Time to Dice

49: Cast out
  • Colwyn tries to attack the Illithid. As someone who has grown up in the Underdark, he knows all too well what a creature like this is capable of. Phantom, however, throws the gnome out of the room. During the conversation that follows, Talareg and Rana gain a bit more information about The Frozen One from the mind flayer. According to Alyuth, there is a good chance that The Frozen One in his humanoid form is indeed what is left of the ancient white dragon Ciamath. He was the only one who, about two thousand years ago, survived the great destruction of his kind as they were fought and destroyed by men and a group of arcanists. Alyuth furthermore warns them that back then, TFO was known to be cunning, that he liked to play, and that he was likely trying to lure the party into some kind of trap. Using a magical item from the Illithid’s workshop, Rana casts a ritual in an attempt to locate TFO. He seems to be headed east, and he still has Lilli’s holy symbol.
  • When they leave, Colwyn tries to break into the room, causing Phantom to cast a hold person spell on him. The gnome is then carried back upstairs by Talareg and Rana. As soon as the spell wears off, however, Colwyn frees himself and demands that all of them stay away from him, and he makes sure to leave the fortress as fast as possible, but not without being threatened by Phantom to never ever violate his hospitality again. Talareg leaves soon after as well.
  • Colwyn tells Keena and Lilli about the mind flayer and about the general nature of this species, leaving both of them horrified, especially when Talareg joins and tells them about the artificial brain that rested in a pool of brine in the middle of the mind flayer’s room. This brain, the ranger explains, holds the knowledge of all previous leaders of the sentinels, who agreed to have their brain removed soon after they die so that it may be absorbed by the artificial brain. Colwyn and Lilli agree that they cannot allow this to continue and wonder how they could destroy the mind flayer – and the sentinels along with it. Keena’s and Talareg’s call for reason remains unheard, especially since Colwyn is convinced that Talareg and Rana, possibly all of the sentinels, are under the mind control of the Illithid. Keena casts a spell on Talareg that is supposed to break any form of domination or evil influence, but the ranger doesn’t feel any different afterwards.
  • Hearing parts of the conversation as she eventually walks in, Rana sees little use to argue over what is being said. She informs the others, Lilli in particular, that she will leave the group once they have dealt with TFO. The warlock then walks to the courtyard’s entrance. While the others continue their debate for some time longer, Rana steps behind a statue for a moment to cut off the better part of her braid before burying it in the snow. When she returns to the courtyard’s entrance, she begins to hear whispers in the air. Talareg joins and asks what was the matter since he doesn’t hear anything. Rana steps outside the courtyard, but the whispers and the growing restlessness remain. Then, Talareg feels it too, something like an electric current in the air that makes his hair stand on end. The two begin to walk back to the others, but Rana stops half way there and begins to cast a detecting ritual. Checking in with Keena, Talareg finds out that the druid feels the same unease.
  • Then, a portal opens in the middle of the courtyard, and from the depths of a different plane, the Mother of the Abyss appears in her true, humongous, monstrous shape. From the mass of blackness and tentacles, her human form appears, only to point a finger at Rana and utter: “Betrayer.”
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48: Decisions
  • As her patron tries to escape her body, Rana decides to take the sentinels’ concoction after all. Lilli tries in vain to stop Silver from helping the warlock to drink the alchemist potion. After being put through pain and death, Rana survives the imbibing and eventually enters into a new pact. As Keena tries her best to keep Phantom and Silver away from the warlock, Lilli leaves the fortress, ready to head back to the hamlet and its temple.
  • Rana sends out letters to Belendithas, asking to organize some protection for her mother, to Tempest, asking to keep an eye on Delia, and to her mother, asking to go about her daily business with a watchful eye. Then she is brought to a room where she falls asleep immediately.
  • Keena and Talareg search for Lilli and eventually find the cleric who fell down a ravine, shattering her legs (which she can fix herself for the most part). With some difficulty, the druid and the ranger make it down there to meet up with Lilli and let her know that she had been walking into the wrong direction. The cleric refuses to return to the fortress, that she can’t stay where “it” was. Asked for clarification, Lilli says: “Rana died. … I don’t know what came back, but it wasn’t Rana. … What she did was wrong – she should have just staid dead.” And she adds that selling one’s soul twice was something she considered to be evil and unforgivable and she doesn’t want to find out what the concoction ritual did to the warlock, not keen on having her throat slit in her sleep. Keena and Talareg ask to give Rana the benefit of the doubt, but Lilli replies that she never trusted Rana, that she now does even less so. She also mentions that she already went through something similar with Verrin who, after separating from his god, presumably entered on a dark path.
  • With a blizzard on its way, Keena and Talareg can persuade Lilli to come back with them, promising that they will not enter the fortress. Eventually, the three of them make it through the adverse weather conditions, and they make camp in one of the empty buildings in the fortresses courtyard.
  • Late the next morning, Rana awakes. When she hears from Colwyn that the others have been gone since last night, she contacts Keena with her sending amulet. Keena lets her know that they are outside the fortress and that Lilli will not come back inside. Rana replies that she is ready to leave as soon as she made sure that they received all the information possible from the Twilight Sentinels in regards to The Frozen One. Asked by Keena if she could tell her with whom or what she made the new contact, the warlock answers that it was too early for her to talk about it.
  • Rana asks her grandfather if there is a source of knowledge in the fortress other than the library. Hesitating, he reveals that there is something or someone in the fortress who might be able to share a few more bits of information – someone whose home wasn’t this plane of existence and nobody was supposed to know about. Joined by Colwyn and Talareg, the warlock follows Phantom into a hidden corner of the fortress. There, inside a room scattered with books and scrolls, the three party members come face to face with a mind flayer named Asyuth…
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47: Answers
  • After breaking the code, the party is on their last stretch of the journey. Rana finds out that the man she is supposed to kill is none other than the leader of the Twilight Sentinels. Eventually, Tempus Alea reaches the Fortress of Dawn. They meet with the leader of the Twilight Sentinels, Dawnkeeper Phantom, who unfortunately has very little to add the group’s knowledge about The Frozen One. He invites them to make use of the fortresses library. There, Talareg, Keena, Lilli, and Colwyn find out that “The Frozen One” once was a name given to the white ancient dragon Ciamat, that was banned to Shadowfell ages ago by some unknown mages.
  • During an extended conversation, Rana receives answers that turn her world upside-down. Phantom is, in fact, her grandfather, Ruidal Loghda, who also used to be a pact-maker with Shub-Niggurath, Rana’s patron. The Mother of the Abyss, Rana learns, played both her grandfather and herself. The patron is Kel’rorn’s mother, and she tried to use Phantom to bring him back. When he realized what was going on, he sought refuge with the Twilight Sentinels, ultimately breaking his warlock pact by becoming a sentinel himself – and entering into a new pact with a different being. According to Phantom, Shub-Niggurath then killed Rana’s father and their two friends in revenge.
  • When Rana reveals that she was sent to kill him and that Shub was inside her, Phantom answers that he expected that much, as such a situation had arisen more than once since breaking his pact. Phantom puts his granddaughter under a charm spell to temporarily disrupt the connection between Rana and her patron. He lays out the two options she now has: leave immediately, stay connected to the All-Mother, working with the assumption that Rana is still somehow important to her patron since she hasn’t outright killed her; or take the so-called hunter’s bane, an alchemist concoction which would not make Rana a sentinel, but allow her to enter into a new pact – if she survives the concoction itself.
  • Shaken up and unsure about how to proceed, Rana fills in the rest of the party, telling them that she wants to ride it out without taking the concoction (the latter comes as a relief to Lilli and Keena, as neither of them likes the idea of Rana becoming in some way part of the sentinels). They gather in the fortresses entrance hall and tie Rana to a chair, just as the charm spell wears off and the warlock’s patron stirs in her mind once more, not happy at all about what is going on.
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46: Now it is personal
  • The party enters into a long and grueling fight against The Frozen One and some wights he conjures. A few of the townsmen join in but die, only to rise as additional wights soon after.
  • Following Lilli’s advice, Rana examines the backside door and finds a slot that her grandfather’s dagger fits into neatly. Just as the letter by Dawnbringer Phantom said, the blade is the key. The civilians flee into the tunnel that apparently leads straight to the Fortress of Dawn.
  • When the party’s strength dwindles, The Frozen One takes Lilli’s holy symbol and leaves, attempts to stop him fail. Lilli tries to go after him even after he takes off on the blue dragon, but Colwyn brings down the entryway of the church to stop her from going outside. After working on removing the rubble for a while, the cleric eventually follows the others back, gently nudged along by Keena.
  • Entering into the same tunnel the villagers had run into, the party soon comes upon a room that seems to require them to solve a letter-based code in order to open the next door.
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45: Hidden Bonds
  • After a challenging fight against a group of foglets, spirit entities that inhabit whatever dead body they can find, Tempus Alea makes sure to get out of the Evermist Wood as fast as possible.
  • Rana asks Talareg what exactly Gaetan told him before leaving the group. The ranger answers that the other man was called back by the council of Talonvale. Hesitating, he adds that the actual reason the rogue accompanied the party was to keep an eye on Lilli. According to the council, a darkness had attached itself to the cleric. No one in the party was supposed to know, least of all Lilli. Talareg suggests to fill in Keena and Colwyn, but leave Lilli in the dark. Upset with the council’s way of conduct and disagreeing with the ranger, Rana speaks to the cleric the following night. Together they discover that The Frozen One had been spying on them by using a scrying spell on Lilli, making the connection when he touched the cleric during the vision she had in Easthallow. The magical bond is disrupted, however, while Rana casts an identification ritual. The two of them talk for a while, agreeing that sharing more things within the party might be a good idea.
  • The party travels along the coast line until it hits the Sundercrest Mountains. From there, the group decides to return to the merchant road, hoping to have better access to the highlands of Caershire that way.
  • During one night, Rana is visited by her patron, Shub-Niggurath. The All-Mother informs the warlock that a former pact maker was hiding inside the Fortress of Dawn, the headquarter of the Twilight Sentinels. According to the All-Mother, that person had found a loophole to completely disconnect from her. In the patron’s eyes, this act of unfaithfulness has to be punished with death. Calling in a favor – back on the Astral Plane, she had helped Rana to bring back Verrin – the patron asks Rana to kill that person for her, since she, the All-Mother, was unable to enter the fortress.
    Faced with this unexpected request, Rana agrees, seeing no other way to react at that moment. She asks if the “traitor” was her grandfather, but the All-Mother is unable to tell. Lastly, Rana allows her patron to hide inside her body to be able to enter the fortress. She promises the warlock not to cause any trouble.
  • After a few more days of travel, the party enters the highland region and eventually comes upon a small hamlet that seems to be almost void of life. They find a group of people inside a church, along with a priest. Once the people have left, they talk to the priest to see if maybe they can stay overnight. The priest turns out to be extremely wary of them, asking who they were and what had brought them to this place. Not satisfied with the answers he gets, the party members suddenly realize that they are within a magical circle of truth, unable to speak a lie. When they want to leave, the door of the church is barred from the outside. Choosing her words carefully, Rana explains that they are affiliated to the council of Talonvale and on a mission to hopefully retrieve information that will help to prevent a great catastrophe. Only when she points towards her grandfather’s dagger at her side, mentioning that it helped them find this place, the priest relaxes. He takes a closer look at the dagger and says: “You should have led with that. It looks like we got off on the wrong foot.”
  • Introductions follow and the party decides to stay for the night, seeing how a storm is brewing in the sky. At that, they realize just how much darker the sky has gotten all of a sudden. Staring intently at the storm front, Talareg suddenly grows pale. Inside the storm, he sees the form of a dragon. A blue dragon.
  • Together with the priest, Tempus Alea ushers everyone from the village to a wine cellar, then they hide inside the church, listening, holding their breaths. The beating of wings grows louder. They hear an earth-shaking thud, a minor explosion. They retreat downstairs. Large wings beat again, the sound grows distant. An icy mist creeps out from underneath the cellar door. Worried about the safety of the hamlet’s inhabitants, Lilli runs forward, ready to go back upstairs. But when she opens the door she stares up into the gaunt face of The Frozen One.
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44: What lives in the moor
  • The party defeats the creepy undead creatures of the Ashenwater Moor, but unfortunately loses all but two camels. Gaetan receives a magical sending scroll, which causes him to leave. Seeing her suspicions about the rogue confirmed, Rana attempts to stop Gaetan from taking one of the last camels with her eldritch blast – to no avail. Keena shapeshifts into a camel, and the party continues on its journey west.
  • Avoiding border control, Tempus Alea enters the Kelyran Empire and makes it to the small town of Carran. After a brief rest, Talareg, Keena, and Rana ask around to find out what the best route towards the Sundercrest Mountains might be. The ranger learns that a group of renegade soldiers turned bandits frequently ambushes travelers on the merchant road north-west of Carran. Due to her skin color that places her ethnic origin in Drucuria, Rana is paid with derogative remarks instead of useful information.
  • A decision is made to follow the trade road only for a short while before turning north to then travel along the coastline. The party buys three horses and leaves the last camel behind.
  • Tempus Alea enters the Evermist Woods. True to its name, a misty haze covers the ground every night. Lilli informs the others that she has heard of creatures called foglets, spirit-like entities that don’t only create a veiling mist, but also have the power to inhabit dead bodies. During the second night of camping, some of the party members notice faint shapes in the mist and then begin to hear disembodied whispers. Eventually, all of them hear it, sometimes softer, sometimes louder. They are not alone…
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43: Dangers on the road
  • On their way to Duranthel, the party witnesses the dangers of traveling on desert roads. Once, they come across a blood-soiled camp where a group of merchants must have been assaulted and slaughtered the night before. The next day, Tempus Alea sees how in the distance, three humanoid beings are swallowed by a humongous sand worm – and they remember that Tempest once had to come face to face with one of those creatures as part of a contract.
  • Finally, the party arrives at Duranthel, where they find a tavern to stay at for the night. Rana talks to a soldier who lost a good part of her arm during a fight against elven forces from the neighboring Kelyran Empire. The skirmish took place weeks ago in the midst of the Ashenwater Moor. This is where the party was advised to go through in order to enter the elvish territory. The soldier advises Rana to avoid all Kelyran soldiers and stay clear of both the road and the southern side of the moor where “nasty things” lived between the lava rocks.
  • When the party enters the moor the next day, they still run into a problem, right in the middle of the moor. A problem they did not expect. Carrion creatures, looking like a horrid human-bat hybrid, feast on the last meaty remnants of the military clash. Keena distracts them momentarily with a simple magic trick. Then, however, the creatures become aware of the party’s camels that where left behind, and approach…
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42: The Journey Begins
  • The next day, the party takes care of some final travel preparations. Everyone gets an upgrade to their armor and/or their weapons. Eventually, five camels are purchased, and the journey begins.
  • Gaetan gives Rana a rat skull, presumably in an attempt to mitigate the suspicion she harbors for him and the orders he received from the Talonvale council. It doesn’t seem to have the wished-for effect. – Keena has been hanging on to the idea that the warlock and the rogue should enter into some form of romantic relationship. Now, however, she suggests to Gaetan that he take it slow as Rana was going through a hard time. Either simply playing along or in actual agreement, Gaetan thanks Keena for her advice.
  • Towards the end of their first long rest, the party is drawn into a fight with a group of kobolds and two skorpiki, creatures that are half man, half scorpion, but comes out victorious.
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41: Arrival in Anghor
  • Before Tempus Alea can leave for Anghor, they talk to Tempest. They want to hear his side of the story regarding his infatuation with the prostitute which allegedly brought him into deep financial troubles. Tempest, however, while admitting to seeing that woman on a frequent basis, is confused when he hears that Kethra saw him deliver more and more money to the shady establishment (The Pink Hydra) at which his lady friend works. Lilli suggests they take a look at the treasury. Sure enough, it is almost empty.
  • In the following, the party finds out that Tempest has been under a rather strong charm spell for several months. With Anya’s help, they disrupt the magical bond, then take the confused and embarrassed Tempest with them to the arcanium. There, Lady Emberbreeze promises that clerics will look after Tempest, while the city guard will take care of whoever is involved in the sham at The Pink Hydra.
  • Finally, Lady Emberbreeze sends the party along with Gaetan to Anghor. There, they are welcomed by a group of guards who give them a quick rundown about the Anghor’s layout – it is a floating city! – and leave them with the information how to get to the ground and where to find decent lodging for the night.
  • Eventually, everyone goes to sleep. Not trusting Gaetan and his orders, Rana stations her familiar Aleister outside her room so he can inform her should the rogue leave during the night.
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40: Two Parties
  • Once Lilli, Keena, and Talareg have returned, they further discuss their travel to Anghor and a letter is sent to Lady Emberbreeze, as they yet have to find out whether or not she found out more about all things related to The Frozen One. In her reply, the head arcanist asks the party to stop by at their earliest convenience. It is furthermore decided that there will be a party at the Guild Hall before heading out to catch the ship at Peynol.
  • On their way to the arcanium, the group stops by at Anya’s store to purchase a few items for the journey. Anya is very excited to be invited to the party along with her husband.
  • At the arcanium, the whole council including the emperor officially thanks Tempus Alea for their effort in taking back Easthallow. Aside from handing out a monetary reward, the emperor announces that a keep will be built according to the party’s specifications. Eventually, the emperor also asks Colwyn if he would like to become an official member of Tempus Alea, and the gnome accepts. Lady Emberbreeze does not have any news regarding The Frozen One, but when she hears that the party is traveling to Anghor to follow a lead, she offers to teleport all of them straight to the Drucurian city. The offer is gratefully accepted, since this means that a few more days can be spent with travel preparations. Since Gaetan also happens to be at the council meeting, Rana invites him to the party.
  • When everyone returns to the Guild Hall later, Anya, Reza, Delia, and Kathra have already started the party. Rana asks Keena she had a moment, and she leads them down into the workshop. In reference to the necklace Keena gave Rana a couple of weeks ago, the warlock takes another attempt at explaining why she doesn’t think of Keena (or anyone else in the party) as family. While her blood family has been surrounded by tragedy and feelings of guilt for the past few years—something Rana wants to set right—the warlock simply never felt the wish to have a family of her own, blood-related or not: “I’m not someone who stays. … I don’t want you to get hurt by possibly holding on to wishes or expectations I can’t and won’t live up to.” She says she understands how important finding a family is for Keena, though, and hopes that her wish is fulfilled soon. Then, she offers Keena her friendship. Keena, deeply upset by what she believes to be Rana’s disregard for her own family as well as the druid’s feelings, takes back her necklace for the time being. She then leaves the guild hall.
  • While the party upstairs is afoot, Lilli (dressed in a toga and magically gilded) searches for Keena after Rana gives her a rough idea of what happened. She finds the druid at the park near the clinic, where she checks in on her and also manages to cheer her up a bit. At some point, Gaetan joins them. He informs Keena and Lilli that the council ordered him to join the journey east (“I hope you won’t kill us all in our sleep” – Lilli), and then proceeds to get some ale for the park-bench party.
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