Time to Dice

19: Lifting the veil
  • “Worms! You did not keep your word. For this – you die…”
    And with that, the party sees Keeper Arannis step out of the fog, dragging one of the hags by the hair. He slits her throat and steps on her hand as she tries to cast a spell. The other two hags are nowhere to be seen. Verrin throws his ax at the elf, but misses. Arannis, looking at the group, says: “I’ll give you one chance. Leave, or die.” The party chooses neither and attacks.
  • In the fight that ensues, Tempus Alea and Tempest find out that the elven appearance was but a disguise. Once the Keeper looks seriously wounded, he transforms into a green dragon, still young, but vicious nonetheless. Keeper Arannis, they realize, must have died months ago during the attack on his group of hunters, and Vodekr the Scourge took his place. Several of the party members come close to death in the encounter with the dragon, but in the end, they are able to defeat the beast that had been draining the life force from the elven forest.
  • After healing their wounds and harvesting parts of the dragon, the group returns to the Syndarin village – their horses, unfortunately, also have fallen prey to Vodekr. At the outskirts, they meet Merryl and Elandthyr. Following Arannis’ decision, they are about to leave their home to go into exile. However, as they hear what has happened, and that all of them had been tricked by the dragon, they decide to return and help Tempus Alea spread the word.
  • At first sceptical, the elven druid Venua, who had previously healed Ta’lareg of his petrification, believes in what is reported as Rana shows him her memories. Afterwards, the decision is made that Merryl shall become the new Keeper.
  • The next day, Tempus Alea together with Tempest travel into the mire once more to locate the dragon’s liar. They find its entrance hidden under water, and from a simple cave system they recover a decent amount of gold and valuable items. However, they also come across the heavily decayed body of the actual Keeper Arannis. They remove his cloak and armor and decide to return it to the elves.
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18: Wits and wagers
  • As nothing special happens when the group stays overnight at the second camp, they travel on to inspect the Jade Mire. They decide to leave the horses at the outskirts of the bog, and Keena asks them to return to the camp should any danger arise.
  • They don’t make it too far into the mire, when they are attacked by a group of humanoid badgers – Ryvens – and their pet basilisk. Keena tries to prevent a fight, but as Lilly tries to distract the Ryvens with a spell, the creatures attack. The party emerges victorious, but Ta’lareg turns to stone after the gaze of the basilisk falls upon him. The group decides to bring him to the Syndarin village to ask for help.
  • After an elf cleric turns Ta’lareg back into his living form, the ranger together with Verrin and Rana pay another visit to Keeper Arannis. They report their findings, and at the mention of the snake-like traces, the old elf seems to recall something, but Rana, trying to assess his motives, can only discern that Arannis is trying to suppress a specific memory. Be it due to trauma or malintent, she cannot tell. Showing the same reserved and condescending demeanor, Arannis tests Rana’s patience and evokes certain reactions from Verrin which cause the Keeper to promise that the halfling will lose his tongue should he return. The only helpful thing Keeper Arannis can offer is the suggestions that the party return to the mire for a more thorough investigation.
  • At their return to the bog, Rana notices that the faint magical aura she felt lying on the swampy are the first time they went inside does not spread beyond its border. Some time later, the warlock believes to see a tree-house out of the corner of her eye, and behind a shield of magical illusion, the group indeed finds such a house. They see an old lady vanish behind the house, and as they are about to walk closer, a second old lady appears next to them, beckoning them to come inside. When they see a third old lady, Tempest warns everyone to be very careful, as these are hags who love nothing more than to haggle and barter in an exchange for information.
  • For the price of one vial of Rana’s blood, the hags let the group know that the creature they are hunting is called Vodekr the Scourge, a being of elder blood residing in the swamp that lives to kill. It loves to play with its pray, so the hags explain, and it might take on any form. In fact, they continue, the party has already met Vodekr in disguise unbeknownst to them, more than once within the last week. When asked if he has any specific characteristics that would give him away, the hags answer that Vodekr is quick to anger. He can be killed, so it seems, but how the hags, who made a deal with the Scourge so he would not attack them, won’t say.
  • To everyone’s surprise, the hags also say that they know all there is to know about them and that they have been watching the party for quite some time – even before the fight with the Chaos Titan, the giant worm that Zythaeryn tried to bring to this realm.
  • As Rana leaves the tree-house, the hags offer her information on her grandfather, but she rejects the offer, not willing to pay the price. One after another, they leave the house. Verrin threatens the hags that he will return should they have lied when they said that no harm would come to Rana by giving her blood. The hags repeat their promise, but add that harm would soon come to all of them either way. – Tempest stays for a moment longer, apparently attempting to persuade the hags into entering a deal, but to no avail.
  • The group leaves and soon after they leave the magically warded area, Rana uses the sending stone to ask Belendithas if he has ever heard of the name Vodekr. As they want to move on, they hear faint commotion behind them in the distance – it is coming from the hags’ house. They return , weapons drawn, and beyond the magical shield that hides the tree-house, they find everything in ruins. The house lies in pieces, the hags are nowhere to be seen. But the area is filled with a noxious fog that forces Ta’lareg to his knees while the others struggle for air or cover their mouths.
  • As the group wants to retreat, a booming voice rings out through the forest…
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17: First investigations
  • The party travels on and ventures deeper into the Talonvale Forest. A few days afterwards, a humongous figure – a Jack-in-chains – breaks through the trees, chasing a humanoid figure. The latter turns out to be a half-elf blood hunter who introduces himself as Tempest after everyone worked together to slay the giant. Tempest, it turns out, used to be a Twilight Sentinel, which piques Rana’s interest.
  • Tempest joins Tempus Alea and the two elves to assist them in finding out what makes the Syndarin vanish one after another.
  • Once they reach the elven village, they are brought before Seeker Arannis. He confirms what the group has learned from Myrill and Elandthyr. Around 150 Sindarin elves have gone missing over the last three months while out hunting. Chances are they were killed. Arannis himself is the only known survivor. The group of young, inexperienced hunters he led out into the hunting grounds were attacked by a creature that moved incredibly fast, and all that remained were blood spatters. A dense fog and a smell of death preceded the attacks. The animals, Arannis adds, refuse to talk about the incidents. They did, however, speak of a so-called Heart of the Scourge – a name no-one has ever heard of. Arannis hands out a map on which the locations of four of the attack sites are marked. Furthermore informs everyone that the question was raised among the elves whether or not the Ryven folk living north of the Syndarin village might have something to do with the incidents. So far, there has always been peace, which is why the Seeker does not really consider this a possibility.
  • Before the group leaves, Keena asks about the fate of Myrill and Elandthyr, and upon learning that they will probably be exiled, gets upset. Rana tries to intervene, but the druid continues to tell Arannis what she thinks about strict laws like these, until Arannis has everyone escorted out by his guards. In leaving, he warns Tempus Alea that, while they are allowed to conduct their investigation, the smallest act of hostility coming from their side will result in severe measures from the elves.
  • During the following days, Tempus Alea with Tempest examine the four camp sites marked on the map, but find little evidence of the attacks. The most striking fact is that all the animals of the forest are gone.

1st camp:
- at leas one month old
- tracks from snake or snake-like creature
- magical residue
- decay on leaves

2nd camp:
- 2-3 weeks old
- downed trees
- signs of decay, spread about 30ft around the site

3rd camp:
- not more than a week old
- two unusual tracks that were covered up, plants around are wilted
- hint of musk in the air
- magical residue
- signs of decay
=> Someone approaches the camp during the night, but they are gone before Verrin and Keena can catch up with them.

4th camp:
- more than a month old
- any relevant traces gone

  • The party speculates what creature might be behind the attacks and whether or not someone is helping or guiding it – and if this could possibly be an “inside” job initiated by one of the Syndarin elves.
  • They decide to check out the third camp once more. The night at that camp goes by uneventful this time, so the group follows the direction the unknown persons approaching them before took when they fled. Since the second campsite is more or less on the way, they decide to take another look at that as well, before continuing to follow the tracks.
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16: Into the woods
  • Eventually, Tempus Alea is called to the tribunal halls to receive the first mission as the new heroes of the realm. Two Sindarin elves who live in the hidden depth of the Talonvale Forest came to ask for help. For months, one tribe member after the other has been vanishing while out hunting. No bodies or any other form of evidence was found so far. Even though the tribe leader spoke out against seeking help from the outside world, these two elves decided to risk banishment in order to ask for Tempus Alea’s assistance.
  • As Lilli went out on her own to help the sick and the other party members have no idea where to find her, the group can only head out on the following day, now equipped with horses.
  • The travel on the road goes by uneventful, but soon after entering the forest, the party is attacked by three trolls which are soon defeated, nearly at the cost of one of the elves’ life.
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15: A new home
  • In the evening, Tempus Alea is welcomed at a private gathering at the Diamond District, accompanied by Anya and Reza. There they get to meet the Emperor’s family. In an amazing display of magical skills, the party’s fight against Zythaeryn is projected against the side of the mountains, much to the wonder and awe of the citizens.
  • During the following days, the group settles into The Old Guild Hall, a spacious building which was offered to them by the Emperor as an interim solution until they receive a keep of their own (should they prove worthy).
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14: Talks and tension
  • The group says goodnight to Anya and a very drunk Reza and returns to the Old Oak, where almost everyone enjoys a late-night meal. Lilli on the other hand goes into her room, takes off her armor, and sneaks out of the tavern, only noticed by Ta’lareg. The ranger sees how the gnome cleric enters a shabby tavern in the city’s less than nice quarter. He manages to enter after her, unseen, and watches how Lilli provokes an orc barbarian to the point where he drags her outside. In the following confrontation, both Lilli and Ta’lareg nearly lose their life.
  • Worried about her absent companions, Keena in wolf-shape and Rana search for them, until they run into Ta’lareg who carries an unconscious Lilli in his arms. Keena begins to heal the gnome right away. Worried that they might be followed, the ranger urges them to hurry back to the Old Oak. Once there, everyone gathers in Ta’laregs room, who carefully lies down Lilli on the bed. Keena applies more healing spell and realizes that Lilli only pretends to be unconscious. The druid decides not to tell the others. Listening to Ta’lareg’s recount of the past hour, Rana wonders aloud if Lilli might not want to reconsider accepting the Emperor’s offer. Everyone returns to their room for the night.
  • The next morning, everyone goes about their own business. When it is time to leave for the Diamond District, Rana checks in on Lilli. In an attempt to mitigate the situation but also show the gnome that she is not angry with her, Rana tells Lilli that she has her back, but that she needs to know that the opposite holds true as well – and that functioning as a group will not work if she, Lilli, endangers the reputation of all of them by randomly picking fights. On her way out, the warlock notices Lilli’s holy symbol of Pelor lying on the floor. A crack is running all the way through the amulet.
  • Once more in front of the tribunal, the party announces that they decided to accept the Emperor’s offer – and that the group’s name shall be Tempus Alea. After discussing a few of the details, they are dismissed until the beginning of the festivities. These have been organized to raise the moral within the capital after the events in Dendros, but also to celebrate the new heroes of the realm.
  • Since several hours are left until the official celebration within the Diamond District begin, the party goes on another shopping tour and eventually ends up in Anya’s store again. There, they test the first pair of the commissioned communication stones for a second time, and all side-effects appear to have been taken care of.
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13: The emperor's offer
  • After spending the night at the Old Oak, the party takes care of some shopping and finally ends up in the Arcanium Mysterium, run by half-elf Anya. After discussing commissions and making purchases, the group agrees to come back after the store is closed in order to test the prototype of a communication device. Moreover, Anya promises to help Rana cast her first ritual ever.
  • At midday, the party meets the tribunal of Talonvale. After following up on previous events, Emperor Alestan announces that he has an offer to make. He asks the party members if they would like to become the new heroes of this realm and protect land and people. This would include seats on the tribunal and, should the group continue to prove victorious, a piece of land would be at their disposal – they could even have their own keep built. While some of the party members seem to be willing to accept right then and there, others are hesitant. Thus, the Emperor grants them a full day to consider their answer. – Afterwards, the group receives their reward for taking care of Zythaeryn.
  • During the afternoon, everyone goes his or her on ways, and Naga’s hoarding instinct kicks in as she protects a tankard full of cheese. – Later on, the group discusses the Emperor’s offer. Rana reminds them that being the heroes of this realm would mean that, privileges aside, they would also have obligations. In addition, they would be bound together as a group. For Verrin, accepting the offer seems to be an easy decision to make, given that he already is a knight and a champion. Ta’lareg, too, has no apparent qualms. Keena would like to accept, but at the condition that she can continue to protect her land, and Lilli dislikes the prospect of losing their independence. The party agrees to accept the offer in the end, but plan to negotiate the details first.
  • In the evening, everyone returns to Anya’s store. The communication stones work, but still need some fine-tuning. Afterwards, Anya assists Rana in casting the spell Find Familiar, while the rest of the group chats with Anya’s husband Reza.
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12: The way back to Talonvale
  • The party decides to travel back to Talonvale on foot; Verrin rides his pony. Keena converses with the pony and finds out that it is yet to be named, so she suggests Caley (this ultimately plunges the poor animal into a crisis, for Keena tells the pony that Caley means “brave warrior” and asks if it thought that this would be a fitting name – for the first time, the pony is forced to think about itself as an independent being).
  • The group arrives at Leefside where they are welcomed by innkeeper Cilia. From her, they learn that a supply delivery from Peynol is overdue and that the inn is running low, especially on meat. Rana offers to keep an eye open on their travel to Talonvale since they will share the road with any merchant who might be coming from Peynol for a while.
  • The next morning, Rana finds herself teleported to a different plane, that is, right into the middle of a galaxy. (So that happened.)
  • The supplies did not arrive over night, therefore Ta’lareg asks for more information regarding the merchants involved in the delivery. Cilia hands him a piece of paper which states the name of two persons who delivered goods to Leefside several months ago, unsure if this is relevant at all. Ta’lareg points out that the merchant’s family name is Stoutheart, and he asks Verrin if these were relatives of his. Without a word, Verrin goes back to his room to get his belongings and, soon after, leaves the tavern to rush off on his pony. Keena transforms into a huge elk and follows. She learns that the two merchants listed on Cilia’s delivery slip are Verrin’s parents.
  • Verrin and Keena-elk come across a merchant who carries a heavy sack over his shoulder. They learn that his cart was attacked by a huge, bird-like creature further up the road. Most of the goods that he was going to deliver to Leefside were destroyed, his horses eaten. Verrin is relieved to hear that no one else was involved in the delivery and the attack, and he takes care of the man’s wounds. Verrin and Keena make camp. Keena uses the chance to ask about Verrin’s family.
  • Ta’lareg, Lilli, and Rana eventually run into the same merchant. They find out who he is and that he met Verrin (Keena-elk was hiding so she would not scare off the poor old man).
  • Half a day later, the whole party meets up, and they make camp. Very early in the morning, they are attacked by two younger griffins that are later joined by their mother – now it is clear what attacked the merchant’s cart. The party successfully defeats all three of them (griffin steak, anyone?).
  • Later on, the group inspects what is left of the cart, and they manage to salvage some grain which, along with a decent amount of griffin meat, they hand over to a merchant who is on his way to Dendros. Ta’lareg and Rana tip him, hoping he will keep his promise and deliver the goods to the Leefside tavern.
  • After a few more days of travel, the group finally arrives at the gates of Talonvale.
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11: The tribunal of Dendros
  • The party decides to keep Zythaeryn’s sword inside the bag of holding while Lilli continues to carry the crown in her backback. Rana suggests to go to Talonvale and leave both items in the care of the tribunal, but Belendithas sends a message back on the sending stone and asks them to return to Dendros instead: the tribunal was waiting for them there.
  • It takes them a few days to get to Dendros. The group spends a night at the Bull and Locust tavern at Leefside, where the party gets to meet the medical examiner Quinn Marigold, Rana’s halfling friend and teacher.
  • The next morning, the group travels the rest of the way to Dendros where they are directly brought to the Emerald Arcanium. On their way through the town, Rana notices that many of the guards give her dark or unbeliving looks – inside the hallways of the Arcanium, one of them spits on the ground in front of her. The warlock ignores him, while Verrin and Lilli regard him with angry looks of their own. The gnome cleric proceeds to “acidentally” step on the guard’s foot, which creates a faint smile on Rana’s lips.
  • Finally, Rana is granted a full pardon from both the duke and the emperor, but she also learns that the guards she fought during her escape from the prison four years ago died of their wounds.
  • While Ta’lareg, Keena, and Rana head towards The Dancing Pebble, Verrin decides to look for his family armor in the arena. Lilli accompanies him. They cannot find the armor where the paladin had left it in the ready room. (Lilli nearly sets the arena on fire when she uses a fireball to get rid of a dark mushroom and the black veins spreading out from it – still no armor.) Verrin asks the guard outside the arena if he had come across a shiny set of half-plate armor. The man denies, but promises to look around. They catch up with the others. On their way to the tavern, another guard approaches to give Verrin the price money from the tournament. He, too, has not heard anything yet about Verrin’s armor, but he seems much more interested in the search when Verrin promises a reward.
  • The party spends the night at The Dancing Pebble. Rana stays with her mother.
  • While enjoying breakfast the next morning, guards deliver Verrin’s armor. They found a man who was stupid enough to try and sell the set on the black market.
  • Afterwards, Verrin and Ta’lareg head out to do some shopping. The other three head to the temple district. Since Belendithas is not at the temple, Rana uses the sending stone to ask if he was on his way to Talonvale yet (the tribunal asked for his assistance with handling of Zythaeryn’s crown and sword and further deciphering the old texts). Lilli enters Pelor’s temple and donates almost all of her money in Keena’s name and asks that it be used to help the poor, suffering, and abused. She then goes on to pray in a dark corner, shedding silent tears.
  • The party decides to stay in the port district for a while to see if maybe they can find a merchant with a cart who would be willing to take them to Talonvale.
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10: The fight against Zythaeryn
  • The party walks upstairs, only to find itself in front of a large, rectangular hall (approximately 100 × 200 feet) whose ceiling is missing. There are doors lining each wall as well as an alcove with two flight of stairs on the right. High above, the enormous black scar is pulsing and wailing and it covers almost the entirety of the room. In the center of the room, there are two pits of lava. To the left is a platform covered with arcane, glowing runes. Zythaeryn is standing upon it, his form visibly changed as he now stands eight to nine feet tall – and he is wearing the jagged crown that everyone but Lilli knows from Rana’s vision. Six duergar stand at his ready.
  • As soon Zythaeryn and several of the duergar have left, the group enters. On the top floor of the temple, they can make out the pulsing red lights they saw from the outside but cannot yet discern what is giving off the glow. Keena and Rana inspect the platform with its glowing runes, and the warlock realizes that whatever this seal kept locked away either has been removed or soon will be. When the party decides to join Verrin who is about to walk upstairs to the upper floor, Zythaeryn’s voice rings out loud from behind them: "Well, it certainly took you long enough. I was afraid we would have to start without you.
  • About eleven feet up on the top floor of the temple stands Zythaeryn and lining the edge of the gallery, six duergar await, armed with javelins. Zythaeryn tries to bring Rana under his control, but she withstands the charm effect, leaving a puzzled look on the drown prince’s face. He gives the order to kill the group, but capture Rana alive.

Highlight: Lilli uses thaumaturgy to increase the volume of her voice, just like Zythaeryn did, and mocks him.

  • The party evades most of the javelins thrown at them and kills some of the duergar; Zythaeryn gets out of sight. The group runs upstairs to the temple’s top floor and now sees that there is a large, red crystal in each corner, sending out the pulsating light. They kill the last two duergar. At that point, all four crystals begin to pulse faster. Then there is a flash that is mirrored in the humongous black scar which begins to open. Behind it, the party sees a devastated world lying under a yellowish sky and filled with twisted forms, beings, and shadows (and the occasional tentacle) – a sight taken straight from Rana’s vision. In the distance, they can see a serpent-like entity flying straight towards the open portal.
  • The group inspects the crystals, and Ta’lareg realizes that they look exactly like the crystal that he and his first party came across, only much bigger. He warns everyone not to touch the crystals, but lets them know that they can be destroyed. Thus, they begin to attack the first crystal and notice that, while magic has no effect on them, melee weapons eventually deal the first crack. When Verrin destroys the second crystal, the portal above flickers for a moment.
  • Zythaeryn returns, flying onto the top level – the final (?) battle against the cursed drow prince begins. In a team effort, the party brings Zythaeryn to a point where he looks severely beaten up. He attempts to charm Rana once more, but once more, the warlock resists. In return, her attempts to knock the crown off of the drow prince’s head with her eldritch blast fail. He vanishes once more.

Highlights: Keena in her tiger-form lands some heavy claw attacks; Naga attacks! (and gets hit in return, poor thing); Lilli uses spirit guardians, and the radiant force of this spell makes Zythaeryn recoil and writhe in pain; Verrin uses misty step to appear right above the drown prince and comes at him with a quadruple combo (short sword, thunderous smite, divine smite, extra damage from the activated sword) that nearly kills Zythaeryn on the spot.

  • Dawnbringer Phantom and two of the other Twilight Sentinels climb atop the temple, and together they begin to destroy the remaining crystals. Zythaeryn reappears, now again standing on the platform in the hall below. He looks up into the vortex and a horrible screeching noise comes from the other side of the portal – the serpent-like creature has come dangerously close to the opening. While some attack the drow prince once more, the others smash the last two crystals. In the very moment that the serpent crosses over, the last crystal is destroyed, the portal closes. The head of the hideous creature is cut off and falls to the ground, crushing Phantom and Keena, and Zythaeryn underneath. They manage to free the druid and the Sentinel as the whole temple – and in fact the whole island – begins to shake and rumble. Rana grabs Zythaeryn’s sword and hands Lilli her scarf so she can wrap up the crown in it. Zythaeryn appears to have been killed.
  • Retreating the way they came from is impossible at this point. As the temple falls apart, the lava around it begins to rise – the bridge leading onto the island is gone. Phantom casts a dimension door which transports everyone out into the cave, yet not far away enough to be out of danger, as the group has to run from the lava Unfortunately, purifier Silver does not make it, and Rana nearly burns to death as well. Once they reach a safe area, they rest briefly. Phantom and Rana step aside for a moment, and he gives her an ornamental dagger with the initials R.M.L. carved into the hilt, the initials of her grandfather which also adorn the front of her journal. The warlock remembers Mal’fir’s memory: this is indeed the dagger that destroyed the beholder’s eye. Much to her frustration, Phantom vanishes, leaving many questions unanswered.
  • The party finds a way out of the Underdark, and they end up at a place where Ta’lareg and his first party fought a group of goblins as they began their investigation into the activities of Kel’rorn’s cultists. Shortly before they leave the Shiverpeak Mountains, Rana attunes to Zythaeryn’s double-bladed sword – which, she realizes right away, was a bad idea. Once they leave the mountainside, they make camp.
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