Time to Dice

29: Harbingers of bad news
  • A sideboat comes ashore, and the members of Tempus Alea are happy to see Lady Emberbreeze and the newly introduced Captain Nathaniel who are ready to take them home. Once on board of the Siren’s Call, however, the head arcanist and the captain have bad news to deliver.
    Around a month ago, the most northern city of Talonia, East Hallow, was overrun by orcs. Their hordes were able to raid and steal Talonian ships and use them to successfully conquer East Hallow. More and more soldiers are sent north to retake the city, but Lady Emberbreeze suspects that the siege might be a distraction and that the orcs’ true goal could be an attack on the capital, Talonvale. The party wonders if something or someone is leading the orcs who are usually not known for being this well-organized.
  • In a private talk with Talareg, Lilli admits that she wished East Hallow had burned to the ground. She calls it a place where bad things happen and wonders if her wish will send her to hell.
  • Rana remembers that the last time she spoke to her mother, she was told that her sister was in the process of moving to East Hallow in order to start her own business. While the warlock had already planned to check in on her mother once they had returned, the matter now becomes more pressing. She asks Lady Emberbreeze for assistance, and the elf informs her that she could send one person or more to Dendros in an instant.
  • Rana brings the party together to discuss her wish to go to Dendros right away. Keena, whose homestead is not too far away from Dendros, decides to come along, as she also longs to visit her home. A decision is made that Talareg and Lilli will return to Talonvale, while Verrin wants to accompany Keena.
  • After the others have left, Lilli and Talareg speak to Lady Emberbreeze once more as they hope to better understand the consequences of the party’s trip to the Astral Sea and the encounter with the mage and Orcus. Since the purple crystal was first shattered in Verrin’s vision, but turned up whole later on, Lilli wonders if the party still can see through the destruction of Kel’rorn’s artifacts. Unfortunately, Lady Emberbreeze is at a loss and has no answers to offer this time.
  • In Dendros, some time is spent at the arcanium’s library, before Rana, Keena, and Verrin visit Rana’s mother – who has not yet heard of the attack on East Hallow. In fact, it seems that the news has been largely kept from the citizens of Dendros. In a private conversation with her mother, Rana learns that her grandfather (presumably) is still alive, and that he is indeed a warlock as Rana suspected.
  • The next day, the three briefly meet with high priest Belendithas to give him a quick update on what happened on the Astral Plane. He is horrified when Rana tells him that the mage’s phylactery, the pyramid-shaped box she took from the black castle’s torture chamber, is still in the party’s bag of holding. Belendithas sends a note to Talareg, ordering him not to touch the item, as it holds part of the mage’s life essence and might enable him to resurrect.
  • Afterwards, they buy the last two mounts of Dendros, a horse and a donkey, and head out towards Keena’s home. This journey will lead them past East Hallow, but with enough distance in between so as to not raise the attention of any orc. Or so they hope.
28: Once more with rage
  • Once more, the party finds the mage in the catacombs underneath the throne room – with the difference, that he has been turned into a devilish figure by Orcus, swinging a tentacle rod and equipped with the power to force others to fall asleep on the spot.
    After carefully laying out a plan which included entering the ritual chamber using the Dust of Disappearance, Tempus Alea quickly realizes that the devil cannot be fooled by their strategy. But together as a team, the party eventually defeats their opponent. The hellish makeup vaporizes to leave behind the body of the mage.
    Orcus, Prince of Undeath, who had been watching the fight, bids his farewell to the group, expressing his frustration: “I will remember this…”
  • The party barely has the time to search the mage’s body for valuable objects before the cavern, and in fact the whole castle, begins to collapse. Everyone makes it out, some by the skin of their teeth. Once outside, Tempus Alea gets to relax for only a moment. Then, the psychic wind casts them in darkness and wrecks their minds once more. Afterwards, they find themselves somewhere in the black forest, and after another long walk, the party exits the forest right by the magic mirror.
  • On the other side, back in the material world, Keena damages the frame of the mirror so that the portal may not be activated again. Rana casts a ritual to detect any magic around her. Relieved, she informs the others that this time, there is no illusion magic present. When Tempus Alea is about to leave the tunnel system, they are greeted by a heavy snow storm and terrible cold. They decide to rest underground until the storm has quieted down. It is still freezing, but the group yearns to see the real sky again, and so they step outside. Their spirit is a dampened a little when Rana examines the snake’s body: around three months have passed since they came to the island.
  • Back at the beach, the group finds the dingy, but not a single ship can be found on the horizon. Another letter goes out to Lady Emberbreeze (this time for real). The head arcanist of Talonvale is glad to hear that the party is alive and reports that everyone back in the capital had been worried sick. Due to a storm front between the Talonian continent and the island, it will take several days for a ship to arrive (Captain Tamlin never returned).
    Thus, everyone makes themselves as comfortable as possible, waiting to be picked up. Talareg and Keena look for game and herbs. Lilli begrudgingly removes a curse from the armor Verrin had borrowed from the guards quarter in the castle. Rana continues to decipher the mysterious letter that, she believes, will lead her to the headquarter of the Twilight Sentinels, (information about) her grandfather, or both.
  • On the third day, a ship appears. Rana sends off a green magical flare, which is answered with a red one. The ship sets course for the beach…
27: Not what it seems
  • The party awakes in the ritual cavern, supremely weakened but otherwise healed up. Confused, everyone furthermore shares the same dull pain on the inner side of their wrists. As they leave the castle, the party notices that the room to the torture chamber is no longer there.
    Once back in the material realm, Keena and Rana come to the conclusion that about a month and a half has passed since they entered the secret passage at the temple ruins.
  • At the beach, Tempus Alea finds the dingey that brought them to the island. A note is sent to Lady Emberbreeze in request for a ship to pick them up and to inform the council of Talonvale that the party was unable to secure the soul stone. Afterwards, several of the party members get drunk to forget about the defeat in the ritual chamber.
  • The next morning, the party realizes that nothing around them is real, and that they are, in fact, caught in a powerful illusion. Ideas and theories how to break free are exchanged, with the result that Verrin offers to be killed: “This started because of me. It might as well end this way”. Rana puts the suggestion to the test, stabbing the halfling square in the chest, much to the dismay and anger of Keena.
    But only when Lilli silently focuses on waking up – and vanishes – the others bit by bit understands that the solution to their predicament was frustratingly simple. They just had to imagine themselves waking up.
  • The party awakes once more, this time hanging upside-down from the ceiling of a well-known room. It is the torture room. They never left the castle. The pain everyone had felt was caused by a pair of manacles that slowly but surely would have bled them out. Krinen Doushan, the rogue they fought earlier, is also with them in the room. Once he is set down on the floor, Talareg cuts his throat. Surprised by the act, Rana inquires as to how exactly Krinen betrayed him, aside from leaving him to die. The ranger replies that Krinen murdered the love of his life.
  • Once everyone has their armor and equipment back, Tempus Alea leaves the torture room (Lilli burns their blood that had been pooling on the floor), to search for the mage who is now imbued with Orcus’ power…
26: Best laid plans
  • Shortly after the temperature begins to fall in the throne room, a spectral like entity materializes in between the party members which is taken down quickly. After some more trial and error, the party finds out that the floor of the throne room lowers when the levers on the wall panel are brought into the right position.
  • Passing a few more rooms and a tunnel, Tempus Alea eventually stands in front of a cavernous chamber, and a peek inside reveals that a mage is preparing a ritual in front of a statue of the demon lord Orcus. On an altar lies a purple crystal – the soul stone from Verrin’s vision.
    Although the group takes the time to lay out plans on how to proceed, they do so without taking the precaution of stepping back from the door. When they enter, the mage is gone, and after a brief exchange with a disembodied voice, the party is attacked not only by the now invisible mage, but also by a very stealthy rogue. The rogue turns out to be former friend, now enemy of Talareg, Krinen Doushan.
    A brief battle ensues, but Tempus Alea is unable to stop the mage from shattering the soul stone on the ground, which releases a bone-chilling scream as it bursts into many pieces. This completes the ritual. Through a rift in space, Orcus grants the mage dark power, the eruption of which causes every member of Tempus Alea to be taken in by darkness.
  • After an unknown amount of time, only Keena awakes. She finds her companions on the ground, seemingly unconscious. They are alone in the ritual chamber…
25: Don't blink
  • During her watch, Rana hears a terrifying scream in the distance, but cannot determine its origin. Soon after, she feels the ground shiver slightly and hears the grinding of stone. She wakes up Verrin, and they hear the sound of stone running along stone once more. Since nothing happens afterwards, Rana goes to sleep. Only noticed by Verrin, the temperature in the grand hall drops to the point where he can see his own breath. As the halfling decides to explore the room adjacent to the guards quarter, he promptly stirs a group of five shadows which have taken the likeness of each party member. It only takes a brief struggle to vanquish them.
  • After finishing their rest, the party continues to inspect the remaining rooms. Beyond the room the shadows came from, they find a library. Books randomly pulled from the shelves are filled with the scribbling of someone gone mad, talking about “eyes of fire”. Behind the library lies a rather peculiar room with only the statue of a maiden that holds a small bowl. The statue’s eyes are blindfolded and a light brown liquid flows from underneath straight into the bowl. Rana examines it and comes to the result that it is not a poison or disease-ridden, and that it tastes sweet. This prompts Verrin to drink from the liquid. As a result, he grows a second head. But after going for a second round hoping this would make the new head vanish – he falls to the ground lifeless and, in fact, dead. It appears that all the bones in his body have turned gelatinous. After some hesitation, Lilli casts a resurrection spell, and with the support of the party, the halfling can be brought back to life.
  • Further explorations reveal a room full of life-like wax statues that only begin to move once the party turns its back towards them to leave. Everyone agrees to retreat, and they barricade the door of the kitchen, hoping this will hold off the eerie statues.
  • On the upper floor, the party finds a row of empty bedrooms, but eventually also comes upon a torture chamber, where a group of elves seemingly starved to death in tiny metal cages, and skeletons is all that remains. One person, however, is in a less decayed state and the area around its eye sockets has been scratched at heavily. The fact that all of the victims died of starvation and/or dehydration strikes the party as odd due to the altered state of time on the Astral Plane – the party members themselves have not yet felt hungry, thirsty or truly tired.
  • The last room on the upper floor turns out to be a throne room, the grandeur of which has been defiled by stacks of skulls positioned around the throne itself and the hall’s pillars. Seeing how there is a small gap between the pillars and the stone floor and thinking back to the sound of shifting stone, the party concludes that either the floor or the pillars can be moved. On the ceiling, there is a circular pattern carved into the stone, about seven feet in diameter, and there are indentations right underneath on the floor. In the far corner of the throne room lies the body of a men who is dressed similar to Talareg and who apparently was poisoned. On the wall behind the throne is a panel with three small levers.
    Wishing to uncover the secret of this room, the party encourages Verrin to pull one of the levers. A moment later, some of the skulls become alive as they sprout a set of legs and immediately begin to attack Tempus Alea. These creatures are quite fast and continuously attempt and succeed in latching onto the face of some of the party members. The group fends off the skull spiders, and a group of large frogs summoned by Keena proves to be especially helpful in this encounter.
  • After the fight, another lever is pulled. At first, nothing happens, but then the temperature begins to fall…
24: Through the looking glass
  • By chance, Tempus Alea opens a passageway that leads from the ritual stone circle down a spiral staircase into the dark. Once again, the party discovers an ancient, abandoned underground city, but this time the architecture has a distinct elvish character. Eventually, they come upon a metal archway which, as they step closer, forms a pool of water that reflects their image, and Rana reminds the others of the mirror from Verrin’s vision. At first, it sends everything going in straight back out. But when Keena speaks the Sylvan scripture engraved on the archway – “Open passage to the endless sea of time” – the pool ripples and turns into a solid, silver surface. Hesitant at first, the members of Tempus Alea step through one by one – and onto the Astral Plane.
  • Confused by the change in gravity and the way they now float along the ground, the party makes its way towards a forest consisting of trees the kind none of them has ever seen before, obsidian in color and twisted into gnarly, uncanny shapes. Talareg wants to make sure they could still go back if they wanted to, and steps back into the underground ruin once more, only to return after what to him appears to be just a moment. Upon reentering the Astral Plane, he can no longer see the rest of the party. He finds a piece of parchment hovering in midair, informing him that, since he was gone for quite some time, they decided to inspect the forest.
  • Inside the forest, Keena, Verrin, Lilli, and Rana come into unwantedly close contact with one of the flesh eating plants that cover large parts of the forest ground. Later on, they find two bodies of humanoids whose race none of them can identify. A closer examination reveals that they were killed by blades and bolts or arrows, yet their bodies also show signs of ice and scorch marks, making this the same wound pattern the guardian naga suffered in the overground ruins. Furthermore, they find tracks that match the ones they had been following on the island.
    They press on and are hit with a psychic wind that covers them in darkness and assaults their minds with a storm of memories and images. As they come to, they realize that they are no longer at the same spot in the forest.
  • Eventually, Talareg catches up to the rest of the group, and they decide to move forward. No longer can they say for sure which is the way back anyway, and Naga spots a dark castle in the distance – a sight which, too, matches up with Verrin’s vision. Reaching the castle takes a long time as the party is hit by the psychic wind a few more times. Finally, Tempus Alea reaches an enters the obsidian castle. Inside, gravity has returned to its normal state, but every other law of nature seems to be completely out of order.
  • The party solves a row of mind-boggling riddles (doors that don’t do what they are supposed to do, up is down and vice versa etc.) and gets into a part of the castle where everything looks like it has been left to its own devices for decades. In one room, they find rotten beds but also armor that is still in decent shape. In another room, Rana discovers, much to her surprise and suspicion, a ready dinner table loaded with the most scrumptious feast. Unable to withstand, she begins to eat. Soon after, Lilli, Talareg, and Keena give in to the delicious fumes of the food as well, and Verrin has to witness his companions’ voracious appetite. He drags Lilli outside the room, but the addictive effect only wears off when the other three have finished all the food. Only then do they come to their senses and realize that the “feast” had been rotting for a long, long time. Purging their stomachs, they know they have been poisoned, thus the party decides to take a long rest.
23: Hidden evil
  • The party’s stay on the Lady Serenity goes by without any trouble for the first twenty-four hours, but then the ship’s bell awakes them very early in the morning. A few moments later, they find that a few pirates including a wyvern are attacking the crew. Even though Tempus Alea, together with the help of Captain Tamlin and his men, are able to take down the hostile group, the ship’s first mate is lost in the ocean.
  • Later on that day, the ship arrives at the island that every member of Tempus Alea recognizes from Verrin’s vision: two peaks standing opposite each other with a vast, forest-covered valley in between; in the far distance, there are building-like structures in the center portion of the island. In groups, they are brought to the shore by seaman Connor, who, as both Ta’lareg and Rana notice, wears a rune burned onto the skin underneath his clavicle. It seems familiar to the warlock, but she is unable to identify it.
  • On the island, the party follows a set of three tracks that are about a week old. They lead straight into the forest, partially up one of the peaks, and then down towards the center of the island. Before they can get there, they come upon a deserted camp and decide to rest. During the night, Rana and Verrin sense a force of evil coming from the center of the island, but nothing happens on their shifts.
    However, when it is Ta’lareg’s turn to keep watch, he suddenly realizes that Connor appeared out of nowhere, breaching the alarm spells unnoticed to now stand right in between Ta’lareg and the sleeping rest of the party. The ranger calls out, the others wake up. Rana suggests to keep Connor alive to find out what is happening. The man turns out to be a warlock and informs Rana telepathically that his master would not be happy if he allowed the party to go any further. The rune on his chest is now glowing. A fight ensues after all, and Connor is brought down. His body is laid to rest away from the camp.
  • After a few more hours of sleep – it is Ta’lareg’s watch again – Connor rises from the dead and begins to walk towards the center of the island. Once awake, the party follows. As Connor has a decent headstart on them, they have to watch from a distance how the undead enters what seems to be a ceremonial site: a double row of pillars leads towards a slightly raised circular structure, and on one of the pillars, a large snake – a guardian naga, as Keena points out later – is impaled, its body already in an advanced state of decay; the circular area in the middle is surrounded by black obelisks. The undead form of Connor steps onto the circle and begins to smash its head onto the stone floor repeatedly. Keena rushes forward but by the time she reaches the site, Connor’s body has collapsed. Wishing to set right this display of unnatural forces, the druid incinerates the body.
  • As soon as the rest of the party arrives, Rana begins to circle the platform, searching for magical residue, but only finds a decreasing trace of conjuration magic when she walks onto the platform, at the spot where the undead smashed its head. She also realizes that the same rune that was burned onto Connor’s chest marks the ground of the platform. The warlock and the ranger then find a passage on the nearest of the black obelisk, written in Abyssal: “My lord of undeath, give me access to your unholy sanctum.” And underneath stands the word “Kothalef”, which Ta’lareg knows to be the Infernal name for the demon Orcus, Prince of Undead, who resides on one of the infinite layers of the Abyss…
22: There and back again
  • Rana checks in on Ta’lereg to see how he is doing and to fill him in on what Belendithas told her and Keena. The warlock the suggests to seek advice with the council, as the party will sooner or later need help if they are indeed going to destroy the artifacts of Kel’rorn. The rest of Tempus Alea agrees, and Rana sends a letter to the council.
  • Soon after, Keena sets off to go to the library at the Arcanium to see if it has any information about soul stones or the Dawndforge, but unfortunately, she runs dry.
  • Lilli pays a visit to Pelor’s temple in order to ask her patron for support and to see if a priest is around who might know something about the Dawnforge as well. While she does not receive concrete answers or visions – aside from the general message that she was on the right path – the cleric’s holy symbol is mended completely after talking to Pelor. Since she does so in her usual straightforward, cheeky manner, she is thrown out of the temple by the Pelor’s invisible hand right afterwards.
  • Rana, Verrin, and Ta’lareg meet with the council, to report the vision without, however, giving away by whom it was received. Head arcanist Lady Emberbreeze and High Templar Cruice Trannyth allow Rana to transfer the vision with the help of her awakened mind. Upon doing so, the three members of Tempus Alea learn that, a long time ago, Lady Emberbreeze and seemingly also Sir Cruice helped sealing away the soul of Morad’thul in a purple crystal just like the one shown in the vision. Morad’thul, also known as the Hand of Orcus, was a lich and also a follower of the Prince of Undead. What exactly might be the connection to the vision and the destruction of Kel’rorn’s artifact they cannot say.
    If one really wanted to travel the Fountains of Creation in order to destroy the artifacts at the Dawnforge, the only two ways to connect to Styx would be either to find a plane or rather a distortion that would lead to the Nine Hells or to challenge one’s luck by traveling via the Astral Plane. Rana brings up the idea of locating a portal or rift by searching for the magical energy it would emanate.
    The three party members and the council agree that they will come back together once Belendithas returns from Gilean’s library at Dendros. In the meantime, the party will attempt to find the island shown in the vision which supposedly lies on the way to Duranthion. Captain Kayden points out that the party should look for a Captain Tamlin at the docks who might be able to give them passage.
    In a private meeting with Lady Emberbreeze, Verrin admits to his status as an oath breaker, but it becomes clear that Cruice, and with that Lady Emberbreeze as well, already knew. The halfling informs the elven head arcanist that the vision might have been sent by Bahamut, but he keeps to himself the message he also received in the dream: “He must not be released to find the crystal and destroy the crown and the sword.”
  • Over dinner, the party discusses what information they received so far and they decide that some of them should go to the docks right away to find the captain that Kayden mentioned. Rana informs the others that she will attempt to cast the ritual again and this time with the help of Anya. Tempest returns unexpectedly and asks if he could stay for a while. Everyone seems to be alright with that. Asked by Rana if he sent the letter she received two nights ago, Tempest negates, but is interested in taking a look. This, however, results in minor psychic damage.
  • This time, the ritual that is supposed to deliver any information about Rana’s grandfather is successful. In Rana’s vision, which is shared by the assisting Anya, she travels with incredible speed over wide fields of grass, mountaintops, and valleys, until she eventually reaches an ancient castle upon a mountain top. As soon as she enters through a large, heavy gate, her vision goes black, almost as if something was covering her eyes. Then the vision ends and both Rana and Anya return to the workshop – quite literally, as Tempest informs them that they vanished from the room for about forty-five minutes. It is also Tempest who, curious about the vision, informs Rana that the old castle is, in fact, the headquarter of the Twilight Sentinel.
  • Ta’lareg and Verrin make their way to the docks – only to realize that neither of them remembers the name of the captain they were supposed to speak to. Thus, they return.
  • Rana tells the rest of the party about the ritual and also fills them in on the yet unexplained connection between her grandfather and the Twilight Sentinel as well as his interest in Kel’rorn. In comparing the new letter she received with the letter from her grandfather she found as a teenager, the warlock realizes that the handwriting is the same.
    Before going to bed, Rana discovers that Tempest not only wears a cursed sword, but also that his eyes are similar to that of a cat or a dog with their retina reflecting deep red in the twilight.
  • The next day, Tempus Alea goes to find Captain Tamlin, and he agrees to take them with him on his travel to Duranthion. After making a few arrangements, the party returns to the docks a few hours later to board the Lady Serenity.
21: The shape of things to come
  • The next morning, Rana conducts some research on oath breaker paladins at the Diamond Arcanium. Much to her frustration, the library books only confirm what she already knew. In order to redeem themselves, oath breakers have no choice but to enter the path of redemption and pass a challenge which more often than not end in the death of the endeavoring paladin. Back home, Rana vents her anger in a prolonged rant witnessed by a confused Ta’lareg.
  • Verrin continues to mainly stay in his room where no one can bother him. Ta’lareg offers to fix the busted door, but the halfing makes it clear that he wishes to be alone.
  • Lilli and Keena spend the day at the hospital in the poor district of the city. During lunch break, Keena asks Lilli about the scars that go all around her wrists, but the gnome seems rather reluctant and does not wish to talk about these old wounds.
  • On the second day, Ta’lareg sees his chance to patch up Verrin’s bedroom door while the halfling burns a decent stack of pages full of writing in the main hall’s fire place.
  • When Lilli and Keena return from the hospital that day, they notice that it is awfully cold in the Old Guild Hall. Ta’lareg informs them that a while ago, the temperature dropped considerably, the fire went out – and he could have sworn that he heard whispers. Suspecting the warlock to be the origin of these events, the druid and the cleric go downstairs where they find Rana passed out in the sleeping corner of the workshop. On the floor, they see a ritual circle filled with letters and symbols none of them can read. Anya, who is still working on the magic locks, lets them know that she checked the warlock’s vitals when she came in earlier. To the witch, it looks like the ritual Rana tried went wrong.

Which is exactly what happened. Calling for her patron to grant her Eldritch Vision, Rana had hoped to gain more information about her grandfather who somehow is connected to the Twilight Sentinels as well as Kel’rorn. Upon failing to complete the ritual, the warlock passes out after intense pain curses through her head and she takes a small dose of Exeth root.

Unhappy with the situation – and doubting that applying magic locks to both doors of the workshop is a wise thing -, Lilli shakes the warlock until she wakes up. Appearing to be heavily drugged, they can’t get any coherent information from Rana and decide to let her sleep it off.

  • During dinner, Lilli and Keena tell Ta’lareg about what they found downstairs, and in return, the ranger informs the other two that he saw Verrin burning those pages. Since Lilli wonders aloud what was with people putting everything in writing, Rana asks her to explain the dislike, to which the cleric replies: “When you write things down, people can find them and use them against you.” Intrigued by the answer, Keena asks if Lilli used to be a spy. Once more, Lilli shuts down, refusing to give any more detail.
    During the conversation, a letter for Rana arrives.
  • Next morning, Keena brings tea down to the workshop to check up on Rana who feels surprisingly well, even if exhausted. The half-elf continues to scold Rana for not filling the rest of the party in on her ritual casting plans.
  • When both of them ascend from the basement, they find Verrin dressed and carrying a heavy backpack. Asking where he was going, the halfling responds that he would return to his parents to keep them safe. Asked when he would return, he answers: “Never.” The other two and then later Ta’lareg as well, try to stop Verrin, that is, to make him change his mind about not coming back at all, seemingly without success. At that point, a stark naked Lilli walks into the main hall, and with the comment, “You wanted to know about my past”, she presents her body which is riddled in scars telling a horrific story of prolonged slavery and abuse. Accepting a table cloth from Ta’lareg’s hands, Lilli then proceeds to look at Verrin and asks where he thinks he is going.
  • Verrin uses the conundrum to slip out of door. While Keena, Rana, and Ta’lareg follow him outside but stop before reaching the street. Lilli, on the other hand, refuses to be shaken off that easily. Appealing to Verrin to stay, the halfling eventually drops his backpack (apparently ignoring the tug of a seed of darkness within him), but continues to walk off – followed by the cleric. And thus, Verrin makes his way throughout the town with Lilli in tow, who soon looses the table cloth and wanders through the streets naked, unnoticed by the guards. While Verrin tolerates Lilli’s presence, he does not offer her anything to cover up with. The gnome continues to demand that Verrin fight the darkness inside.
  • Back at the Old Guild Hall, Rana opens the letter she received, but is only able to make out a few words as reading the ever-changing glyphs – they are similar to the ones in her grandfather’s journal – soon becomes too taxing.
  • After a stop at the park, Verrin, still followed by Lilli, makes his way to the temple district after he begins to hear a strange, disembodied melody. There, he eventually walks into the temple of Bahamut. Ta’lareg, who went to search for the two at some point catches up but stays in the background as Verrin approaches the statue of Bahamut where he engages in a quiet conversation with the draconic deity. Eventually, he leaves and everyone returns to the Old Guild Hall.
  • Later that night, Ta’lareg and Keena wake up in terror as they thought to hear a pitched scream. Even later, Ta’lareg finds Verrin in the hourse temple in front of the three statues, unmoving. Unsure whether or not the halfling is awake, the ranger does not approach and only watches until Verrin goes back to bed.
  • The next morning, Verrin attempts to leave, but as he steps over Lilli who decided to sleep in front of the main door, she awakes and grabs on to his leg. Verrin tells her about a vision-like dream he had, about a long journey, a boat, a river, a temple made of brass. He also saw a jagged crown and a double-bladed sword. Lilli recognizes a few things, but is unsure what the dream exactly might mean. Verrin adds that he heard a voice in the back of his head saying that “he must not be released to find the crystal and destroy the crown and the sword”.
  • Verrin goes to find Rana and ask her to extract the memory of the vision from his mind. It takes a few attempts. When Rana sees the artifacts of Kel’rorn, the crown and the sword, she grows white, but she proceeds to share the dream with the rest of the party:
    You are wandering an empty void.
    Your surroundings suddenly fade in, you’re standing on an impossibly long pier.
    You look back to see the Talonvale.
    You look back, and there is a boat in front of you.
    Without thinking, you step into the boat.
    Blackness, darkness all around.
    You are moving in the boat.
    Wandering toward something specific, a goal in mind perhaps.
    The sun up above you, visible, warm, but not releasing any light.
    An island forms suddenly. Drawing ever closer.
    The boat stops nearby.
    Darkness again.
    A large mirror appears in the darkness as you draw closer to it.
    There is a presence nearby.
    Or maybe there was a presence.
    The mirror shimmers and flashes a dull blue color.
    Streaks of light bend inward like they are being sucked into the mirror.
    You reach your hand out, and touch the surface, it ripples like water.
    You step into the mirror, crossing the event horizon.
    Tingly, in pain, numb, happy, sad, all at the same time – and then you feel normal.
    In front of you, a vast twisted forest.
    Above you, a silver sky, gray clouds moving slowly off in the distance.
    Dark streaks swarm and bend, their ends so far away you can’t tell the distance.
    Blackness surrounds you once more, then fades.
    You see a large castle,
    you enter the door.
    The blackness fades to reveal a jagged luminescent purple crystal on an altar. Flickers of light swirl inside.
    There is a muttering, a chant.
    You feel an evil presence in the room. A strong dark presence.
    The crystal shatters, and there is a scream, a high pitched scream that sends a shiver down your spine.
    Darkness once more. It fades again, and you are holding the crystal.
    Evil and ominous, the crystal has a swirl of light inside, it forms a face silently screaming at you.
    You throw the crystal away, it lands in a thick bubbling river.
    A humanoid figure in long black tattered robes, dull grey skin, and a featureless elongated head slowly nods to you, and continues down the river, on a long boat. You and all your friends step into the boat.
    Before you are two artefacts. A dark jagged crown, and a double-edged blade.
    The boat continues down. And darkness takes you once more.
    It fades as you leave the boat, looking up into the sky, you see a land covered in fire, molten peaks, and volcanoes dot the area.
    Ahead of you, you see a temple, made of solid brass. You approach. And darkness takes you again.
    It fades, and you are clutching a hammer, made from solid flame, but it does not hurt you. On a large golden anvil in front of you, the crown and the sword lie. You smash them, and darkness takes you.
  • As the vision ends, the others see that Ta’lareg jumped up from the crate he had sat on, a mixture of rage and deepest pain on his face wet from tears. Asked what was going on, he releases his rage in a scream and punches the wall, while Lilli backs away from the display or raw anger: “I’ve been there before. I’ve seen that crystal. In the Underdark. – The night I saw that crystal the person I loved was taken from me…”

Keena realizes that the scream from the vision was the same she heard and felt the previous night.

Rana draws a connection between the vision and what she read at the library, interpreting the dream not only as an offer to Verrin – a path of redemption – but also as a solution to destroying Kel’rorn’s artifacts.

  • Rana and Keena go to see Belendithas in his office at the Diamond Arcanium, where both crown and sword are still stored away. The high priest is able to help them interpret some parts of the dream (astral plane; plane of fire with the fountains of creation and the Dawnforge; crystal has something living inside of it, like a soul gem, probably the work of a lich; the river from the vision seems to be the river Styx which borders the Nine Hells and the Plane of Fire; crystal might work as a payment to cross the river; Kel’rorn resides in the Abyss; Dawnforge is the best place to destroy crown and sword; island past boat travel could be Duranthion). Belendithas wants to reference Gilean’s library at Dendros to look for more information. Keena and Rana then return to report back to the others.
20: The broken oath
  • The Syndarin elves thank Tempus Alea for returning the personal affects of the victims and Keeper Arannis to them. Since it is late, the group decides to spent another night at the village.
  • Verrin is disturbed in his sleep by an ominous dream about an oak spirit, and as the party is about to leave, druid Venua calls out for the paladin. The old elf informs Verrin that the oak spirit wishes to speak to him. In the shelter of a grove, the group witnesses the face of an anthropomorphic tree being appear where numerous branches meet and intertwine magically. It is Obad-hai, god of nature.
    Audible only to the ears of Verrin and Keena, the god confronts the halfling with the fact that he has not been acting true to the promise he made. Verrin, very much aware of this, admits to breaking his oath, saying so out loud for everyone to hear: “It’s hard to be the light when you have so much darkness inside.”
    Since he did not choose the second option Obad-hai had offered – seeking redemption – the god turns away from Verrin. Asked by Keena if he was alright, Verrin answers: “I am…lesser.”
    On their way back, Tempest informs Rana that his sword senses the presence of evil among their group.
  • Back at Talonvale, Tempus Alea reports back to the council and receives a reward for their efforts. In a conversation with Lilli and Ta’lareg, Rana raises her concerns regarding Verrin’s current state and lets them in on what Tempest told her. Ta’lareg suggests to keep an eye on the halfling, and Lilli adds that they should give Verrin the benefit of the doubt.
  • The following night, Verrin does not come home and only turns up later the next day, utterly drunk. When he does not appear from his room again, Lilli tries to persuade him to get out of bed and “stop feeling sorry for himself” – by dumping a jug of water on his head. A brief struggle ensues. Tempest bars Verrin’s door with his sword, which only causes Verrin to demolish the door enough so he can get out.
    Annoyed by the ruckus, Rana moves downstairs into the workshop for the time being.
  • Eventually, Keena seems to be able to calm Verrin down. He confides in her, allowing a glimpse at his dark thoughts and the well-hidden anger directed at himself and the world. When Keena points out that, to her, he is still the same Verrin, he answers that he is more like the dwarven mentor now he mentioned once before in a past conversation. This mentor Verrin calls his “teacher and tormentor”, and adds that he, the dwarf, is someone who also hates elves very much. Unwilling to believe that the halfling turned evil, Keena encourages Verrin to call for her should his anger ever threaten to get the better of him.

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