable and answered the party's questions, and said he purchased the theater from a dwarf who was leaving town. He spoke one-on-one with Uli for a little. The party used sleight of hand to get him to drink the whiskey he offered everyone, but it did not seem to affect him. Vani felt him attempt to use some sort of spell or strange power on her in an attempt to get her to stand on a trapdoor atop the stage, the same one that would drop her directly into the basement.

After some uncomfortable conversational maneuvering, the party ended up following Wesson down the cellar trapdoor; Wesson whispered something to Uli before he descended. He spotted Irini in the middle of the room, sighed, and began casting some sort of spell on the stairwell. Vani rushed forward to stop him.

 

Uli knows good art when she sees it.

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Loose Ends

The party tracked the Catoblepas to its cave. The caveside pond was thick with rotting trees and the bones of the creature's many victims. Above its lair was a hill with a strange cottage and animal pen.

The party took an extremely magical approach to the encounter, using water walk and a swarm of owls to engage the monster without nearing it. It fled into its cave, prompting Yuna and Jade to enter with what was left of the giant owls. Through Vani's magic, the party learned the cave was home to another catoblepas, as well as a juvenile one. Yuna was able to endure the Death Ray from the uninjured beast and managed to stun it, setting up Jade to deliver a fireball.

Meanwhile, Ireni and Uli flew up to the hut on their owls. The pair found an inert earth elemental clutching the bones of some sort of humanoid monster in the destroyed pen; a fight seemed to have happened there long a go, creating a hole in the back of the cottage and smashing apart the side of the pen. 

Uli returned to finish off the Catoblepas. Vani attempted to remove the eyes of the only intact carcass, the fireball having cooked the first beast and its child. Unfortunately, she was unsuccessful, damaging the creature's eyes in the process. The party returned to examine the hut in more detail; Ireni noticed the pen was like a magical electric fence, imbued with a bastardized form of the spell Power Word: Stun.  They found a ring of desiccated human ears in a lockbox near the hut's ratty bed, and what looked like alchemy supplies and a book with all of its pages torn from its binding. Jade found a magical cloak that could change its color and design hanging from the coat rack.

The party delivered the heads of the Catoblepas to Kess, who grudgingly agreed to support the Rift Walkers at a guild meeting if the forest proved free of their influence. Ireni promised to revive the swamps with her magic the next morning.

The Rift Walkers then returned to the Adventurer's Guild to find it partially burnt down. Arrold explained what had happened, and a wounded but still living Kaneza may have given away a hint that the Bhaal Avatar had disguised himself as Vani. The group decided on code phrases to confirm each other's identity, answering a question about the current time with a color. Kaneza said she would still stay at the guild, but would sleep in the basement from now on. An upset Vani returned Kaneza's symbol of Yondalla to her, and Kaneza informed Uli that Maximus II sadly perished in the fire.

The party visited Brunnar next. His office was locked, but a silhouette could be seen through the window. Ireni, transforming into a mouse, discovered that it was a dummy, and that the real Brunnar was lying in ambush, stunning her. After using a wand of detect magic, he apologized and released her, letting the party in.  Brunnar said that going to ground slowed his investigation, forcing him to change up the hours he'd leave his office every day. He said he often visited the Barrister's guild, trying to slow an innocent verdict on Annah Sylveste.  The party told him of their new code system, and Brunnar mused on if his decoy dummy could use a hat. He's still thinking it over.

The party then went to the Artists' guild, hoping to bring Elavor Corvi's mistakes to light to his mother, gaining her favor at a guild meeting. They decided it was worth the risk of breaking their word, having already accepted 25 platinum pieces from him in advance for their secrecy.

The artist's guild turned out to be a strange place; deeply embellished architecture was everywhere, and the guild headquarters turned out to be a windowless castle with the image of another city block etched into the stone with such detail it looked as if one could step into it. There was also an orphanage that seemed to be funded directly by Fringilla Corvi, Elavor's mother and the leader of the Artists' Guild. Yuna learned from an attendant that Fringilla's husband, a Moon Elf from Issylria, is not present in the city, suggesting some sort of separation.

The interior of the guild headquarters was equally strange; it was a large, red-carpeted lounge with magical lighting, connected to a massive dining hall from which attendants were serving drinks. A halfling perpetually played sonatas on a piano while an attendant delivered the Rift Walkers' request for a meeting to Fringilla. The party found the entire district very strange and refused all offers of refreshment while they waited.

After an hour of waiting, the party finally was led deeper into the castle,  ascending as massive staircase overlooked by three massive portaits of the Corvi Family; Fringilla was clearly a human, but her children were both half elves, looking quite different from their mother in both facial structure and complexion.  Jade noticed the paintings were enchanted with some sort of abjuration spell.

The party was led into a spacious lounge with high backed chairs lit by a fireplace. A woman with her back to the party took a puff from a slender cigarette and welcomed them.

 

The Artists' castle seems to be teetering on the threshold between decadent and threatening.

 

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Precious Minutes

The Rift Walkers rested in Edna's office for an hour. Brunnar said he would try and keep himself around other people and went to delay the closure of the case against Annah Sylveste.

The party stopped by the Rift and spoke to Illokas, who explained that the Rifts were behaving like portals, and could be entered. Ireni and Vani teamed up to send a giant vulture probe into the rift, with Ireni summoning and giving it orders to return while Vani used her ranger magic to see through its eyes. The vulture indeed made it through, and was in some sort of semi-physical space of existence, but it was so difficult to comprehend that Vani was hit by a wave of psychic damage trying to hold images of the Far Realm in her mind. She had the impression that there were entities existing out in the Far Realm. 

Illokas heeded the party's warnings and promised to teleport back to his study in the Wizards' citadel instead of walking. He admitted he had no safe way to travel back to the site of the rift, but promised he would cast protective magic on himself when traveling.

Next, the party stopped by Ireni's ship. She found some of the crew scheduled for guard duty away from their posts (Vani saw several fresh from some sort of wild party at a nearby tavern passing by).  Ireni befriended Jaxon, one of the older sailors still holding down his post, who was confused by her lack of disciplinary measures. He promised to be careful and tell the crew to stay cautious.

The party then met the hulking goliath Lavhik Irongrip, head of the Shipwrights' guild. Lavhik valued forthrightness and wasn't receptive to the party's attempts to win him over. However, he did seem interested in speaking to Kaneza, whom he respects, to learn of the party's deeds and get a better picture of them. 

After stopping in to warn Kaneza and Arrold that the Assassins may be hunting them down, the party went to the Healers' Guild and managed to gain access to its leader through their reputation for rooting out the source of the plague that had created the Untouched district of Priem.

The Rift Walkers were surprised to find that Mira, the head of the Healer's Guild, was but a young girl of 12, completely blind. She looked human, but from head to toe the coloration of her entire seemed washed out and ghostly, like she was in the process of fading into a black and white silhouette.  Mira was able to fix some of the head trauma Vani had sustained looking into the rift with a single surgical maneuver.

When asked how she could detect injuries and perform surgery, she explained that a being called 'Saniel' communicates with her, and that she was gradually learning to master his teachings herself. Saniel claims to want to help people, and had chosen Mira to help her do so. When asked how she became the leader of the guild, she said the previous leader, Amo, chose her to succeed him before he passed away, claiming that he knew she would do good with the guild.

Mira was greatly disturbed by Vani's doomsday vision, but was calmed down and agreed to help the party if Kaneza called a guild meeting. Belial asked Jade to get a drop of Mira's blood, but grew irritable when he told the rest of the party about his request and turned it into an order. Jade negotiated him down to getting a drop of blood before he left Priem, instead of immediately. The warlock was not optimistic after failing to persuade Mira to give him a drop of her blood voluntarily.

The party spent an hour traveling to the temple of Waukeen while doing a double-piggyback atop Yuna atop Uli. A scrying orb appeared and seemed rather confused at the situation, dissipating after the party waited out its duration. Yuna stopped into the temple of the elven gods and meditated, with Uli trying to join her but having trouble controlling her rage. The Rift Walkers secured an audience with the head cleric of the Temple of Waukeen, the Earth Genasi Keri Vas'Kai.

Keri was less eager to help than Mira. While she acknowledged that the devil Opal's attempts to bring Priem under Mammon's sway was a grave threat, she wondered if the Rift could be used for good as well. She said she would not be against the party's efforts to deal with the Rift, she couldn't support something like locking it down to only specific people; each guild would demand some sort of access and the delicate balance of power in Priem could break down.  Keri also promised to send a well-armed team to investigate the site of the Assassins' Guild hideout.

Keri also filled Irini in on her origins; she was the daughter of a human woman and a Dao, an earth Djinn that ruled over a portion of the actual elemental plane of earth.  She was surprised to learn Ireni was not the child of a Marid, a water elemental djinn. She did not know genasi could be created by other means, and asked if Ireni was a conduit for elemental chaos or some other powerful force.

Keri also spoke of Sigil and the Great Market, two planes near the center of the multiverse through which she traveled to escape the stifling rule of her father. She became a cleric of Waukeen after encountering her clergy at the Great Market, and was deeply interested in the impartial nature of coin and trade she espoused. Keri claimed that you could get anywhere in the multiverse through Sigil.

The party then headed to The Respite, a small, tenebrous bar that overlooked the Long Market. After some time, a handsome and extremely foppish half-elf (moon elf) approached the party and introduced himself as Elavor Corvi, son of the head of the Artists' Guild, Fringilla Corvi.  Elavor seemed very concerned with discretion, even offering to pay 25 platinum pieces in advance to bind the party to secrecy. He claimed his close friend Wesson, an actor and playwright, had possibly started murdering people. He claimed to have seen Wesson taking fans into his home and leaving without them.

He informed the party that Wesson recently bought a theater in the Bard's Guild's territory after the owner had mysteriously disappeared. His latest play, written, acted, and directed by him,  "An Accidental Lunch Break on Mechanus" is currently being performed at this theater. He and a halfling named "Danna Thatchwell" were billed as the main actors.

The Rift Walkers didn't think Elavor was telling them the whole story, and that it was suspicious that the young man no longer cared about Wesson's safety. When pressed, Elavor admitted that he may have let Wesson consume or absorb some sort of family artifact belonging to his mother. He admitted it was possible the formerly scrawny and non-confrontational bard had been embolded by a newfound power of regeneration and had begun acting maliciously. It is possible he is now resistant to physical damage, and even some magic. Elavor said he didn't trust that Wesson would be convicted by the Bard's guild, as he was very charismatic, and that Elavor selfishly did not want any of this to blow back on his family, the Artists' guild, or get him into huge trouble with his mother or sister.

The party eventually accepted the payment and promised Elavor they would deal with Wesson within the next 3 days.  Irini, ticked off that Elavor seemed to be underestimating her, tried to scare him by turning her head into a wolf's. Elavor did not seem phased.

The party slept and returned to the temple of Waukeen, paying 50 gold each to have Death Ward cast upon them in preparation to fight the Catoblepas. They departed for the swamps with a team of 8 trained scouts provided by Kess to watch their perimeter.

In the meantime, a double of Vani had lured Kaneza into her room. Kaneza realized just in time that the double was not the genuine article because of a detail in the imposter's speech. That did not save her from several venomed crossbow bolts from a second murderer waiting by her window. Unlikely, a surprised and scared Arrold was able to distract the skull-faced assassin with a powerful fireball, scorching the rest of the rift-infused assassin's face off.  The assassins were forced to retreat as Kaneza stumbled into the main lobby of the now burning Adventurer's Guild, barely alive.

Have the Assassins simply scattered, or are they consolidating elsewhere? Is there anywhere safe from them?

 

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A Tipping Point

The party emerged from the makeup shop and went to the market to pick up some drinks. Ireni found herself with a gourd of incredibly potent dwarvish liquor that seemed to have medicinal properties…it also got her drunk very quickly.

The party talked a bit with Kaneza. Yuna told her that Vani could use her support, hoping to goad her into a romantic tryst. <s>After a Hard Gay Roll </s>It seemed as if Kaneza might not be interested in women. Jade's devil eye noticed a scrying orb appear, and the party promptly banished it with the Dispel Magic wand Illokas had loaned them.

The party got some sleep and headed out to Kess, using Ireni's enhance ability to improve Yuna's persuasiveness. The party offered to use Ireni's druidic power to heal the swampland after the Catoblepas was slain in exchange for Kess dispatching scouts to watch the party's back while they hunted the creature. Kess agreed <s>despite her Hard Gay Roll not inclining her to female elves.</s>

The party met up with Brunnar at his office. He said the investigation had concluded, and that most of the evidence against Annah Slyveste was too circumstantial to make a concrete claim that she was part of some grand conspiracy. Annah claimed that one of her high-ranking understudies, Welkin Shiv, was responsible for manufacturing the items, using her credentials without permission. The gnome vanished a day ago; Annah claimed that Welkin had broken into her portal chambers and fled to another plane.

In addition, Brunnar said the evidence lockup with the canister and ledger was broken into last night; Brunnar told the party he had switched the contents of the box with a large rock and hidden the actual evidence somewhere else. He was also obligated to inform the party Annah was willing to pay the party 80 platinum pieces in way of apology for the trouble her understudy had caused in exchange for their signatures in support of her version of events.

The party filled Brunnar in on what they'd learned about the rifts. Though skeptical, Brunnar certainly suspected the involvement of the assassins' guild and told the party he planned to investigate the one place he knew they had a presence; a small building at the edge of the temple district that had a reputation for being highly dangerous to investigate, as well as a means to pay the guild to commit to a hit job.

The party agreed to go with Brunnar, with Yuna striking up a flirty conversation <s>after the Hard Gay Roll turned up in her favor.  </s>Brunnar seemed well disposed to the princess and explained he was from the continent of Pilea, the offspring of a human and an orc that occurred during the dying stages of lengthy territory conflict in that continent's history.  His youth was not pleasant, and he left home at a young age to find a better life. He apparently learned his many talents through others he'd met in his travels.

The building turned out to house some sort of dummy or corpse dressed in fine clothing and clad in a mask. Jade detected a hidden trapdoor on the floor, which Brunnar subsequently broke into. The party plunged into the earth and found a lodging hall of some sort, one that was empty but showed signs of recent use. Deeper inside, they also found a laboratory/armory with two corpses in the process of being modified by the assassins; the two bodies were mangled by surgical procedures but were somehow still alive in a comatose state.

Following a forboding staircase about a hundred feet deeper underground, the party came upon a baffling chamber that housed an assassin whose head was nothing but a skull with a glowing point of light inside it.  A rift insect emerged from this being into an assassin that was kneeling before him. Walls snapped shut in front of this strange scene. The party noticed a symbol on the altar, a skull surrounded by blood drops, the sign of the dead god of murder, Bhaal. Another assassin barred the party's path back up the steps.

The Rift Walkers soon learned this was a distraction, as the Bhaal avatar and numerous assassins fired crossbows through illusionary walls on either side of the chamber. Jade was nearly killed, and it took the combined efforts of the party to flee back up the steps. The party regrouped in the Barrister's guild, and borrowed Edna's office to plan their next move.

The Assassins want the rift. Will finding proof of their designs spur them into drastic action?

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By a Thread

Uli's soul briefly resided on Mount Celestia, freed from worldly memories as a petitioner on the plane. Ripped from her place of planar rest, Uli had audience with the Goddess Waukeen, who informed her that resurrection is dangerous for her soul. She was, however, impressed with the offering of gold her friends had put up to revive her, and offered to return Uli to life. Uli agreed, citing that she still had things to do, and that Mount Celestia felt too perfect for her.

Uli returned to her body in shocking fashion, hit anew with the fear and pain she felt at the moment of her death. Some of the damage would never heal through normal means (-1 Con/-1Cha, mechanically) and Uli found that she had a reduced capacity to eat. She also lacked a strong sense of taste and smell. The party rested in a meditation chamber of the Temple for an hour. They were silent for some time, but eventually emotions boiled over. Uli apologized as best she could, but did not meet the strong emotions of the rest of the group.

Upon leaving the temple, the party's main concern was the safety of Arrold, who had helped them with knowledge about Annah Sylveste, a halfling wizard who they were sure meant them harm through the Assassin's Guild.  On the way,  Ireni made a blood sacrifice to the Queen of the Depths, Umberlee, and Vani stopped briefly into the temple of Yondalla as they traveled through the temple district.

The Rift Walkers then headed to the Foamtop tavern and convinced Arrold to quit his job and move to the adventurer's guild to keep him safe. Arrold was convinced after casting detect magic and noticing a scrying eye in the air around the party. Vani grabbed his important items before rushing out. 

The party got cleaned up at the Adventurer's Guild, and Kaneza put Arrold to work on odd jobs. Uli's dog, Maximus II, didn't take to his old master because of her different appearance and smell.

The next day, the party contacted Patches, who took them to a forgery workshop disguised as a fish drying shop. For a fee, he used high-quality parchment and ink to add authenticity to the Gilded Demon's signature. With this document, the party just barely managed to convince the Kenku securing the rift that they were there on "Lady Opal"'s orders, granting them 3 days of access to the rift. 

Illokas, the demonologist and planar investigator that had gotten them , joined them on their invitation and followed them into the rift warehouse. The party began investigating. Vani noticed a strange blip inside the rift and approached it. She kept moving closer to the blip, which turned out to be invisible to everyone else there. Vani was impacted by a vision of someone falling into water while clutching something in their hand, followed by the image of an enormous wave swallowing up the world, emanating from the south of the world near the Moonshaes isles.  Vani drew the vision, and Ireni realized that when she was knocked from her ship before she became a water genasi, she was clutching a piece of her ship railing. Yuna used the canister developed by the Volgs and captured a small, seahorse like creature from the rift inside of it.

Despite the cautioning of the rest of the party , Vani kept investigating the rift, moving closer and closer until she could have inclined her head and touched its core. Her consciousness connected with the Far Realm, and Vani realized she could tap into the very stuff of the cosmos at the risk of her psyche. She willed herself to look into the truth behind the rifts, and why they were cropping up in the first place.

Vani was taken to millions of years in the past, when the world was an unformed soup of potential. A race of eel-like creatures were the first entities to exist, and sculpted the world around them with their minds. As new races emerged, along with their gods, the world was given a newfound physicality and structure that saw these original creatures' powers wane. This old world was far larger than the one Vani knew; more technically advanced, safer, and with far more vibrant art and culture, supporting a population many times larger than current civilizations.

For a millennia, the aquatic creatures schemed to return the world back to its nascent state and regain their old power. Eventually, the waged a lengthy campaign to control sites of planar intersection and hordes of magical items to orchestrate the collapse of multiverse back into its primordial state.  Covert action culminated in a years long war against the mortal world, with the sea creatures fielding armies of constructs, thralls, and magically bound extraplanar entities to do their bidding.  When the stars were right, the creatures sent precise magical surges through the places of power around the planes, tearing the fabric of space and time itself.

Just enough of their plan was disrupted by the efforts of countless heroes to stop total dissolution of the universe. The consequences of these rifts being opened were dire, however; billions died, and the world was irrevocably reshaped. It would take another millennia for the scraps of the mortal races to begin to gain a foothold again, now in a more isolated, treacherous world that bore little resemblance to the realms of their ancestors.

Vani saw that the creatures were simply biding their time to finish the job, this time taking great pains to remain unchecked and reconsolidate their power. They began whispering to mortals, prompting the creation of the now long dead queendom of Junia. The city is serving as some sort of focus or beacon that is integral to the creatures' plans.

Vani emerged from her trance roiling with energy from the Far Realm, her mind almost shattered by the contact. Her body was broken down and reassembled from its smallest elements before catching purple fire and sending a catatonic Vani tumbling to the floor on the precipice of death.

The party saw to Vani, but she awoke to see Yuna without skin, Belial standing over Jade, the tattered glow of Uli's soul, and Irini sporting the visage of one of the aquatic monsters that had so nearly brought ruin to the world. It took much effort to calm her down and assure her that Irini was not some sort of agent of these creatures. She began drawing in her sketchbook, filling in a map of a world that hasn't existed for a million years and sketching out one of the monsters she'd seen.

Illokas had been taking notes on this phenomenon, which prompted a hostile reaction from Vani. Eventually, she let him continue taking notes and the party filled him in on the more current problem of Annah Slyveste. Illokas said he would study the rift while the party saw to the immediate danger. He also lent them a wand of dispel magic (5 charges, regains 1d4 at dawn). Unfortunately, he had no idea what the creature in Vani's sketchbook was.

The highly rattled party then went to go see Kess, trying to get the hunter's guild leader on their side. She was hardly convinced, and finally agreed to cooperation of the party slew the Catoblepas without her help, not wanting to lose any more of her hunters to the beast. She bade the party to bring her the monster's head as proof they'd done the deed.

Next, the party traveled to meet Brunnar Ulk to see how his investigation was proceeding, but Yuna spotted the boy that had been following Uli a few days before tailing them. They caught the boy and interrogated him in an alley, no easy task since he had clearly been trained to resist interrogation; he also lacked a tounge. He tried to attack the party numerous times, and was eventually stripped of a vial of poison, an assassin's guild coin, and a small knife. He was eventually coerced to draw a sketch of Annah, a rift insect, and said rift insect inside the eye socket of a skull. The party split up to  bring the evidence to the Barristers' guild while the other half discussed ways to transport the boy to the guildhall without being stopped.

They had spent too long deciding on a course of action, however, and a man in a cloak passed by the alley and sent a poisoned crossbow bolt into the child's neck. Frustrated, the group made for the Courtesan's guild, hoping to get some support from Rommeni, who they knew to be a Planetar of Sune, the goddess of beauty.

After Uli's scar prompted her to hand out a makeup voucher, they had trouble getting a direct pledge of cooperation from Rommeni, who saw the rift as having as much potential as danger held within it. Vani showed Rommeni her map of the old world; as an angel, she might have existed during that time. Rommeni grew distant and full of awe, as if trying to remember something splendid. She suddenly became very receptive to the idea of guarding the rift, muttering to herself about what she'd do to protect it. Vani asked her to go ahead and protect it, but as she began a transformation into her angel form, a rose-quartz colored planetar with peacock-styled wings, everyone quickly realized she meant to protect it by levelling Priem and letting no one near it for miles.

Frantic pleading and shouting began, with even Belial yelling at Jade in panic to stop her. Irini begged the planetar not to act, as in doing so she would be destroying much beauty in the process, pointing to Yuna. Yuna just managed to keep her composure against the angel's gaze, and her wrath was averted. A bitter and cold Rommeni bade the party to leave, saying she would be present if they called a guild meeting.

Their minds burdened with the potential of assassination, divine wrath, and the complete dissolution of the multiverse, the Rift Walkers proceeded to go cash in their makeup coupon.

Could these creatures truly have survived for millennia, ready once again to try and reduce the multiverse to a primordial state? How much have they studied and gained mastery over the Far Realm in the meantime?

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Rift Walkers paid a visit to a very drunk Arrold to see if he had any means of identifying the mysterious package they had received. He did not know the spell, and vomited when he was told that his dream visions were referring to a gilded demon attempting to drag Priem to the Nine Hells with the help of the rift's power. For identifying the package, Arrold suggested one of the many shops that dealt in magical work that had cropped up around the academy.

The party entered a magical stationary and spellbook store and asked the proprietor if she could cast identify on the box. The gnome said she'd need to actually touch the magical object within the box, prompting a discussion among the party about what to do next. With multiple ideas being thrown around and no progress being made, Ireni opened the box. A 6th-level fireball engulfed the store, killing the shopkeep and 4 customers. The magical paper created firework-like sparks that exploded from the shop on a wave of shattered glass.

Mage-knights in the employ of the academy arrived on the scene and placed the party under guard. Eventually, Brunnar Ulk, the bounty hunter under the employ of the Barrister's Guild that the party had met previously, took a guilty looking Ireni for a walk after she offered to accept the blame for the incident in full.

After a lengthy interrogation process, and a misunderstanding that resulted in a brief fistfight between an unnerved Yuna and Brunnar, the party gave the bounty hunter the full story behind the box. They agreed to turn over the cylinder they’d found in the Untouched district as well as the records from Olwin’s Clockworks that proved Annah Sylveste had commissioned the device. Brunnar explained that with all of this evidence, he could convince his superiors to hold off on judgement of the party, and said they were free to go for the time being.

The party handled the grief of the incident in different ways; Vani spent some time with Kaneza, who left her a battered coin depicting the Halfing goddess of bounty, Yondalla. Ireni wandered the temple district, eventually falling in with the temple of Illmater and giving a sizeable donation to their coffers. She spent a long time with the priest of Illmater, learning the basic tenets of the religion. Yuna stopped in at a small elven temple that had iconography of Corellion, Sethanine, and Eilisatree, then went to talk with Arana about the Catoblepas. The firbolg gave her a powerful healing potion, wishing the Rift Walkers luck in destroying the walking blight against nature.

In the meantime, Uli snuck from the city into the swamps, intent on slaying the monster herself in her grief. She did not find the Catoblepas; rather, she stumbled upon a nest of Skitterhaunts, sentient oozes that had possessed a giant beetle, a bear, and the corpses of the two hunter’s guild apprentices that were goaded into the swamps by An’Seath’s offer of payment for the Catoblepas’ eyes.  Uli was slain fleeing  the creatures after attempting to kill them. Her magical sword, Chimera, sunk into the swamps.

Yuna visited the hunter’s guild and talked to Kess, who was not at all well-disposed to Uli or the party after she had seen her bargaining with An’Seath. She eventually mentioned she saw Uli heading out into the swamps alone. Yuna rushed through the city and rallied the rest of the party. Begging Kaneza for some sort of help, the party was overjoyed to have her join their ranks for their rescue mission.

An hour behind Uli and still exhausted from the fight with the Gilded Devil, the party combed the swamps, using Maximus II, Ireni in wolf form, and Vani’s skill with pathfinding.  Vani picked up one of the fallen hunter’s guild pins. Eventually they found the swamp Uli had perished in, and underwent a grueling battle to recover Uli’s ooze-reanimated corpse from the swamps. After several near-death incidents, the party managed to hog-tie Uli and drag her back to the city. They gathered the 1500 gold needed to pay for a ressurection ritual and solemnly made their way towards the temple of Waukeen.

 

How much will Uli remember of the grueling moments leading up to her death?

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