Threads of Invasion

Scales People and Pointy Tongues

Having searched the bodies and found 8 Boneshard daggers we wend of in search of the Vanguard of Girtos. On the road we decided on a name for our merry group – The Company of the Dragon Prophet.

After a while we came across another adventuring group heading the other way. They seemed a little shifty but otherwise ok. They didn’t have a lot of information about our destination as they had skirted Vehlag. They did tell us that there was a leader called Skarn.

Approaching Vehlag we were confronted by a roadblock manned by what we thought were brigands. They demanded the usual to which we laughed, after a while after we fairly offered them their lives they attacked. 3 or 4 of their members were quite tough including two on horseback, the rest were sword fodder! We put a dent into their numbers and they fled like the cowards they were.

The brigands did tell us that they were the protectors of Vehlag and led by one Skarn!

We carried on and came to a split in the road – one side going to a town – we assumed Vehlag and the other to a inhabited swamp. I was in favour of going to the swamp as I felt that the town had shown its colours with the brigands, a point reinforced by the tracks of the fleeing cowards. Wiser thoughts prevailed with my good friend Whiskey and so we went to the town.

The town is a nice enough place for these parts inhabited by people in a bit of a tizzy. Their leader a woman called Vlane said they had been attacked by Snaketounges – snake like people and many villages taken off. A brave town member her daughter Kyla Falstorm was giving chase. We also found out that those cowardly brigands were supposed to be protecting the town and Skarn came from the town – very odd!

We decided that speed was the key and headed off after the snake people. We caught up with them after doing double speed – but close to the swamp! We attacked immediately – I charged into the middle of the enemy to stop them escaping with the townfolk (who were strapped to two lumbering giant lizards).

It was a great fight – I was surrounded for much of it so had plenty of targets – and thanks to Whiskey recovered after being knocked over! The rest of the team all did well and the new guys Jet seemed to run around a lot but was very effective!

Towards the end of the fight a your woman Kyra came to help.

Feeling good and having caught the lizards with the townfolk we noticed a stirring coming from the core of the swamp. Suddenly the sky filled with arrows. I am not sure what the others were doing, I hurdled onto a lizard, put my heels into it and headed out as fast as I could – it was a blur with arrows hitting the lizard the people and just missing me. Fortunately most of us got out.

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Swampy marshes
Aal’Drsh, Schmaal’Drsh...
Right, well, where are we, let’s see…

Whiskey has declared democracy on Adakmi and has met with fair success. Aided – more or less – by Jet (aka Nightwishes) and not hindered by Klang as such, Whiskeys reforms have been implemented fairly widely. Everyone has a vote – more or less – and some of the populace who were not so sure if votin’ and sharin’ are Good Ideas have been brought to heel. After the festivities are over a half-way reasonable town council has been toasted … er, I mean voted in, and things are looking a whole lot more positive than a couple of weeks ago. If you live in Adakmi, anyway.

The Silver Flame delegation has swept into town for a few days, interviewed surviving party members capable of coherent conversation (i.e. Whiskey), taken charge of a few heads, taken a vacation up to the Pillars, taken possession of a chapel and renovated it and then swept out again – sàns one dragonborn of dubious mien who has been detailed to assist Whiskey in his endeavours going forward. (Authors note: quite why the Silver Flame assume an infernal hexblade of all things is the right man for this job really should provoke some thought. But it probably won’t).

Whiskey meanwhile has got Very Tired of Adakmi and is keen to go visit a collection of hovels to the west called Yrlag. Ostensibly this is a trade mission but quite frankly despite the antics of Jet, Adakmi is yawn city and even a night staring a camp fire is more exciting. After enlightening the lovely Gatekeeper Emesha on recent events, one evening Whisky packs up everything, sends Salth to fetch his great friend Heyerajj, points Klang in the right direction and they’re off! But wait … where’s Jet? “If she’s worth having, she’ll be along presently” is the confident prediction.

A lovely stroll in the night ensues. Whiskeys coat-of-many-eyes is extremely happy but he is not so much: odd dreams of pillars (like the one in the town square of Adakmi, assumed to be Gatekeeper or similar) and tentacles haunt his sleep. On the bright side, Jet is right there when he wakes up, a great comfort no doubt.

The next day passes peacefully, with just a few surly villagers to distract from the glory of nature out in the wilds of Khorvaire – mmm, mmm, just smell that fresh Droaamy air! After a lovely day walking the party camps for a kip, at which time Whiskeys dreams return. No rest for the good, huh? So the next day the party take a little detour northwards to go play in a swamp, or marsh, or whatever the term is for soggy, muddy ground without trees but WITH a large obelisk in the middle, and more flies than you could shake a stick at. Despite the lack of any prominent “Free Treasure!” sign (an inscription saying “Here lies the Aal’drash sealed in Vvaraak’s name” is plenty close enough) the party investigate and find they can get inside. So of course they do. Jet accidentally rings the scream-bell but does manage to disarm the trap, so let’s call that an acceptable result.

Under the obelisk is a room with doors made of purple “byeshk” metal – which we just know means “aberrant creatures here”. Jet can’t wait to verify that and opens a door, but luckily Whiskey and Salth dispatch the monsters before any real damage is done. Not so luckily, Whiskey is unwilling to wait for that real damage to be done and opens all the other doors at once – and the game is on! Much rude behaviour later Salth (go, Salth!) finally nails the very last one as it seeks to flee the obelisk.

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The Pillars of Light
no good deed goes unpunished

Strangely no-one wanted to be Na’areshs new champion and a brief and rather brutal argument about that ensued. After the inevitable death of the demon the surviving party members (Klang, Whiskey and Salth) looted the place, re-consecrated the altar to the Silver Flame, had a quick snooze and then sneaked out of the temple via a hidden rathole through the mountain. From a safe distance they watched the slow departure of cultists – ex-cultists now – and after making their way back down to the temple village, were able to quickly convert the remainder back to the light side. Everyone then sauntered down to Adakmi, where the townspeople were persuaded to admit the refugees. Vast quantities of talking ensued, enlivened at intervals by brief appearances of the half-elven Nightwishes.

So apart from Deorlyand Rhadamantine regrettably being killed to death things have actually gone quite well. Sure, the balance of a large piece of north Droaam/southern Eldeen Reaches/eastern Shadow Marches has been seriously disrupted (which of course no one will mind about will they) but I wonder – what reward will our brave party now have to face? I mean, receive. What reward will our brave party now receive. Yep, that’s what I meant alright…

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Succession planning
Not all heroes make good endings

All a bit of a blur, but suddenly there we were, deep inside the Pillars of Night. Personally, I never would have believed the others would have had the poise to carry off that degree of subterfuge. I can only assume the cultists had their most obtuse guards on duty.

From an armoury we moved on to a large hallway. Although Rhada was pointlessly determined to explore a very uninteresting rock fall at one end, and Whiskey let himself be blinded (figuratively and literally) by a trapped set of doors at the other, in truth the only feature of interest was a large mosaic depicting the five heads of Tiamat. That’s not to say it was of interest as a work of art. The large dragonshards embedded in it did nothing to improve its artistic merit. Seriously, is religious art ever anything other than overblown and tasteless?

Nevertheless, it was clearly significant. A quick ritual casting by Whiskey (sight now restored) uncovered a secret door. This opened easily enough, revealing a set of oversized stairs that led up to a large chamber. Areas of the chamber were partially sectioned off, affording the cultists who doubtless lay in wait an opportunity for cover and surprise. A rift in the floor presented a further danger.

As expected, we quickly found ourselves under attack. A human marauder appeared from each side of the staircase, and a fiery skeleton and a warforged from behind the partitions. The skeleton succumbed quickly, but a hobgoblin took his place. Nevertheless, with some clever strategic thinking from Whiskey, mighty blows from Rhada and Klang, and smart spellwork from me, all of our foes were eventually accounted for.

A master of melodrama, Jarryn chose that moment to emerge from the shadows. Unsurprisingly, he wanted to boast and pontificate before facing us. He claimed to have become the Voice of Naarash and described the coming fight between us as a rite. Whoever fought and killed the Voice was destined to take his place, just as Jarryn himself had replaced the previous Voice. He explained that the Eye of Naarash, on the altar behind him, was an embodiment of Tiamat.

Naturally, we all had to see this wonder. It turned out to be a large red crystal with an embedded purple dragonshard. I could tell that it was malevolent and that it incorporated a powerful containment field.

By now Klang could hold back no longer and attacked Jarryn. Jarryn countered and we all joined the fray. Jarryn seemed to have the ability to heal himself by grounding his sword, but with all of us opposing him – though I was directing some of my energy towards destroying the crystal – he fell quickly enough.

At that, the crystal splintered and erupted, and an evil spirit emerged. His words to us confirmed Jarryn’s story: “You have slain my champion. Who among you will take his place?”

My money’s on Whiskey.

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Rhada would be as sweet by any name
Where our heroes penetrate the stronghold of the cult

Crush whispered tentacle again. Tentacle always seemed more active when Whiskey was next to Klang. Maybe it fancied feeling crumpling metal.

Bite hissed tounge as Rhada turned to point out buildings in the distance.
It was a nearly a full days walk from where they had left Glasure and the Moon River. A full day of hiking through bleak, rocky and undulating terrain. There seemed to be no flat ground here, only a half crawl half climb up mountain sides, followed by a half climb half fall down the other side. Whiskey almost preferred the swamps. Almost.

But finally as the sun set they came within sight of the Cult’s stronghold deep in the mountains. Carefully the group crept closer and watched for a couple of hours.
It looked like a partially reconstructed ruin of giants. The buildings were stone and built for beings twice or triple the size even of Klang. Large parts of it had been repaired of converted – perhaps 1000 people could live there easily. There seemed to be about half that number – a mix of humans, golblinoids, dragonborn, tieflings, orcs and half-orcs. Males, females and children. An equal opportunities cult. They might even let Deorly in if she asked nicely. Which she wouldn’t.

Towering over everything was The Pillars of Night – a huge gateway into the mountain side, flanked by two pillars carved from the black stone of the mountain. It might have been his imagination, but Whiskey thought he could see constalations of stars spiralling through them.

Dominate thought Glove as Whiskey watched people move about the Cult’s stronghold. Underneather that though were deeper and darker emotions from murky memories that had begun to rise in Whiskey’s mind of late.
“I’ve become like some warped children’s book – Crush says the tentacle, Bite says the tounge, Dominate says the glove”. At least the eyes were subdued for the moment.

Donning their Cult cloaks the party approached the camp boldly in an attempt to find out what was going on. They were welcomed by ‘a Warden’ in a pretty black sash called Marash Dominate and told to find somewhere to sleep for the night. They’d be assigned duties in Crush the morning.
Wandering the village Bite everything seemed disturbingly normal – almost like any village. But martial training was apparent throughout. Many of the Crush folk had the hard look of those who knew how to handle weapons and would kill without hesitation. The party fitted right in. Bite
By talking with two new comers to the cult Dominate the party learned that only those who had passed the Rite of the Eye Bite were allowed to wear pretty black sashes Crush. Also Jarryn was now the leader of the cult after slaying Larkaz, and dwelt beyond the Gateway.
After some discussion the party decided to bluff their way past the guards Bite and enter the mountain. Rhada was nominated Crush to do the talking. Perhaps unsurprisingly Rhada the stalwart paladin did not turn out to be all that good at pretending to be an evil Dominate cultist. The sticking point in the conversation with the guards came when they wanted to know his name. Rhada seemed to be channelling Deorly and refusing to give his name seemed to make them angry Crush. With things going badly Whiskey took a chance, revealing the armour of eyes, claiming to be The Twenty Eyes of Tiamat and demanded to be admitted _Dominate _. The armour filled Whiskey’s head with anger at the claim to be aligned with Tiamat, but it worked never the less.

Disturbingly the guards were scared that the party was going to see Jarryn at night – and even more disturbingly locked the doors behind us once we were in. Like the camp outside, the chambers behind the Pillars were designed for giants and were partially ruined.
A brief fight with some lumbering animate statues (possibly related to Klang) was necessary to progress deeper into the complex.

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Moon (boat) River

We rested for a time in Adakmi, some relishing the comforts of civilisation whilst others of us sought a way forward to the Pillars of the Night. The residents of this heavily fortified town were unanimous the Black March could no longer provide our road north, with only the river now able to provide a way to follow. We met with Glasur, a half-elf reputed to captain the only remaining moon boat on the river. Although he proved somewhat tired and emotional we eventually arranged passage up river on his craft the “Blacksnake” – a journey reckoned as four days – to the point nearest to the Pillars.
Setting out before dawn the next day, we climbed steadily through fog along the rather decrepit length of the Falls Road. At times strange bird calls echoed in our ears, a sound Whiskey pronounced as probably emanating from harpies rather than any natural beast. Fortunately these sounds dwindled and died before the fog did when at the top of the falls we were treated to both a wide vista out across northern Droaam and the sight of the small harbour wherein the Blacksnake was moored. An elemental-powered cutter some 35’ or so in length, with our equipment and ourselves aboard the Blacksnake ran smoothly up the river at a reasonable pace. Or clip, or rate, or whatever the nautical term is.
Glasur had told us we would pass several villages on the river but could not say how they were faring with the recently increased Red Hand activity: we were to find out towards the end of that first day as we passed burnt out, deserted ruins. Camp was made shortly afterwards in a little backwater off the river, cloaked with an arcane implement of some variety, and despite the grim reminder of the village the night passed peacefully. Glasur and Whiskey found another common interest beyond marine matters, sharing a bottle or two of strong liquor.
The second day and night passed in almost identical fashion to the first, save that the village we passed had not been razed to the ground. Over the course of the voyage we had also learned that these boats were called “moon boats” in honour of the original craft which had been towed by pairs of trained Moon pike, huge piscine entities growing over 20’ in length, and although these were replaced by elementals the name had been retained.
On the third day the lazy tone of our trip changed for the worse when we saw smoke ahead. Landing downriver of where Glasur knew the next village to be, we proceeded quickly to discover that a number of cultists were killing the villagers, burning their houses and dropping litter about. The hobgoblin lackeys were easily dispatched by the party but their dragonborn leader required Klang to extend itself somewhat, while by the grace of the Silver Flame I was able to subdue the and human magic user before he caused much trouble. Once that was dealt with Deorly perhaps accidentally showed her true good nature – but even exerting herself to the utmost was able to save only a single building from the flames. The dozen or so survivors were spoken for by Yrma, and decided to go downriver to Adakmi as the only place anywhere near that could be considered safe. She did mention sighting Jaryn some four months ago, noting he seemed a little crazed.
Leaving the village we headed on once more. That night we again camped by the river, but this time our precautions were in vain as while standing watch, Klang was attacked by a tiefling cultist. This foe proved quite difficult to subdue but working together we once more cut the number of the Red Hand facing us.

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Bigger towns and faceless bad guys

Again we headed north. The land getting more mountainous and hilly. We used a map provided by Shandra from Goldmine and moved forwards with purpose. Our scouting working well as we avoiding a group of bad guys.

After we cam to a funny ruin finding tracks of 4 people. We decided to camp after searching the area. We were joyous when we were approached by a man fitting Jaren’s description. Until he attacked us! with 2 others looking the same. We killed two but one escaped.

We were attached by three shadow hounds on our way north – these were tough and a little hard to hit. However we prevailed.

After a rest we carried on North evading more groups of the enemy. Finally we came upon a large town – very much to all of our surprise. There were things draped on the walls – as we approached these were bodies of our enemies. Taking the rule that an enemy of our enemy is a friend we hailed the town and was welcomed in. It is the town of Adakmi – we were directed to the Captain of the twon one Glasur who filled us in on our enemy.

Apparently we must continue north but to evade the enemies army we must go via a more hidden route – onwards!

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Going North

So we headed North following a small yet noticeable trail. Some of the group complained incessantly for the first 1\2 day something about poisoning – maybe it was that liquid last night? The towns we past were not very friendly but did answer questions – the second had seen Jaren 8 months or so ago. After a while the inhabited towns ran out and we were coming across empty towns. After many days we reached the town of Goldmine, it seemed unusually busy.

A helpful but skittish man called Patrice helped us and we had a roof over our heads. Late at night we were attacked by red cloaked hobgoblins – they seemed tough but died easily. After this fight we found out the truth from Patrice that the town had a ‘deal’ with the Red Hand and shipped things through the town in return for peace – fair enough I guess.

Tomorrow will be another day

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A lull
Time seems to pause...

The mighty heroes tried to continue with their brave quest, but the village seemed to be in the throws of birthday celebrations which prevented them doing anything.

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Red Hand: the menace grows
Blood flows, then alcohol

So that was it for Stormcrow Tor. We got in the landcart and drove away without a backward glance.

And it took but a glance to see that our next destination was not the shinning centre of civilisation we’d been led to expect. Patrahk’n was a collection of hovels and ill-favoured shanties with not so much as a fourth-rate flea-pit inn to boast of (well, not one with any beds, anyway). The only reason the population topped one hundred souls was that an influx of refugees, fleeing forced conversion by cultists of the Red Hand of Narash, had chosen to pitch their tents on the village green. If they thought Patrahk’n was to be their salvation and haven, they were in for a sore disappointment.

Here we were to deliver the landcart to Doria’s fellow-Gatekeeper, one Amisha. But the local publican – a dolt of the first order – provided the information that she was out of town.

With Whiskey and Klang seemingly determined to question everyone within earshot, I took the landcart for a final spin. It was almost like the old days – although of course I would never have got to drive back then.

No sooner had I returned, than a pathetically small force of cultists appeared out of nowhere and attacked the refugees. Though they inflicted some little damage on us in the process, there were only four fighters and a mage and we saw them off after a brief struggle. Naturally the local militia showed up as just as we finished, and Amisha and three of her Gatekeeper cohorts arrived not five minutes later again.

At least Amisha was able to give us better information than the locals. It seems the Red Hand cultists first emerged about five years ago, started to become a problem roughly a year since, and have become much more of threat in the last six months. Doria’s friend Jaryn – the one we had thought to go looking for – disappeared with four companions about the time the cult made their first big surge last year. He was last heard from six months ago, by means of a sending ritual. At that time he reported being deep in the borderlands, at the head of a trail he called the Black Road, and en route for the temple known as the Pillars of Night.

It was all very stirring stuff and when we restated our intention to search for Jaryn, Amisha brought us all drinks.

After that we were attacked by a herd of pink bugbears, Klang turned into a faerie (though I never saw the wizard who did it), and I danced with two giant badgers and a shambling mound who arrived when the band started up.

All in all it wasn’t a bad night.

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