Threads of Invasion

A new threat

In a far off corner of the land a new Red Hand threat looms. An army of hobgoblins it intent on invading the human lands to the east and establishing their perverted religion.

Fortunately a band of stalwart adventurers is there to slow them dowm. A hobgoblin hero with his silent eladrin companion; two stealthy rangers, one a mysterious race from the darkness below, another an elf from Thelanis; a brave elven cleric, a woodsman and a deadly bladesinger.

These brave souls and found out the evil invasion plan through stealth, cunning and knocking a few heads together. After finishing off a minor base and delaying the attack by destroying a key bridge our adventurers now face a greater threat. In the middle of a marsh they found a sunken town being used as a base by the evil Red Hand. The adventurers have stealthily attacked this base and are currently facing a dragon and its rider, ogres, an ettin and a dragoborn.

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What Bragg do today

Grandfather,
As per your instrukshins I am telling you what hell i am up to. Of course you know I catch and kill all unpleasant lizardmen, get to castle, meet other things there and persuade them help Bragg finish lizardmen off properly. After they have little rest of course.

First tell about Eladrin. We go through portal, find dead Eladrin. One talk to the Whiskey (he are one with many eyes in jacket) say, “help us get back our chalice.” Lizardmen steal chalice and other items of Power for use in their ritual. Oh! I forget to say, lizardman are raising thing called “Certrus” back from dead, maybe you know more about this.

So after meeting dead Eladrin we go through another portal and find Ahnild – he are dead, hang from chains on ceiling. Enough are enough, now Bragg are properly angry with lizardmen and anyone who help them. Ahnild and some other dead people guarded by a large thing of many claws, teeth, eyes, ecksetera. Some of party – a “drowe”, a machine thing called a Klang and elf called Jet go through portal first and get chewed up, so Bragg go kill it for them. Everybody stop for little rest (you are just amazed to hear that I bet) and all wring hands about Jet as she looking quite like have been wrestling bears, I are impressed. Maybe I persuade her come visit some time, she know long words just like you. Oh, also forget, Whiskey and Klang are harsh about Eladrin – say get killed easy. This are not what you say, maybe you ask them next time they drop in? The “drowe”, it are quite like Eladrin only have black skin and seem what you say “economical with truth”. You not teach me about drowes so for now I treat it as not a danger to villages, we see.

While hand wringing going on I take look at next floor up, MORE lizardmen, or snakemen maybe, who care, they start fight without asking name or anything. Lucky you teach Bragg always pay attention or this might be bad news! Lizardmen are no huhu but there also snakey haired girl with them that a bit of a handful. Everyone jump in to help. After that little fun we look upstairs again, and there are treasure! Also some doors to somewhere but, of course, you guess, first we have to go have little rest before opening them.

We go back to castle entrance where there are a room with some lizardmen Whisky chattered up into not fighting, apparently they are off endangered species list now. Bragg not forget Ahnild though and he not forget about little Rathoth either, I kill them later when not so busy. On way back we run into more of lizardmen – you maybe accidentally not tell me there are so many? Or maybe you just want to give me nice surprise? Whiskey get in first and kill most of them though, only leave one for me.

Chatty lizardmen say Certrus are definitely coming back now as ritual have gone too far to stop. Jet say “we see about THAT”, I guess we do. You busy, so Bragg deal with it for you unless you think need come help.
Affekshinatly,
Bragg

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Dusk will fall

Every time we end up fighting someone there are chores; check for that which is hidden, appropriate that which is valuable, secure the way out. We’re a team now, so we do these things without fuss or discussion. I like that.

Mostly we do end up fighting those we meet. Mostly we don’t have a choice, and mostly they deserve it anyway.

Now and then we don’t fight. Whiskey obviously didn’t want to fight the priest and the two seresin guards we found in the small temple off the entrance hall. He wanted to talk to them instead. Not sure why these guys were different, but that’s alright.

Anyway, Whiskey got some information out of the priest, and a healing potion (definitely didn’t expect that. Maybe I should offer to be the one who drinks it; not sure we can trust it). All he had to promise in return was that we’d deal to a few lizardmen from the Poison Dusk tribe. No problem; I’m betting we would have done that anyway.

Some of the things the priest told us were useful; there are prisoners in the dungeons guarded by yuan-ti, there’s no direct way to reach the towers on either side of the keep, you have to get there through a portal. Others were maybe a little worrying; the ritual to raise Sertrous is far advanced and can’t be stopped (though I’m still up for giving it a try), Poison Dusk warriors are out looking for items or sacrifices to aid the final stages of the ritual.

So we followed the priest’s directions and headed up the ramp to the gallery level, and from there through a set of double doors. Straight away we’re facing two Poison Dusk guards at the top of a staircase. Bragg – the new guy with the limited vocab – and I charge them (where IS Klang when he’s needed?), the others stay back and watch (with the odd magics or missile – thanks, Salth – lobbed in to help out). It’s over quickly enough.

Up the stairs and through some more doors, and now we’re in the central tower – the one the Priest called the Tower of the Way. A floor or two above is where we fought the bronze dragon and company, and poor Heyerajj failed to fly.

Quickly we checked a bedroom and a study; maps, a silver mirror (non-portable), a pair of boots that took Bragg’s eye, and, hidden in the base of a wardrobe, a modest treasure stash.

On the next floor up we found a series of portals, though none of them seemed sure to lead to the outer towers. Through some we could see a swamp (no thanks), a dry ravine, a forest, and a darkened space where the floor was moving (a whole world of no thanks). Others seemed to be unactivated or untuned.

I don’t know if there was a vote as such, but we went through the portal that led to a forest. It was beautiful there; fresh air, everything growing and vital. I climbed a tree and was able to point the way to a nearby waterfall and lake.

I wish we’d turned round then and gone back. We really didn’t need to go to the lake. What we found there was like going back to the Day of Mourning, just for a moment. Slaughter. Bodies broken and left lying – Elves, Eladrin and one other none of us recognised – none of them long dead. I don’t think any of them were warriors. So sad. No surprise that unquiet spirits haunted the place. One of them spoke to Whiskey. He said she asked him to avenge them, to return a sacred chalice that had been taken from them.

Maybe we did need to go to the lake after all. And maybe we now have a better reason to kill the Poison Dusk.

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Portals Towers Dragons and other stuff

Despite our heroics the villagers are not overjoyed to see us – claiming that the Yuan-ti will now kill them all. We assure them that we’ll take care of the Yuan-ti before that can happen (oh if only things had been so easy).
We decide to enter the fortress via the central tower. This involves a perilous climb across a cliff face and overhang. Both Jet and Klang jump at the chance to perform such a daredevil stunt, JJ and Whiskey opting to wait for them to let down a rope. With the theme tune from Mission Impossible playing in the background Jet and Klang are initially successful before plummeting to the ground. Undeterred they try again and this time make it to the tower. Unfortunately the tower is guarded by a shadow hound and some flying snake things. A rope is lowered and JJ makes it to the top before the creatures notice us. Then all hell breaks loose.

Jet throws the hound off the 90 foot high tower, which somehow survives the fall and attacks Whiskey and Salth who are still on the ground. A flying snake also heads towards them. JJ, Jet and Klang manage to handle the remaining creatures pretty well despite the narrow tower and the foes ability to fly, but then emerging from the tower is a demonic/draconic flying Yuan-ti archer and a Dragon. Things don’t go well.

The Dragon joins the remaining flying snake to attack Whiskey and Salth. They hide heroically. The foes head back to get the rest of the party. Despite Klang’s battle medic heroics Jet is so wounded she has to scramble down the rope, JJ is pushed off the tower and falls to his death and Klang is knocked unconscious. The dragon and the Yuan-ti loom over him.

Seeing his stalwart comrade go down, Whiskey throws caution to the wind and emerges from his protective illusion and heads to the rope to scale the tower with Jet and Salth. Before they even lay their hands of the rope, Klang leaps up and throws himself off the tower. Somehow he lands on his feet and remains conscious, although has driven himself two feet into the ground. Then things get weird.

A portal opens and a Yuan-ti pursued by a Drow burst through. A half-orc emerges from hiding on the cliff wall and begins charging every foe in sight. There is a flurry of claws, dragon breath, blades and magic which leaves the Dragon and new Yuan-ti dead and the flying Yuan-ti flees inside the tower.

Everything seems to pause for a while as Klang rips off a dragon scale and the team then all head back to the safety of the magical safety of the candle veil.

After a little (8 hours) much needed rest and introductions to the newbies (lets not write names down until they have lasted at least a couple of days). Lets just say one is a drow elf from Xen’drik (!!!) and one is a 1/2 orc barbarian (OK ranger – acts like a Barbarian).

Given the the dismal failure of the subtle approach the group went through the front door. Inside were a couple of giant skellys and someone sneaking around the back – seen only by the sharp eyes of our new half orc friend. He rashly sprinted off to attack the hidden beastie and it was all on. After a bit of a slog all the bad guys are dead – just goes to show the benefits of charging in rather than pussy footing around.

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That's a cool hat

Skarn’s troops occupied the snake cultist’s stronghold, placing a guard on the portal and we headed back to Yrlag for a well deserved rest.

After some discussion it was decided that we would go through the portal and find out what was happening with Sertrous and the ritual to raise him. But before we made it to the swamp we met Melquiades and his Lascar troop. And what fine fellows they were. Such fine fellows that we returned to Yrlag and spent the next three days watching there puppet shows and listening to their stories. Two stories stood out in particular.

The first was of the next stop on the Lascar’s travels, Ashenport. Apparently this town shouldn’t really exist. It is located in a particularly barren strech of coast, but they had managed to find a great source of fish and had crops growing all over the place. They also seemed to worship some shadowy power. Cult of bad guys if ever I heard it. However we had business elsewhere with Sertrous.

The second was the tale of a ship captain who had to be lashed to the mast of his own ship because his crew feared he was possessed. They sailed through sahuagin infested waters from the south to land in the south of Draguun. The name of the captain and the ship are unknown. Interesting. Very interesting.

Melquiades also suggests that we touched by the Dragon Prohecy.

After a lot of trading we swap a bunch of equipment (thank you Deorly) for a gallons of potions, feline boots, healing gloves and a reflective barrel. Then off to the portal.

Through the portal is an idyllic country scene – a picturesque village in a river valley, rich fields of crops and chirping birds. Oh and a forbidding snake castle. After some quick scouting by Jet, it seems that the villagers are watched over by a naga.

Unfortunately the rest of us are not as successful at sneaking and we alert the naga (and her pet giant snake) to our presence. There is a storm of lightning bolts, Whiskey goes down, Salth stands him up, and the party kill everything.

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Deranged, I tell you...
Who da snake? YOU da snake...

I’ve decided the problem with these snake people is their fixation with water. I mean – what’s with that? Any room that needs a plug hole AND PLUG is clearly the work of the deranged. So really, they would all be better off as dead as dead things are when they’re dead. Ha. That feels better…
Having extricated ourselves from another damn POOL, we checked out the wharf cum entrance hall which was quite nice if you’re into marble floors and mutant snake statues (i.e. deranged). No wet footprints, no Kyla and nothing of interest except the illusory back wall. Actually, that was kind of interesting assuming the entire party being damned near killed to death just for LOOKING through an illusion is your idea of interesting. The psychotic yuan-ti doorman and his soggy little turncoat offsider Kyla (yes, you, traitor) were like an evil dynamic duo we just could not manage to hit. Since we were unable to make a strategic rearward withdrawal we ended up like surrendering, and after a leetle bit of hard work managed to stop both Whiskey and Jet from needing the services of a Bag of Holding, and to get Salth back onto multiple hit points.
The yuan-ti confesses he is called Sacharlim and decides the best use for our sorry asses would be of a sacrificial nature. We are not so sure about this but as we are all manacled to the wall in a little private cell down the end of the corridor he’s the only one present with a vote. On the good side – sorta – he wants to sacrifice us as part of the ritual to bring back Sertrous (!) and blabs on about that a bit so now we have some valuable Intelligence, which will be Useful, once we have Escaped.
Weirdly, there is a mildly surreal debate about the escaping part of the plan – such is life amongst people who have independent views on things and no clear chain of command. Eventually we all agree that being sacrificed would be a bad thing so Jet slips out of her chains and frees everyone else and we’re off … to … um … hmmm. Back to the pool where an increasingly serpentine looking Kyla is cavorting in the water? Maybe not. Luckily we have a Whiskey and are not afraid to use it, he says the back wall of the corridor is also illusory. Jet says it’s quiet on the other side of the stone door there and despite the almost certain presence of the ninja snakeman on the other side through we all go, quiet as mice, off up the stairs.
Sometimes it’s not as great as it might be to be able to say “See, I was right!” Sacharlim was indeed on the other side of the door (bad) but was engrossed with knitting or something (good) and Jet was able to sneak up and completely surprise it. At least I assume it was surprised, I certainly was: surprised by her complete inability to hit a sitting duck snake not once but twice. Sheesh… Then again, we pretty much all flailed around for a while before I FINALLY hit the thing properly, at which point the big scaredy-snake ran away through its pet portal. Unable to follow, all we could do was loot the place. Yes! Clean soft paper at last!
Jet goes back to check on Kyla while the men sort the looting bit out, but gets rumbled by the villagers in the other cells. (Did I not mention them? OK, all the missing villagers are in the other cells that line the corridor, some of them slowly transforming into more snakemen, happy?) Now OF COURSE we would have loved to go and help her, but unfortunately the ritual of silence Whiskey had painstakingly cast over the door at the end of the corridor/bottom of the stairs worked perfectly … and we had no idea there were any problems. On the bright side Jet managed to run away from Kyla with no real difficulty and escape up the plughole, and Kyla came scampering up the steps to get snake-boy to deal with it. Sur-pri-ise! We sure were: she beat the crap out of us for a little bit until we got into our stride and laid a whole lot of hurt on her snaky butt. So she runs away, and we chase – usual stuff – and she gets away, and we catch up with Jet, and then free the villagers that are still villagers. Job done.
Well nearly. Sacharlims portal is a two-way model so Jet and Whiskey have to do some stuff that I can’t reveal at this security level, and temporarily disable it. Now the job’s done, and we can take a little time to properly examine our spoils – more gold than a pigeon could carry! An avant-garde sculpture of an aberrant creature! Actually snake-boy had (past tense, tee hee) quite a nice stash of stuff so there’s little doubt we’ve irritated someone fairly important in these parts. Good.

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In deep water
Trap setting for dummies

A big, empty room. Shadows and corners and multiple entrances. A giant statue of something unspeakable. And – a bit too obvious this – a soft cry for help from the very person we’ve come to rescue.

It’s a trap.

Of course it’s a trap. Let’s spring it!

So we advanced into the room and weren’t completely surprised when two elite fighters and eight archers came out to play.

In fairness, however, we were a little caught out when Kyla stumbled out from the statue and water began gushing from it.

Now that’s more like it!

The torrent spread across the floor at a seemingly impossible rate and began filling the room, so that finishing off our opponents – now including a snake-like creature who’d been observing from inside the statue – provided less of a respite than we might have expected.

And Kyla’s behaviour was becoming stranger by the moment.

There were controls inside the statue. There had to be a way to shut off the water. Thanks to a nifty move by Heyerajj with a fey switch, I’d ended up closest. Now it was a puzzle I had to solve. No pressure; Salth was already swimming, Whiskey and Heyerajj were scrambling for higher ground. Only Klang – not needing to breathe – was safe, and he was busy trying to help Kyla.

Whiskey shouted that a section of the floor looked like it might retract. If the controls caused it to open, the six feet of water already collected would drain away, taking anyone in it along for the ride. Like I said, no pressure.

Then everything seemed to happen at once: the water flow cut off – the floor opened up – the water already in the room began to rush down the hole – Kyla escaped Klang and inexplicably swam towards the whirlpool – I dove in to try and stop her – and the three of us were swept away.

Whipped around, dragged under, half-drowned, falling, falling…impact…surfacing, breathing again. Damn! That was fun!

Now where were we? Another chamber below the dome, an underground river running through it. Klang’s alright – that’s a relief. He’s well below the surface; looks like he’s searching for Kyla on the river bed. I made for a platform to one side of the chamber. There was a room beyond it – maybe Kyla’s there.

Meanwhile Whiskey, Salth and Heyerajj had clung grimly to whatever would save them from sharing our fate. Ironic, really, as within a minute – and by the shortest possible path in Whiskey and Heyerajj’s case – they’d made their own way down to join us.

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To arms!

Our return to Yrlag with the (mostly) rescued villagers was not greeted with quite the universal gratitude we expected. While most were happy to have their kith and kin returned, a handful focussed on the run in we had had with the ‘protectors’ – warning all and sundry that Skarn Fellstorm would punish Yrlag for harbouring us. And it was possibly that handful that sneaked off during the night to inform the protectors about what had happened. But not sneaky enough to stop Jet from following and observing the meeting.

We also found out that the adventuring party we had met on the raod called themselves The Stormcrows – if only Deorly was here she might have cheered up.

After a brief debate we decided to wait for the inevitable visit from Skarn’s lackies, who duly showed up late morning. After much posturing from both sides we agreed to accompany them to Skarn’s stronghold to meet her. Particular highlights were Jet trying to get a ride on Tyron’s horse (the leader) and Klang attempting to use our horse as a tool for intimidation.

We were warned not to attempt any ‘funny business’ which we promptly ignored with Jet sneaking off into the bushes and Whiskey playing with the Hedge Wizard’s Gloves to produce an amusing magic show. Jet’s sneaking was discovered and required her to join the rest of us to avoid coming to blows.

The stronghold was an impressive wooden fort built against a spur of the mountain – Skarn had obviously been busy and had a motivated workforce at her command. It housed maybe 100 warriors and support people, including some families by the look of it. We were shown into her great hall to meet the woman herself – a confident and flashy warrior. After much verbal sparring it came down to the fact that her people would not be satisfied unless the blood debt was met – in the form of a combat between us and a select bunch of her warriors in ‘the pit’. Fortunately it was not to the death, but instead until the first person went unconscious. The pit was aptly named, being a square pit with four training machines. Skarn’s men began to wind up the machines resulting in them rotating rapidly with clubs and flails flying around.

The fight lasted all of 10 seconds – Jet rushed forward stabbing at a fighter before knocking him down and holding a dagger to his throat. Klang barely had time to trap another warrior inside the reach of a machine much to the amusement of all (except the warrior).

The deafeat was taken in good humor and we were welcomed into the fold with a feast. The feast had barely got going when a messenger arrived bringing the news that Yrlag had been attacked again and Skarn’s mother and sister had been carried off. This finally got Skarn motivated to act and she committed her troops to attack the yuan-ti citadel.

While they got organised the party rushed off to scout. We discovered that the snake cultists were assembling and beginning to march on Yrlag. Perhaps the capture of the family was the signal for something. We rendezvoused with Skarn’s troops at the edge of the swamp and waited for the clash of armies – three score and ten of the cultistist versus a hundred or so of Skarn’s troops (plus us of course). Klang lay about with his blade and was tireless in leading small bands of men against the foe, Jet lured cultists into traps and ambushes and inspired fear with displaying the grisly remains, while Whiskey chose favourable spots for clashes and inspired the men.

With Skarn in control of the battle field, the party chose this moment to break through the battle lines and make for the citadel. With all the cultists committed to the battle it was easy to penetrate into the first chamber, a huge dome overshadowed by the statue of a leering yuan-ti made up of a thousand cobras…

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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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