Time to Dice

Campaign recap before the arrival at Dendros

Party #1

The party finds itself in the small coastal town of Peynol, a very small fishing village in the north-east of Talonia. They buy a trip on a carriage to the capital city of Talonvale. About halfway there, they camp out for the night and find themselves ambushed, bound, and gagged by a group of goblins that have been menacing the carriages as of late. The guard, Reza, that was hired to protect the wagon, frees the party from the goblins and flees to a safe distance. They track the goblins back to their den, and with the help of Reza slaughter them, acquire some treasure, and make their way to Talonvale.

The party reaches the town and goes shopping for both goods and company. Reza approaches the party members once more. He pays them for their assistance with the goblin horde and asks them for service. He successfully hires the group to exchange a package with on old family friend who lives in the forest to the south. The party leaves for the forest, and after some time traveling inside, the members find themselves in a lost forest puzzle. After solving it, they are almost trampled by a stampede. A forest sprite encourages the druid Lyra to follow her into the forest. The party finds a group of cultists surrounding a crystal monument above a mysterious cursed pool of purple liquid.

The party kills the cultists, but not before said cultists summon a group of needle blights. The party, however, is victorious. They activate the crystal which leads them to an underground cavern full of spiders, troglodytes, darkmantles, and an ocher ooze. After almost losing their tank, Lokrii, the party rests, then presses forward into a downward spiraling pathway which leads to a rocky cavern with another crystal monument and another cultist. A fight ensues between the party, the cultist, and a summoned displacer beast. The party prevails and interrogates the cultist. The ever curious Lyra places her hand upon the dark sigil which afflicts her and a few other members of the party, rendering them unconscious. The dark cultist however is afflicted in a different way…

After some time interrogating the cultist, the party finally attempts to kill him, but he vanishes into an ethereal mist and disappears into thin air. Finding a relic on the cultist and tinkering with the objects, the group is able to revive Lady Lyra and shatter the sigil. Carrying the rest of the party out of the cave, they find that the pool of purple liquid has been restored and the curse lifted. Wearily, the party presses on to Canir, the man they are to take the package to.

They meet him and exchange the packages, he explains a bit about the cultists, and tries to help the downed party members, but to no avail. Canir sends word to the Talonvale arcanium about the recent events and informs the party members that they should attend the tribunal. The party makes its way back and takes the downed members to the arcanium. Finally, the group returns to Reza. He pays them for the job well done and introduces them to his good friend Anya, the enchantress. The party takes some time to create some magical items.

Party #2

The new party is assigned to transport a prisoner, a human male, associated with many crimes including kidnapping, dismemberment, and murder. The group is tasked with transporting this prisoner to the city of Dendros to the north. Nearly an 8th of the way to Dendros, the caravan is ambushed, and the prisoner escapes with the help of an elven woman who had pretended to be a mercenary protecting the caravan. The party follows suit to the south and enters the Talonvale forest. Following the tracks for a few days, the party stumbles upon a horse lying dead on the ground. It is identified as the horse the prisoner the elven woman had escaped on.

The party members follow the tracks as best they can, walking deeper and deeper into the vast forest. Night begins to fall. A bright flash and a wave of arcane energy eventually reveals what appears to be a gathering of humanoids. Upon closer inspection there is indeed a dark ritual occurring. A body lies on a slightly raised dais. It is the escaped prisoner. Wandering closely nearby is the elven woman. Surrounding the platform are three cultists, muttering and chanting something. A vortex of storm clouds gathers around ten to fifteen feet above the altar.

Morthil, the half-elven rogue, successfully infiltrates the ceremony, disguised as the cultist leader from the previous caravan ambush. He is able to kill one of the cultists performing the ritual. A fight ensues, as various shadows are summoned against the party. After nearly being killed, the elven woman pulls a dagger from her waist and stabs the man on the altar. The storm clouds break as a layer of mist fills the air.

Upon the altar now stands a shadow demon with long lanky arms, sharp talon like claws protruding from his hands. All of the bodies that had remained vanish and only piles of rags stay behind. A skirmish follows as the shadow demon engages the party. With Morthil coming close to death, Rana, the human warlock, attempts to control the demon with Crown of Madness. With his hunger to feed off of power, the shadow demon is drawn to her, slashing her across the face. She retaliates with a dark rage of her own, exploding with an eldritch rage. The demon is eviscerated within the blast, but only the body of the prisoner lies slain at the feet of where the demon had hovered. Some time passes, and the thought of bringing the dead prisoner’s head back to Kaiden comes up (and is executed). Eventually, the party is able to press on.

The party members return to Talonvale and meet up with the tribunal: Cruice Trannyth (head cleric), Kaiden Stormclaw (captain of the Talonian military), Madelon Emberbreeze (head arcanist), and Emperor Alestan Gaspar. Accompanying the meeting are two new individuals. A human ranger and a half-elven druid. After some time, it is decided that the emblems, the amulets that had been gathered, should be destroyed. Cruice smashes the amulets, and as the second one breaks, there is a flash of energy and the druid accompanying the party collapses. Her eyes glaze over with a black gloss.

The council believes that Ta’lareg, the human ranger, and his previous group unknowingly broke the seal keeping Kel’rorn, the Dark Lord of Chaos, bound to his realm. The council reports on the events that have recently occurred. Outbreaks of undead attacks have been spotted and seem to be traveling north. The party is assigned with the task of hunting down a necromancer who supposedly is behind these events and of otherwise investigating the attacks of the undead that have been troubling the area. Emphasis is put on the importance of not drawing attention to the fact that Kel’rorn could be loose on this realm. Confident in the new party’s abilities, the emperor funds the members and sends them on their way.

The party makes its way into northern Talonia, where one night, the members are ambushed by skeletons, ghouls, and a skeletal warhorse. The next morning, they venture forth toward Dendros. At some point, they spot two humanoids in the middle of the road, a male, lying on his back, and a female, huddled over top of the man, crying. Upon investigation, the woman turns out not to be crying, but eating the man. Professor Brassbind, a dwarven wizard, who is the closest at the time, almost comes under attack, but manages to dodge out of the way. After finishing off the undead woman, Brassbind sets fire to the corpses, and the party continues on. Not long afterwards the party notices a plume of smoke, apparently coming from the village of Leefside.

They reach the village, only to realize that it is overrun with zombies. Most of the buildings are locked up. Various survivors barricaded themselves in the local inn. After clearing the town of undead, Khandril, the high-elf sorcerer, notes that the undead appear to be coming from a crypt to the south. Rana, the human warlock, approaches the inn and tells the citizens hiding inside that it was safe for the time being, but that they were going to investigate the crypt. Knowing the young woman, who had lived at Leefside for several years, the villagers trust Rana’s word.

On approaching the crypt, a fight ensues. Morthil is grabbed by an ethereal figure and dragged inside the crypt. The party has to fight its way inside, but when the members get inside, there is no sign of the rogue. They have to fight through a few more of the undead beasts, until the room is finally clear. A large wood and iron door lies at the back of the room: the stench that fills the crypt is coming from there. The ever headstrong Professor Brassbind is able to open the door – bash the door open, rather – revealing what turns out to be a monstrous flesh golem. After a few good hits from it, the party is able to vanquish the golem. Scattered inside the room are all of Morthil’s belongings.

The party leaves, only Rana lags behind just a tad. She inspects the golem and with that recognizes the face of the entity to be that of their companion Morthil. The party leaves and walks back into town to let the denizens know that it appears to be safe to come out. The tavern owner is so thankful that she grants the party members access to use the tavern anytime they want, free of charge. They feast and rest before setting off the next morning.

Finally, the party makes its way to Dendros, a large city nestled in a mountain range.

Arrival at Dendros

As the party arrives at the gate of Dendros, the large mountain-city in northern Talonia, one of the guards gives them a letter from Kaiden Stormclaw, head of the Talonian military, and captain of the guard. The man who, along with the Emperor himself, sent them on this mission. The letter grants the party access to the ball taking place at the end of the winter festival, which is to begin on the following day. If everything stays calms, the party is to report to the Duke and the Duchess of Dendros during the ball to fill them in on the situation.

Rana takes them to The Dancing Pebble, a nicer tavern on the second level of Dendros, where the dwarf Professor Brassbind soon engages in a drinking match, while Rana talks to the chef of the tavern in private with whom she seems to be very close. The female cook recommends The Hero & Flagon, another tavern which, for reasons unknown, has not attracted overly many guests despite the hugely popular winter festival.

The party continues to said tavern – Brassbind being carried by Ta’lareg and Durion. Everyone retreats for the night, but their rest is cut short as Ta’lareg is woken up by a commotion coming from the next room. The ranger enters Rana’s room and finds the warlock caught in what seems to be a bad dream. As he finally manages to make her snap out of it – the others have gathered around – Rana’s first reaction is to heave herself out of bed and throw up in a corner of her room. After taking a moment, she tells the others what she saw in her dream: every person in Dendros was slaughtered by beings unrecognizable to her, and even the other party members lay dead at her feet. Eventually, a being that might once have been an elf, wearing a golden, jagged crown, approached her, his very presence disturbing Rana to the core. The last thing she saw was a serpent-like figure devouring her.

While the party discusses if this creature could in any way be related to either the necromancer they were looking for or possibly Kel’rorn himself, Rana admits that this was not the first time she saw the violent death of all of Dendros’ citizens in such a “vision”. This time, however, the dream had been far more detailed than ever before.

Soon after, the group discovers that Brassbind has left.

1: Raising suspicion

Rana and Khandril make their way the fourth level of Dendros. Khandril conducts private research at the Emerald Arcanium. She also stops by at Professor Brassbind’s office, only to find it empty, yet covered in scrolls, scraps, and pieces of paper – evidence of the dwarf’s effort to find a solution for the curse of the Duerga.
Rana visits the temple of Gilean, god of knowledge, hoping to find her old friend Belendithas, for he might be the one to know more about the warlock’s horrible vision of death and destruction. From a young half-elf she learns that the high priest of Gilean set out to lead a group of people into the ruins of the excavation site of Dendros. Rana’s visit rouses the attention of two other clerics, who apparently are able to see through the magical disguise she has been using for the past days.
As Khandril and Rana head to the arena, they realize that they are being followed by said clerics. In casting invisibility on both of them Khandril prevents a confrontation.

Ta’lareg and Durion enter the martial arts competition at the arena and, unbeknownst to them, come across Verrin for the first time. While Ta’lareg is defeated in his first match, the halfling champion Verrin prevails in a fight against an eager young lad.
Afterwards, Ta’lareg and Durion meet up with Rana and Khandril and are warned that the warlock’s visit to the temple raised some suspicion.

The party walks back to their tavern – openly followed by half-elf Keena, whom Rana had bumped into earlier. As they discuss the possible risk of being caught by the clerics, Rana confides in the group, telling them that she used to be a priestess in training at the temple of Gilean, but that she had to flee Dendros eventually after she had been accused of murder. She reports how during the winter festival four years ago, her father, a close friend of the family, and his son vanished in front of her eyes, as if being swallowed by a portal. Due to the fact that several of the other clerics at the temple always thought her to be weird thanks to strange dreams she has had as long as she could remember and two “public visions” (i.e., Rana screaming that everyone in Dendros would die – but nothing happened afterwards), the young woman was taken into custody. Things turned really bad as the friend of the family who had vanished along with her father and the boy turned up dead, his eyes removed, clutching Rana’s holy pendant in his hand…

Agreeing that the return of her vision – and in a far more detailed version at that – meant nothing good, the party decides to investigate further into the meaning of the vision, the strange, elven-like creature in particular. Then they proceed to deal with the rather nosy half-even woman who had followed them to the tavern. Ta’lareg questions the druid, and, despite some reservations coming from Rana, the party eventually welcomes Keena as a new member.

The following morning, Rana receives the same gruesome vision a second time.

2: The team grows
Sunday, November 1, 2015

The party, now without Durion, decides to split. Khandril is going to mingle with the festival goers while being invisible to listen in on the city talk. Ta’lareg, Keena, and Rana (using a different disguise) go to the excavation where Verrin had been sent earlier. Along with a group of guards, it is the halfling’s task to protect high priest Belendithas and several other clerics as they make their way into excavation ruins in order to find a library.
Eventually, Ta’lareg, Keena, and Rana come upon the others. Rana reveals her true identity to Belendithas who is visibly relieved to see that she is alive.
The whole group proceeds further into ruins.

Video Link

3: Books and battles
Sunday, November 8, 2015

After defeating a group of goblins and two ogres, the party discovers a library – the library that high priest Belendithas and the other clerics had been looking for. While the party members are unable to read any of the books, Belendithas tells them that the library might very well contain the oldest pieces of writing ever being composed in this realm.

4: The plot thickens

The party has a long conversation with Belendithas. Rana tells him that two of the clerics saw through her disguise and probably went to alarm the guards. She then fills the high priest in on the group’s mission and also informs him that her vision has returned, albeit in a much more intense and more detailed version. When she tries to show Belendithas only the last image of her vision, Rana accidentally transfers the whole vision.

Belendithas informs the party that the elvish creature from Rana’s vision might very well be Kel’rorn since the form he took on (read: stolen body) the last time he set foot on this realm was that of a drow. Moreover, he assumes that Kel’rorn is targeting Rana. Ta’lareg raises the question what it is about her that would make her interesting for the god of chaos. Keena muses if Rana might be related to someone important to Kel’rorn or if he wants to take over her body – at which point Rana panics.

The high priest calms her down by pointing out that Kel’rorn has never been seen switching bodies once he has crossed over from his realm. Yet, he believes that it is Rana’s warlock powers, considered dark, if not evil in nature, which caught Kel’rorn’s senses. And while Keena objects by saying that she doesn’t think Rana to be evil, Belendithas warns the warlock that, if her identity was indeed uncovered by the clerics, they would go to certain lengths in their attempt to bring her down – possibly even by hiring someone like the Twilight Sentinels, a group of feared witch hunters.

As a last advice, Belendithas informs the party that Kel’rorn is known to be quite vain and a connoisseur of public spectacles. Moreover, he points out that Verrin is still participating in the martial tournament and that his next match will in fact take place soon. Verrin introduces himself to the group and, shaking Rana’s hand, offers his services. The group decides to watch the halfling’s match, ready to strike should Kel’rorn show his dark face. Realizing that many lives would be at stake if the god of chaos decided to strike during the tournament, Rana offers to drop her disguise and turn herself into bait, hoping that this way, she might be able to draw in as many guards as possible. The others, however, do not want to further discuss this option.

The group mingles with the audience at the tournament. Khandril, who had stayed behind in order to listen in on the talk of the town, is nowhere to be seen. Verrin’s match goes by, nothing bad happens. The halfling wins his second fight.

On his way out, Ta’lareg overhears the guards talking, as one of them mentions that “they caught the elven woman”…

5: Wanted

When Ta’lareg tells Rana and Keena that he heard the guards talk about an elven woman they had captured, the warlock urges the group to do something. They decide to send Verrin to the Emerald Arcanium which also holds the city’s dungeon.

Thanks to his status as a knight of Dendros, Verrin is granted access and indeed finds Khandril in one of the prison cells. He sends away the guards to speak to her alone. Khandril says that the captain of the guards, Lady Toma, demanded information about a person named Aerin, an alleged terrorist, but that she, Khandril, had never heard of that person. Since Khandril’s story about her travel to Dendros matches with what the halfling learned from Rana and the others, he proceeds to have Khandril released. This proves easy enough as soon as he finds out that the high-elf is in possession of an Emperor’s badge.

Meanwhile, Ta’lareg, Keena, and Rana walk back to the Hero and Flagon, but even before they get close, they notice that guards are placed outside the tavern. A moment later, a tall, heavy built man in half-plate armor comes out the front door. Judging by his looks, he is half-elven, and his face is covered in scars. His presence is not exactly welcome, as the barkeep follows on the stranger’s feet, shouting something the party cannot hear and spitting on the ground – for which he is backhanded by one of the guards. Before he leaves the scene, the grim looking half-elf puts up a flyer.

Witnessing the scene, Keena wants to aid the barkeeper, but Rana and Ta’lareg hold her back, promising that the man will be fine. They explain that it would be too dangerous for her to go over there right now, and Rana asks if they could check in on The Dancing Pebble, the tavern the group briefly stayed at after their arrival in Dendros. Since Keena still wants to go and help the innkeeper. Rana loses her patience and storms off. One last time, Ta’lareg tries to persuade the druid to come with them – in the end, he describes the way to the other tavern and follows Rana, whereas Keena transforms into a rat and scurries off towards the Hero and Flagon.

The druid enters the tavern and ends up in the cellar. To her surprise she finds that, instead of holding food and beverages, there is an array of small tunnels in the darkened room. Through the cracks of a trapdoor, Keena catches a glimpse of the barkeep who nurses a black eye but otherwise seems to be alright. She returns to Ta’lareg and Rana.

Even before they reach The Dancing Pebble, Ta’lareg and Rana see that guards have been stationed in the surrounding buildings. Seeing the warlock furious and worried, Ta’lareg asks what it was that she wanted to take care of at the tavern. Rana confesses that the tavern used to belong to her parents and that the person she spoke to on the night of the party’s arrival was in fact her mother. Since there is nothing they can do at this point, the ranger and the warlock return into the direction they came from.

They meet up with Keena, who tells Rana about the weird tunnels at the Hero and Flagon. Pretending to just be a passer-by, Ta’lareg takes a closer look at the flyer the grim looking half-elf left earlier. It is a wanted poster, showing a sketch of Rana. The text underneath warns the citizen of Dendros that the false prophet had returned, but that they did not need not worry, as a Twilight Sentinel was sent to capture her. If found, they should immediately report to the guards or Lady Toma. Refusing to help the Sentinel or the guards would be punishable…

Eventually, the three of them come across Verrin and Khandril, and the halfling leads them to an upscale tavern called The Grotto. After treating themselves to a warm meal, ale, and tea (and a bath, in Rana’s case), the party meets up in one of the rooms to fill each other in on the day’s events. Khandril eventually leaves the group after she tells them that she saw an old friend she hasn’t seen in a long time.

The party is at a loss what to do next, and so they decide to retreat for the night.

6: And thus it begins

Most of the party members wake up refreshed, and thankfully, Rana does not experience her vision yet again. Poor Ta’lareg has to nurse a decent hangover and wanders the streets in hope of finding apple juice (which he eventually does).

Eventually, the group comes together to go over what they have learned so far.* Everyone agrees that they should watch Verrin fight in the last match of the tournament. There is a good chance that Kel’rorn might give in to his vanity and use the chance to make his grant entrance.
Since they cannot be sure what kind of challenge they have to faced – will Kel’rorn himself appear, and if so, how strong will he be, even if he isn’t at the height of his powers? – Rana suggests to send an anonymous invitation to the Twilight Sentinel, warning him of the return of the false prophet. That way, the warlock reasons, they would have back-up if needed. Keena, however, points out that such a move could create a panic among the citizens even before anything bad has happened. Rana has to agree, and instead the party decides to shop for supplies of all kinds first, then join the final match at the arena.
Should nothing happen during the match, they want to find out more about the weird tunnels Keena found in the cellar of the Hero and Flagon tavern the previous day. It might be nothing more than a smuggle operation, but Rana has begun to wonder if there is a connection between the tunnels and the fact that she has not experienced her horrible vision away from the Hero and Flagon.

Finally sitting in the stands, Keena, Ta’lareg, and Rana wait for the final match to begin. The moment Verrin greets his opponent down in the fighting pit, Rana jumps to her feet in shock. Across from the halfling stands a person who looks exactly like Morthil, her fallen comrade! He introduces himself as Zythaeryn. Only a few seconds later, panic spreads among the audience as a spectator, a lesser beholder, enters the arena right after sucking the life force from a man stumbling into the fighting pit. The man looking like Morthil drops his disguise and the group now sees a drow with white hair and blank white eyes who is holding a staff.** A fight ensues between both parties.

While the guards fend of skeletons in the stands, the party injures the drow mage bad enough for him to retreat, leaving behind the spectator. In a group effort, the creature is destroyed.
More and more skeletons swarm the stands, and to the dismay of all part members, a growing number of shadows appears all around the fighting pit. Realizing that they are vastly outnumbered, they retreat, and Verrin sees himself forced to leave his beloved magical armor behind.

Outside, the jovial winter festival has turned into utter chaos. Citizens are fleeing in all directions, while guards fight skeletons and shadows.
Some of the party members notice a man standing far off in the distance, two city levels above them, who sends a fire ball flying straight into the crowd. They decide to take care of whoever that man is.

Rana falls behind because she sends a message to warn Belendithas using the sending stone he gave her. As she turns around to look back at the arena, she sees the streets of Dendros filled with screams and devastation. Her dark vision has come to life. In this moment, a boiling rage rises inside her chest. Ready to end this, she follows after her comrades…

*Short version:

  • Kel’rorn, god of chaos, might have been set lose on his realm
  • The group has been following what must be the traces left behind by a necromancer who, according to the tribunal of Talonvale, could be a follower of Kel’rorn working towards the release of the chaos god
  • According to Belendithas, Kel’rorn used the body of a necromancer the last time he set foot on this realm. The high priest furthermore assumes that Kel’rorn might be close based on the fact that Rana’s vision from the past is back and occurred two days in a row. He also said that Kel’rorn’s jagged crown holds a good part of his powers since he locks consumed souls inside of it. [That last part was actually not brought up in the session, mentioned here for the sake of refreshing out memories.]

**In Leefside, the city that the previous party rid of undead, Rana and Ta’lareg had learned that in the days prior to the attack, a stranger had been seen around who fit this description.

7: Into the dark

The party follows the path of destruction left behind by the man who sent a fireball flying right into the crowd – it is indeed the drow mage they fought at the arena. In her rage and determination, Rana’s hands and eyes begin to flare up with greenish eldritch fire and faint traces of black smoke escape her lips.

Soon the party realizes that the man who had introduced himself to Verrin as Zythaeryn is on his way to either the mine or the ruins. On the way there, they come across a gnome cleric who stabilizes two badly wounded guards and then joins the party, ready to help. She later on introduces herself as Lilli.

Halfway between the mines and the ruins, the group meets two miners who have not seen anyone on their way. Therefore, the party turns to go to the ruins. At the entrance, they find one of the explorers from Belenditha‘s group, barely alive. The skin on his back looks like cracked leather and shows a 3-inch stab wound. Lilli uses her cleric magic to bring him back from the brink of death. Rana manages to establish a telepathic link to the man and finds out that Belendithas and the others are inside the ruins but in a safe space. The party helps the wounded explorer as best as possible and pulls him a few feet into the ruin’s entrance.

Upon entering the first cavern, a booming voice echoes from wall to wall. It is Zythaeryn who greets them: “I am glad you could make it. It’s a shame my spectator didn’t finish off at least a few of you.” After a moment, he continues: “It’s good to see you again, ranger. What happened to the rest of your friends? Did they survive or did you leave them to die in that cave?” And, directed at Rana, he adds: “And you, dark one. My, my, how you have grown… I see you have made new friends. It is tempting to do that now – but I like to play with my prey. For now, I will wait. – I will see you all soon, but for now, I have things to do.” With that, the cavern begins to shake violently as the throne that stands in the cave, giving off a shimmering light, vanishes into the ground. Parts of the ceiling come crashing down and the some of the party members are hurt by flying debris. As the dust settles, they see that a slate of solid stone now seals off the hole that the throne vanished into. But not only that. The way the group came from is buried by debris – and the cavern appears to become more and more unstable by the moment. The only option left is onwards…

Since Rana wants to check on Belendithas, the party first makes its way to the library, slowed down by illusionary doors. The entrance way to the library, however, is guarded by a huge spirit guardian. Rana recognizes the symbol of Gilean, god of knowledge, on its shield, she concludes that it is indeed Belendithas who barricaded himself and the others inside the library. Ta’lareg and Lilli are able to squeeze past it, but knocking on the door (and breaking off the handle) as well as calling out yields no results. It seems that the priest and the explorers do not want to take any chances at this point, as they were warned by Rana that the city was under attack.

The group leaves and enters into a long, winding tunnel that none of the explorers had the time to follow so far. After hours of walking, they end up in a long cave from the ceiling of which hang thousands of tiny lights, like an underground starlit sky. The group members enjoy the breathtaking view for a moment, before they begin to move through the cave. There is a small waterfall near where the group came in, and there is a good chance that it is the same stream they saw in the entrance cavern of the ruins.

Ta’lareg examines the remnants of black obelisks which hold dawrven runes engraved in them. As he begins to read, it becomes clear that this place must be some kind of memorial to the fallen. Rana, thinking of her family up in the city ravaged by undead creatures, urges the party to move on and everyone follows.

Ta’lareg and Verrin lead the way through the tunnel that leads out of the illuminated cavern, the stream on their left. Eventually, they see that the rivulet vanishes in an opening to the left. They see that the water falls straight down for about two hundred feet into a lake, and as they lean in closer, they realize that below lie the remnants of a very old underground city. All along the walls and the ground, there are crystal veins that send out a dull blue glow, allowing them to assess the vastness of the of empty city. Aside from a huge hourglass-shaped stalagmite in the middle around which the city is build in a circular fashion, the most prominent landmark is a pyramid-like building.

As soon as the other group members step over to take in the sight, Rana reminds them of what Belendithas told them about the elven prince Naeletheon who sided with the dwarves during the war, was banished by his own people, and came to live with the dwarves on Talonia, in a (up until now) secret underground city that.

The party follows the path that leads them straight into the city. Keena cannot wait to take broken-off shards from the crystal veins, then runs after her comrades.

After a short while, Ta’lareg notices a few eggs nestled inside one of the empty stone buildings. Something is moving inside, and there is a hole right in front of the door. After considering to challenge whatever is inside (Keena does not like the idea of hurting the eggs), the party successfully sneaks around the building to avoid a fight.

Using his ranger skills, Ta’lareg finds out that, somewhere below the city, is a huge number of fey beings. Rana is not sure how wise it is to venture further if they might end up running into a horde of hostile entities. Could Kel’rorn (or Zhyfaeryn) have had the time to build an army? In the end, the five of them proceed nonetheless, hoping that those fey beings are not drow or anything related.

At the other end of the circular cave where another tunnel leads out, they find a body lying on the ground. Ta’lareg and Rana go ahead to inspect it: it is a duergar, cut in half, who must have died within the past five to six hours. The party presses on, stumbling upon another duergar who died in the same fashion. A decent piece of flesh was ripped from his chest. Rana comments that the wound might very well have been caused by a beak, and in the surrounding area, the ranger makes out traces that seem to come from a huge bird…

After a few more hours of walking, the air becomes warmer, and the group is met with the faint smell of rotten eggs. Eventually, the five enter a small cave with a small lava pit in the middle. Away from it, they decide to rest for the night (or whatever time of the day it is).
The first few hours go by quietly, but during the third watch, everyone is roused by the entrance of a hook horror. This creature gives them a good idea what might have killed those duergar…

8: Explorations and revelations
  • The party fights two hook horrors; highlight: Keena takes on wolf shape, Verrin hops onto her back, leaps off to finish hook horror
  • Rana prepares hook horror meat over laval pit, Ta’lareg and Naga join in. Keena abstains since she already ate some in her wildshape form.
  • The party ends up in vast cave, enters it high up in the air via a bridge, sees an army on the cavern’s ground, not sure how many exactly and what type of humanoid or creature (or both); Rana uses the sending stone Belendithas gave her to let him know that a big army is on the move, probably on its way to Dendros, but that she cannot tell for how long they, the party, have been underground
  • The party finds rectangular, large room with an alcove on each side and a rift opening in the ground on the far end; first alcove contains a camp side and the remains of long dead humanoids (human or elven), all have peculiar head wound, small opening, chips broken off from the inside, Rana concludes that either something burst out from inside the skull, or some kind of high force suction device was used
  • The second alcove contains a door which informs that an entity named Mal’fir is locked up behind it, and that its eyes were taken; the door is magically warded and locked, but Lilli manages to break in with ease (cleric with thief’s tools? interesting…)
  • A longish room lies on the other side, Ta’lareg scouts ahead, sees random grooves streak along the floor and walls, then two petrified, partially disintegrated statues; rest of the party follows, they find a disfigured beholder wrapped in bandages, eye gone, eye stalks cut off, body covered in scars; introduces itself as Mal’fir, asks for quick death in exchange for information; Keena says she’ll kill him and walks closer to take a look at the bandages/scars.
  • Mal’fir’s story: came to this world hundreds or thousands of years ago through the so-called black scar, found underground city of dwarves, enslaved them, was attacked by cursed drow prince (Mal’fir does not know his name, but must be Zythaeryn), Mal’fir hid in his temple, later on again attacked, now by duerga led by an illithid; afterwards, drow prince reclaimed reign over duergar (ilithid defeated?), drow prince attacked Mal’fir’s temple once more, this time with army of undead (who did Mal’fir mean when he said “we”? duergar? info not caught or missing); about 50 years ago, Mal’fir was attacked by humans who brought him into his current state, then locked him away
  • Mal’fir enters Rana’s mind, rummages through memories until he brings back the image of a letter that Rana received a long time ago; that letter shows a jagged crown, an eight-pointed star, and an eye surrounded by arcane symbols; by showing her the letter, telling her that she shares the blood of the person who took his, Mal’fir’s, eye, and focusing on a journal that said person carried, Rana realizes that it was her grandfather who helped lock the beholder away and who apparently was, for whatever reason, interested in Kel’rorn (Kel’rorn’s jagged crown with souls trapped inside, the Seeker’s star-shaped amulet, eyes being removed/gloss over/soul taken). Asked whom she is serving as a warlock, Rana answers that she is a daughter of the All-Mother.
  • Mal’fir’s mention of him enslaving the dwarves triggers bad memories in Lilli, she steps forward and asks the beholder if he thought slavery was just, which he confirms – at which point Lilli casts a mighty fireball that obliterates Mal’fir, but also nearly kills Keena (cue tense moment)
  • Rana stabilizes Keena, then Lilli and Verrin heal her. Keena moves off to the side to hide how upset she is at what just happened. Only Verrin happens to catch her wiping tears away.
  • After a short rest, the party takes a closer look at the rift that opens at the back side of the room with the two alcoves; there used to be a suspension bridge, but someone cut the ropes on the other side; Ta’lareg makes sure that the bridge hanging down the wall is still stable, and Keena in her spider form strengthens the ropes with sticky spider web in some places; the ensuing descent down the makeshift ladder does not go too well, since first Lilli slips and falls (Ta’lareg can catch her), then Rana gets stuck to the spider web, and, in an attempt to break free, also loses her grip and falls down thirty feet (cue more healing)
  • The party is now on the level where the army was earlier; after a long while, the group enters the tunnel the army came from, they find an underground village with buildings similar to what they saw before; a smaller tunnel leads from the cavern, and the party finds a mass grave, a pit full of disfigured duergar (and some drow), the “freshest” no more than three days dead; Keena tries to speak to the rats to gather information, to no avail
  • The party leaves, then walks into the same direction the army took earlier; Ta’lareg uses his ranger skills and determines that the army is still moving somewhere in the distance, still on the same level, and that it is now missing a few people/creatures
  • The party comes across another huge cavern with familiar veins of blueish crystal along the walls; there is a huge double pyramid, one hanging from the ceiling, forming an hourglass shape, the two pyramids do not touch, and there is a dark, blurry opening in time and space in between them (black scar Mal’fir mentioned); pyramid must have been built by dwarves in (forced) honor of Mal’fir
  • The group wants to move on when Rana’s sending stone begins to vibrate, she takes it out of her pocket (cue biggest cliff hanger ever)

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