The Price of Generosity

Epilogue
A Time of Troubles

After a hard fought battle through the Monastery of the Sacred Flame, the heroes discovered the location of the Holy Grail: it rested deep within the fitful dreams of the sleeping Green Dragon, who had been put to sleep by the Elf Queen herself.

Forbidden access by the Elf Queen in her court, the party had only two possible entities who could grant entry into the great beast’s dreams: the Great Gold Wyrm, sealed in the Abyss to prevent the hordes of demonkind from wrecking havoc on the Dragon Empire, or the Diabolist, whose knowledge of the dreamways was surpassed only by the Wyrm himself.

They opted to travel to the Abyss, where the party discovered that all of the servants of the Wyrm across the Empire had been summoned to the great rift leading into Hell. A prophet had gathered all the warriors loyal to the Gold Wyrm from far and wide in order to end the threat of demonkind and free the Wyrm from his vigil in order to usher in a new age of light.

The heroes joined his cause, and together descended into the Abyss itself. If only they had known the treachery that was brewing in their own ranks, they might have prevented the tragedy that would follow.

Tainted by the dark promises of the Diabolist, Tallendryl struck a deal with the dark mistress to allow the party access into the dreams of the Green. After many trials, each hero eventually found themselves alone with the object of their quest- the Grail. Each received that which they so desired- but one was favored above all the rest, and he usurped his former mistress and seized her power for his own.

Events transpired quickly after the heroes emerged from the realm of dreams…
The Green, no longer bound by the presence of the Grail to perpetuate its slumber, exacted its revenge on the Elf Queen and rejoined its long lost siblings, the Three.
The Great Gold Wyrm, betrayed, was gravely wounded- he escaped the Abyss but was rendered crippled.
The Dwarf King’s demands on the weakened Empire, bereft of its Emperor, soon led to a short but bloody war, with the Empire suffering great losses.
The Orc Lord captured many territories in the northern Empire for his own, thanks to the disarray of the Imperial Legions. His advance southward was only halted by the combined forces of the dwarves and elves.
The Crusader, though trapped within the belly of the Stone Thief, mastered its heart and made it his own, but was absorbed in the process and driven insane. The beast was enhanced further by infernal magics, and sought to acquire more power from the magic above to grow strong enough for revenge.
The Archmage managed to survive several assassination attempts by the newly bolstered chromatic dragons only to see the city of Horizon, his city, nearly swallowed by the hellish Stone Thief. He wove a spell of great power which sealed the floating city off from the rest of the world and its dangers- but at great cost.

The 13th Age, a glorious time of civilized advancement and stability, has ended. New Icons have arrived to replace those who died with the 13th Age…
Now a mage of incredible demonic power toys with the world, poisoning the land and its people.
Meanwhile, a shadowy man possessed of hellish sorcery stalks the streets, gathering followers for an unknown purpose.
The great Devourer tunnels below the surface of the earth, searching for power, steeped in rage and insanity, and ever hungering for the treasures of the surface.
Additionally, the Four have been united at last, and lay cunning plans to consolidate power to seat themselves as the rulers of the world, while seeking to stamp out the forces of the Wounded Gold Wyrm.

The bastions of civilization are few are far between, and champions of Light and a great Silver Dragon are the world’s only hope. Heroes are few, and the future of this world is dark…

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Session 25
The Quest for the Grail and a New Age

Axis was an interesting place to be to say the least following the events of the Festival of Spears. Celebrations were being held to honor some of the best arena feats in the city’s history, and that Axis’ champions had won the day. There were also those who were jubilant that Valyxtrix had been slain in dramatic fashion, that Parthax yet lived, (and presented the party who defended him with gifts from his personal hoard, no less) and that so many were simply able to witness the slaying of a dragon in person.

Others, however, mourned the loss of family and loved ones in the Stone Thief’s attack. A fifth of the city lay in ruin, leaving thousands homeless and without any material possessions. The temple to the Great Gold Wrym, as well as Second Blood being lost to the creature were seen by most as a bad omen, to say nothing of the dominance of the Diabolist in Parthax’s reading of the spears. What was even more disturbing were rumors that the Emperor was wounded, and that the Crusader was inside Second Blood when it was engulfed. Many began panicking that the Age was ending, and an unsure future was dawning.

In the days following the Festival each of the party had strange prophetic dreams concerning a drinking cup of some kind. When they reconvened after a few days of ease, (and Tallendryl spent the nights with a new mysterious woman) had passed things in Axis were deteriorating amidst more destabilizing rumors- some said the elves were going to occupy the city because their Queen was looking for something while the Empire was weak, others heard that the Dwarf King was sending his men to reclaim the mythril net which had been given to Axis to protect it from subterranean threats, and yet others claimed that they had heard that the earthquakes caused by the Stone Thief broke the strongest seals in the city, opening it up to any number of threats. Many were vacating the city in a desperate attempt to find a safer place to live, or just because they had nowhere to stay. The party decided to return to Dunbarrow now that their business in Axis was completed.

When they got back in town the citizens there had become a bit more cautious of external threats, (a militia headed by Bill was no permanently patrolling the roads around town) and increased demonic activity was reported nearby, though no direct threats were experienced by the town itself. Weiss instructed Brother Matthias to help defend Dunbarrow from demonic attacks as his new priority. They rested that night in the Peach Pit, and again the dreams continued. Tallendryl was visited by the woman once again, as well. In the morning they finally compared notes about their experiences, and found that they were all being beckoned for one reason or another, to quest for this magical item, which was known as the Holy Grail. Wiess came volunteered the use of the Monastery of the Sacred Flame’s library, which, he said, should have several good records concerning the Grail- its history, powers, and its possible fate after it was lost from his order’s keeping.

The party once again set out on a journey together. They headed to Weiss’ home at a leisurely pace, as there was no immediate rush this time. Along the road Lan’Lei revealed that the egg had already hatched into a silver dragonling. When they stopped to make camp a sudden mist materialized, and a familiar couple was seen wandering through it toward the party- an old man and his daughter. They wished to strike another bargain- a similar one as their previous arrangement, as, they claimed, the monastery was under attack by a strong force of demons that very moment! The party rejected their proposal, and Tallendryl’s presence offended the pair of devils, and they vanished back into the night.

The party hastened to the scene while Phaerun scouted ahead using his new pair of magical boots. When they all arrived they found that a force of Imperial soldiers which had been recalled to Axis was aiding the embattled monks of the Monastery of the Sacred Flame. As the party endeavored to join them a group of demons approached, warning the party to stay away out of apparent respect for Tallendryl. When they refused to stand down the demons assaulted them. Though the most powerful demons they’d yet encountered, the party managed to utterly destroy them. After a short rest they rushed toward the rest of the fray…

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Session 24
The Main Event

Phaerun, busy finishing up his business of eliminating Boss Grond’s men, was caught in the Stone Thief’s wake as it swallowed up Second Blood. After escaping the living dungeon’s maw he found himself back together with the party. Now nearly time for the main event of the Festival, they made their preparations. Laylen, however, seemed particularly nervous. Tallendryl dug out of him that he feared for his own safety for the first time since his abduction in light of his new family. He asked if Phaerun would replace him in Axis’s team. Phaerun agreed, and the new squad of champions, (Phaerun, Triton, Weiss, and Rusk) entered the arena. Lan’Lei, meanwhile, stood as a sentinel, looking out for an possible threats to Parthax, and Tallendryl got drunk in the Spiked Tail’s tavern.

The tournament began with much fanfare, and the crowd became ever more entranced watching the spectacle. They cheered with each spear that was thrown, and with each daring feat performed- pit traps, magic, and blood were all on full display. Rusk charged headlong into Concord’s team and took them all out by himself after lighting himself on fire in a berserker rage. The rest of the team from Axis systematically washed over the rest of the cities’ champions, and handily won the tournament. Meanwhile, Lan’Lei detected the presence of a number of black dragon men in the crowd along with a large black dragon circling above. She attempted to snipe them from her vantage point, but their position in the crowd made it a nearly impossible task. Vrace also failed to alert Tallendryl to the situation, as he was too drunk to understand him.

During the ceremony for the victorious gladiators Parthax made his appearance. He congratulated the champions of Axis and then began to read the meanings of the spears. This is when the dragonkin struck- they all leapt onto Parthax’s back and began stabbing him with some kind of poisonous daggers, rendering him immobile as the black dragon Valyxtrix swooped in and attempted to assassinate him. Triton recognized him immediately as The party sprung into action, and was able to deal enormous damage to the dragon before he was able to do any serious damage of his own. The dragon fell and the dragon men were subsequently dealt with.

After the attack Parthax immediately continued with his oracular task of reading the spears. He proclaimed that Axis was in favor among the cities, but that the Diabolist was far and away the icon whose influence would be most powerful in the coming year. Additionally, he foretold that the Great Gold Wyrm, the Elf Queen, and the Crusader would all suffer in a major way, as well. The citizens immediately began discussing/cheering the conclusion of the spectacle when the news came in that the Stone Thief’s attack was more devastating than originally suspected- the Crusader had been in Second Blood when it was swallowed up. Additionally, there were whispers that the Emperor had been injured while trying to save his son from one of his palaces during the great earthquake caused by the living dungeon. What can this mean for the world, or the age itself?

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Session 23
Decisions, Deals, and Collateral Damage

The party again split up to pursue their own interests. Phaerun sought to find and stop Boss Grond if he was still attempting to fix the Festival, Lan’Lei kept an eagle-eyed watch over the Spiked Tail, bow at the ready for trouble from the Three, Weiss returned to the Dropsy Mermaid to try and disrupt the plans of the remaining black dragonkin, and Tallendryl disappeared for several hours only to reappear in a tavern under the influence of black spice.

Weiss first surveyed the Dropsy Mermaid, and indeed found that there were several black robed figures in groups of three discussing things quietly on the periphery of the drinking crowd. Weiss bribed a few men, hurled some insults, started drama between drunken revelers, and eventually even threw a chair, and successfully engineered all out chaos. During the bar fight two of the figures’ hoods were drawn back, revealing the black dragonkin underneath. The drunken crowd paused, then turned in angry fists all upon them as the remaining six fled the establishment for their own safety and secrecy. Weiss, now satisfied, reported to the Spiked Tail to begin last minute training drills with Laylen, Triton, and Rusk.

Meanwhile, Tallendryl was busy availing himself of his alone time- he set out to fix the main event for the Diabolist and to frame the Three to dissipate suspicion on his part. He first returned to the Black Garden to buy succubus lips and basilisk ichor. Next, he sneaked into the chambers where the spears of destiny were kept for the upcoming game, and released the succubus lips into the air as a dried incense. The result was an uncontrollable orgy on the dargonkin guards’ part. While they were distracted he very obviously attempted to increase the number of spears for the Three, and then magically enhanced the spears for the Diabolist. After he was done setting this up he returned to the guards and poisoned them with the ichor, which is the favored poison for the Three. The result was that it would seem that agents of the Three very messily attempted to fix the game, but the real advantage was fr the Diabolist, which had no active plans which had been revealed. He then returned to the Spiked Tail and took some black spice to keep a plausible alibi.

As Weiss trained, Tallendryl was having a good time in the tavern, when he suddenly found himself face to face with Draven Halfhand. Instead of hostility, Draven was suspiciously flattering to Tallendryl. He soon revealed his purpose to the wizard, though- he knew that the devil’s scroll was in his possession, and he wished to purchase it, and displayed a large cache of treasure looted from hell hole excursions.

Tallendryl was conflicted, and unsure what to do, so he agreed to Draven’s proposal, but claimed he needed to retrieve it from its secure storage place. Draven agreed to wait fifteen minutes while Tallendryl made a mad dash to Weiss for advice on what to do. Weiss’s advice was very noncommittal and vague, so Tallendryl demanded to know where the dragon of the arena was. Weiss pointed out Elandra’s office, and Tallendryl raced to it, past many guards.

Inside he found the minotaur cleaning up an enormous mess. He hurriedly explained the situation in a drug-addled state, and Elandra seemed unsure of his intention or meaning. After a few frustrating minutes of attempted explanations of plots to kill Parthax, magic, devils, and Crusaders passed, a mixture of his desperation and black spice suddenly produced an echo of the teleportation scroll used during the journey into Axis, bringing himself and Elandra right back to Draven.

Tallendryl made the trade in an exaggerated manner to Draven, accepting the loot for the scroll, he gestured wildly that Draven intended to kill the dragon to Elandra as the Crusader attempted to leave the tavern. She stomped her giant hoof, and charged Draven at full speed only to lose one of her hands and then was run through by his flaming sword. He let her fall and left without much reaction. Stunned for a moment, Tallendryl administered a healing potion, saving her life.

Lan’Lei rushed to the scene after hearing the ruckus, and was alarmed by the news of what had transpired. The pair met up with Weiss, and the three resolved to pursue Draven, avenge Elandra, and to save Parthax. Weiss bumped into a fellow warrior priest and old friend, Brother Iago at that moment, who had just seen Draven heading for Second Blood.

The party rushed to the Crusader fortress just in time to see Draven entering the gates. Tallendryl, without a moment’s hesitation, changed himself into Draven, and ordered the guards to capture the “imposter” Draven who they had just let inside. Confused, they hurried to their commander for help with the confusing situation. This cleared the way for the others to get into the fortress.

Just as they were upon Draven Lan’Lei suddenly stopped in her tracks, seemed to hesitate for a few moments, and then began scrawling a strange symbol on the floor. Weiss and Tallendryl, confused at first, suddenly realized what was happening. Both watched her complete the symbol with a mixture of horror and satisfaction- she had just summoned the Stone Thief to Axis. Mere moments passed when the ground began quaking. Draven, suddenly becoming aware of the party, began mocking them and issuing insults as they fled the scene when the first fissures began forming around the fortress.

Weiss stood a moment in prayer after seeing a Crusader orphanage across the street, and a holy light shone across many of the surrounding buildings- a strong wall which resisted the disintegrating ground, the spraying lava, and then the crumbling of a fifth of the city. The miracle spared nearly all of the innocents in the area as Second Blood sunk into the lava-filled jaws of the Stone Thief. A few minutes later the ground stopped moving, and all was silent- the threat of the devil scroll and Draven had been ended in dramatic fashion, but Axis had suffered a significant loss as twenty percent of the city had been swallowed by the Stone Thief.

Only time will tell if such a drastic sacrifice was worth the trade for an unsure end…

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Session 22
Downtime in the City

The party found itself with a bit of time for themselves at last- most threats had been dealt with, and everyone had something he or she wanted to do.

Weiss and Lan’Lei headed over to the Spiked Tail once again to speak with Elandra. Outside a cat approached them, and Lan’Lei picked it up and stroked it as she informed the minotaur of the recent developments with the machinations of the Three, and again asked to speak with Parthax. Elandra assented, and invited them inside her office, where the cat jumped out of her arms and addressed them in a deep booming voice, introducing himself as Parthax!

Lan’Lei was finally able to ask the dragon about the egg she’d recovered from Verlin, and the dragon informed her that it had been tainted. He speculated that it would be difficult to purify, but it could be possible with an item of sufficient holiness. With that, she produced the scale of the Great Gold Wyrm she’d found in the Stone Thief to Parthax’s astonishment. With that, he transformed into his true form and performed a ritual with the help of the scale to cleanse the egg. The cleansing was successful, but the egg had become bound to Lan’Lei’s life- if she died it, too, would die. This process also turned her tongue silver. He explained that even after it hatches its lifespan would be accelerated in light of its syncing with her lifespan, so it would grow quickly and die much sooner than an ordinary dragon.

Lan’Lei pledged to protect the egg with her life, and to raise the silver dragonling once it hatched, and Weiss expressed his desire to aid the Emperor by replacing one of the poisoned gladiators in the Festival of Spears’ main event. All were in agreement to these developments, and Weiss then set out to find one more champion for Axis in the arena, and found his man in Rusk.

Meanwhile, Tallendryl and Phaerun had sought out the Black Garden. Both being acquainted with this kind of thing and with the city, as well, they located it and got in with little effort. Once there they split up- Phaerun buying several poisons from Rendrin Borgen, and Tallendryl stumbling across Edwards Cervesa and securing some more black spice. After some more shopping Tallendryl passed by Zolick the Game Master’s casino. The two exchanged verbal jabs challenging each other’s merit and bravery until Tallendryl could stand no more, and put up his own staff for Zolick’s cane in a game of chance, which Tallendryl won. Earning a new cane and the eternal hatred of the Game Master, he left with Phaerun.

The party was worn out from their recent battles and everyone returned to Laylen‘s estate for some rest… except Tallendryl, who wandered the streets in the neighborhood until he found a fancy party of very wealthy socialites at the Vanlief estate. He let himself in by bypassing the doormen and promptly located the most attractive and refined lady he could while making light conversation and enjoying wine and hors d’oeuvres. With the help of a newly acquired gift from the Diabolist, Tallendryl excited and seduced the young miss Lily Vanlief in mere minutes, much to the chagrin of the group of gladiator suitors who were trying to politely call on her. The couple retired to her room, and Tallendryl then left before she woke up early the next morning.

He returned to Laylen’s, but there was soon a knock at the door- Laylen’s man informed Tallendryl that someone was looking for him- a man with a yellow hat. Instantly Tallendryl remembered that this had to be the intended recipient of the package he’d agreed to deliver for the people in the mist on the road to Axis. He therefore gave the package over to the Courier, but then surprise attacked the man as he turned to leave. Instead of a smoldering crater where the man was, Tallendryl saw him contort and grow until he transformed into a grotesque devil who promptly summoned a pair of female devils, as well.

Hearing the ruckus from outside, the rest of the party joined in the ensuing fray, though Tallendryl drew all of their fire. The monsters were defeated, and all that was left behind was a scroll that had been in the delivered package, which Tallendryl quickly and quietly pocketed. He would later read it secretly, and learned that it contained a powerful spell designed to render Parthax helpless.

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Session 21
In Search of the Lost Champion

Lan’Lei helped piece together what had happened by having Laylen’s man identify an item that Laylen had last touched- his hairbrush. She then was able to magically sense that Laylen was somewhere with salt in the air in a basement. Phaerun, after examining the bodies of Barnus and Royce, deduced that they must have been poisoned by basilisk ichor in the tavern the previous night.

Tallendryl and Phaerun next returned to the Fighting Pawn to try and recall more details of the previous night. Tallendryl remembered that he had seen a black dragon on the roof, and had thrown a shoe at it… maybe. In any event, he retrieved his shoe, (which was now somewhat melted for some reason?) after climbing up to collect it. Phaerun learned from the barkeep that some strange men had ordered serpent’s scales the previous night- a curious, somewhat eyebrow-raising choice.

The next move was made- the group reunited and went in search of Laylen in the dock district. On their way Phaerun noticed that they were being followed by numerous individuals. The party went down an alley to wait for a confrontation, and were ambushed from the opposite side and the roof by a group of bounty hunters known as the Snake Eyes, who were looking for Tallendryl’s head. They were summarily slain with the exception of two survivors, who were let loose to warn their friends not to try anything again.

They arrived next at the Old Fish Eye, a tavern built on a series of stilts near the sea. Although entertaining, Captain Coster and his group of regular salty ex pirates couldn’t yield any useful information for the missing Laylen.

They next thought to try the Dropsy Mermaid, a much nicer-looking establishment with wealthier clientele. Tallendryl strolled in and casually ordered a serpent’s scale with a knowing wink. The bartender paused, and invited him downstairs to have a special reserve of the drink. The rest of the party, meanwhile, very conspicuously attempted to follow him downstairs, or circled around the back, discovering that there was enchantment at work disguising something in the basement.

Before any words could be exchanged between Tallendryl and the bartender, the party attacked just as a group of naga and a hooded figure in a black robe revealed himself as a black dragonkin. The ensuing battle was fierce, but in the end the party killed all of the followers of the Three. The final dying words of the dragonkin heckled the party, mocking their purpose, and telling them that their victory was small, and that his fellows would carry out their purpose and deliver a truly devastating blow during the main event of the Festival.

After the fight Laylen was discovered alive, and only a little worse for the wear. Weiss healed him with the power of Ashquay before sensing a holy presence. As if possessed, he went into another room in the basement and dug up a shallow hole containing a reliquary of St. Tenderfoot.

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Session 20
Draven's Demand and the Lost Laylen

The party left the temple in time to meet a troop of dark armored Crusaders lead by Draven Halfhand. Like so many others at this point, Draven had come seeking the staff, and was not in a negotiating mood. Tallendryl attempted to leave, but Draven was not about to allow that. Just as a confrontation seemed inevitable, (and a small crowd of gawkers had gathered) yet another person interested in the staff made his move- Phaerun Xvim, another agent of the Prince of Shadows.

Looking to create a ruckus, Phaerun convinced a small group of boys who were celebrating the Festival of Spears in the traditional manner of throwing mock spears at adults from the rooftops to target Draven. Just as he gave the order for his men to attack a number of spears rained upon him. Finding a group of children to be his assaulters, Draven tore off as he hurriedly barked orders to his men to take the staff by force, and he was gone after the boys.

The Crusaders attacked with deadly force. They nearly succeeded in taking down the party if not for the intervention of Phaerun. Initially attempting to steal the staff out of Tallendryl’s hands, he became embroiled in the melee, siding with the party to defend against the attacking Crusaders. They were eventually defeated after considerable difficulty, (the party discovered that they were actually some of the Saved) and Phaerun announced his intention of seeing the staff kept out of the hands of his competitors, and took his leave, though he never truly allowed it to leave his sight.

At this point the party split, Lan’Lei and Weiss seeking Parthax out at the Spiked Tail, and Tallendryl returning to Laylen’s manor.

Lan’Lei found her way to the Spiked Tail, and learned that the dragon was dealt with through his front woman, Elandra. She was able to draw the great minotaur’s attention with Vrace’s help, and was able to get important information out of her regarding Parthax in exchange for a magical belt and information on how the Stone Thief is summoned. After accomplishing this she returned to Laylen’s estate. Finding no one home she went to bed…

…Meanwhile Tallendryl had been watching Laylen and his teammates Barnus, Royce, and Triton train for the grand tournament with Phaerun following in the shadows. Laylen noticed Phaerun, and called him out, only to find that the two knew each other. He invited the rogue to join in their small group. After a short time Tallendryl became bored and coaxed the men into celebrating their impending victory by going out to the Fighting Pawn to drink with the rest of the festival’s revelers.

The party went out to the tavern, and with the help of a few pinches of black spice all were soon completely wasted, including Phaerun, despite his insistence on not drinking. The next thing Tallendryl and Phaerun became aware of, several hours had passed, they were back in Laylen’s home, many were only partially clothed, two women and a man were now with them, and Laylen himself was nowhere to be found. After paying off the prostitutes, (as all of the newcomers apparently were) and briefly looking for some pants, the grim discovery was made that not only was Laylen indeed missing, but both Barnus and Royce were dead. Triton was devastated by the events, and the party gathered together to plan what to do next…

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Session 19
The Cursed Staff, the Haunted Cupboard, and the Festival

Tallendryl addressed Father Coleway while both sides sized each other up. After trying to convince the agents of the Prince of Shadows to leave peacefully it became clear that they had no intention of leaving without the item they hunted, so with a cry Weiss charged their line and a battle erupted in the alleyway. As the sides struggled against each other Tallendryl suddenly found the staff in his hands out of thin air. Lan’Lei checked her bag, and found it to indeed be missing. It had somehow spontaneously materialized into the wizard’s hands… The battle ended when all but the murderous Boss Grond were slain, and he escaped into the shadows.

Following the battle a note was found on Father Coleway containing an ominous rhymed code of how “when the dragons are away the thieves will play.” Lan’Lei and Brock reiterated their position on the staff, explaining that it is too evil to wield, and that the dragons must destroy it. Tallendryl held fast that it should be used for good, but agreed to see the dragons so that he could convince them and his party mates of his reasoning. Meanwhile Sister Catherine had vanished at some point during the skirmish and was gone. Rather than try and track her down, the party decided to prepare for the next morning’s appointment to seek the dragons regarding the staff, (as the reservation had been made by Catherine) and to settle the business in Laylen’s home.

It was nearly midnight when the party knocked on Laylen’s door. His servant almost refused them, but Tallendryl’s old friend allowed them in and showed them to his study, where his problem lay- a cupboard of flatware which would not budge an inch for some reason. Despite several people’s strongest tugs it would not yield in the least. What was more, Laylen reported that screams and moaning were heard coming from the cupboard at night.

It was soon concluded that the matter was of some kind of negative spiritual energy haunting the thing. Looking for clues, the plates were examined closely, (especially closely as Weiss dropped one in a failed attempt to shatter one) but no one knew enough about dinner items to be of much use, until, as luck would have it, Brock recalled that his retired Crusader friend Lawrence Colbert lived nearby. He owed Brock a favor, and was an antique flatware enthusiast. He was called upon, and he eagerly examined the items, and informed everyone that they were actually made of dragon bone! He noted how valuable they were.

Lan’Lei learned from Laylen that although the dinnerware had been handled, the serving bowl likely had not been disturbed. She seized this opportunity to divine knowledge of the last person who had touched it. She saw a vision of an individual known as a Herald of the Three. Little more was to be done for the night, so Laylen produced guest rooms for everyone except Weiss, who insisted on camping out in the library to hear the screams for himself, which he did indeed.

The next morning the party made their way to a potion vendor to purchase magical concoctions of endurance for the long trek up to the clouds where the dragons roost. As they walked there they noted an unusual amount of activity in Axis- people were everywhere milling about, banners were streaming, and music could be heard all around. The vendor informed them that it was the first day of the Festival of Spears. As such, his usual goods were in small supply, and were ten times their normal going rate. Tallendryl balked at this, and suggested that they simply enjoy the festival and see the dragons using Lan’Lei’s reserved time instead of Catherine’s. Lan’Lei insisted, however, that the staff be destroyed as soon as possible, and would not wait- she shelled out the asking price for the potions.

They next went to the temple of the Great Gold Wyrm, where they would be able to climb up to the dragons. The priest, informed them, however, that the dragons had not been seen in a day or two, and their location was presently unknown, except for one old brass dragon. He was overseeing the main event in the Festival of Spears, though. Tallendryl brought up the letter’s warning from the Prince of Shadows’ men, and suggested that they be at the ready for evil to be done during the tournament since the dragons indeed seemed to be “away…”

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Session 18
To Axis

A group of holy inquisitors, (Borr, Saint, Cora, and Father Coleway) arrived in Dunbarrow a few days later looking for Sister Catherine regarding her dealings with demons. They questioned several townsfolk about her before reaching the Peach Pit, where Tallendryl, like all of the others asked, denied seeing her recently. They left, but one of their number, a Brockwell the Resolute, stayed in the tavern, as he was now parting ways with them.

Eudora dropped everything she had been carrying when she entered the room, because apparently this holy man was also known as “Brock the Cock,” due to his fame in halfling culture. As she eagerly received his autograph Wiggledorf hurried over to Tallendryl and informed him that his money had been stolen. Apparently Sister Catherine had known in advance that there were people searching for her, and “borrowed” Tallendryl’s money, (leaving a note behind promising to pay him back) and mentioned something about being pursued, so she was heading to Axis.

Now knowing that the inquisitors meant to capture her, Tallendryl announced that she’d stolen his money, and Sister Catherine was headed for Santa Cora to throw them off her trail, when Brock interjected- apparently a paladin of Alathea, goddess of truth, he noted the lie, and informed them of her true destination. They thanked him for this, and Tallendryl countered by addressing Brockwell by his less dignified nickname, which alienated him from his fellow holy men. They took their leave for Axis by foot. The party gathered- Lan’Lei wished to visit Axis for her own purposes any way, and Wiess, like Tallendryl, wished to resurrect Hugh, owing him his life. Brock accompanied them, as he, too, wished to apprehend Catherine.

The group set out a few minutes later on horseback with Hugh’s coffin strapped to Fly-catcher’s back. After riding for some time without overtaking the other party they became suspicious. The group took a break while Lan’Lei examined the ground, looking for a sign of their tracks. She found what seemed to be their footprints, but they seemed to be in groups with large distances between them. This puzzled her, so she sent Vrace up into the sky to scan for them. He reported back that they were still ahead of the party on the road, and that they were somehow disappearing, then reappearing further ahead- blinking in and out of existence, and traveling very quickly as a result.

Night came, and the party had to decide whether it would be best to push the horses to their breaking point in an attempt to reach Axis at the same time as the clerics, or to rest and simply lose some time. They opted to set a camp, and watches were set as a dense mist suddenly drew upon the road.

Two figures appeared- a man and a girl he identified as his daughter, and they asked to sit for a while by the party’s fire. Of the two who were awake on watch, Tallendryl was immediately suspicious, and began grilling them on their particulars, but Brock welcomed them. They sat and made small talk, but then asked for a favor- they wished for Tallendryl to deliver a package to Axis for them- despite being very close themselves. Brock suddenly began understanding Tallendryl’s suspicion, but Tallendryl then asked what they could offer in return- they produced a scroll of mass teleportation which he could use to instantly bring everyone to Axis’ gates. Before the others could fully wake up, or Brock could object, Tallendryl accepted the mystery package’s delivery contract, and used the scroll, transporting everyone to Axis.

They began searching for Catherine right away, despite the hour. Axis seldom slows down, so there were plenty of people in the streets and places of business. Lan’Lei went off on her own and arranged for an appointment to go up to see the dragon flight in the clouds above Axis, Tallendryl hit a tavern named the Fighting Pawn in his search, and the two clerics began questioning people in the street.

Weiss questioned one man as to whether or not he’d seen any of the priests who were rivaling the search for Catherine, and indeed he had- right behind Weiss! Saint and Wiess exchanged insults until Saint insulted Ashquay, which was too much for Wiess to bear- he challenged the other cleric to a duel. The two squared off- Weiss offering Saint the first attack, but it soon became apparent that although the man appeared to be a cleric of the Gods of Light, he possessed powers more akin to a follower of the way of the Prince of Shadows- shadow-stepping here and there, and attacking Weiss with a thin blade, trying to shank him. Weiss, however, answered Saint’s attack with Ashquay’s holy judgement, and smote the man dead with radiant light from the heavens, leaving only one of his smoldering ash-filled boot behind.

Meanwhile in the tavern, Tallendryl bumped into a childhood friend of his, Laylen McKale. After briefly catching up Laylen agreed to share some information of interest to Tallendryl in exchange for his expertise in resolving an arcane matter in his home. Tallendryl agreed, and Laylen informed him that Sister Catherine was staying in a secret location down a dead end alley.

The party regrouped and located the alley. After encountering a few traps they gained entry and encountered a group of demons. The party dispatched them with relative ease as Tallendryl retrieved Catherine’s book of Demonology, and Catherine emerged from the next room, surrendering herself. She seemed surprised to see who had tracked her down, however. After talking with her, it was revealed that she had sought to destroy a demonic staff which had attracted the attention of some operatives of the Prince. It can only be destroyed with dragon fire, and so she had secured passage to reach the dragons using Tallendryl’s gold. She planned to pay him back by selling the last shred of her soul to the Diabolist.

Lan’Lei took the cursed staff, and Tallendryl debated the morality of what Catherine had done with the clerics, along with whether it was right to use demons while Lan’Lei left the building. As the men continued their discussion Vrace reappeared and told them in his own way that there was trouble outside.

The three emerged into the alley to find Lan’Lei facing a large number of white-robed figures, no doubt the operatives of the Prince of Shadows looking for Catherine…

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Session 17
The Golden Men and the Way Home

Bartholomew lead the group of Krovan’s Gate survivors back to the elf tower in the stolen city, and the rest of the party made ready to face whatever lay ahead in the glowing chamber. Filing into the group of block heads, the destination appeared as a glowing white sea of wispy tendrils. A loud condescending voice could be heard far away bellowing commands, and the party found themselves face to face with another of the stone brothers of the Stone Thief. This one, commanding the block heads where to sort their booty, as the block heads deposited their burdens in different piles amidst the milky white tendrils- being enveloped afterward. Spotted among the picked pieces of trinkets, fragments of stone, and masonry three of the golden men could be seen.

The party stepped forward and demanded their stolen treasures back in exchange for their peaceful exit from the living dungeon. The Architect, as he identified himself, was unimpressed with the threat, and suggested that the golden men could be bought in exchange for a service to be performed for the Stone Thief- he told the group to draw a magical signal on highly desired buildings of the Empire for the dungeon to devour. Instead the party decided that they’d had enough, and wanted to put the great head in his place. They attacked the Architect, his block heads, his “dungeon-born” orcs, and statues head-on.

The battle was fierce, but as usual, the heroes edged out their foes, and were triumphant after all we slain, and the Architect knocked from his high pedestal by Weiss after his prayer for great strength. The party interrogated him, but left him alive, opting instead to escape after he let slip that the glowing sea of worm-like protrusions comprised the sensitive digestive system of the Stone Thief- attacking this area with enough force might cause her to “vomit.”

The party attacked, causing some appreciable damage before a great rumbling and wind was sensed. Soon the ground quaked and a suction like none had felt before caused the party to be blown with terrific force. Before they knew what had happened the heroes found themselves laying in the ruined street of downtown Krovan’s Gate, along with several buildings that had been in the stolen city- all of the ones which had been stole from this town, along with a few extras that hadn’t been- the elf tower among them. Fortunately no everyone in the elf tower and all of the party members had survived the exit safely, and the group sighed in relief- they had escaped the beast.

The town emptied into the street to gaze in amazement and celebrate their reversal of fortune. Survivors embraced loved ones, and the mayor thanked the party, praising them as heroes. The party wished simply to move on to their final destination of the journey originally embarked on after leaving Scarsdale Fortress. All they needed was a coffin for Hugh’s body, a crate/“coffin” for Verlin, and a cart, and they were soon on their way to Dunbarrow once again.

On the road to town Lan’Lei stopped off in her secret lair to stow a great deal of plunder and send some communiques regarding the dragon egg Verlin had found and entrusted her with. Wiess and Tallendryl returned to Dunbarrow- much different from just a few months prior- travelers, merchants, and adventurers packed the streets, and new businesses were springing up on every plot of unused land.

The Peach Pit was a success- brimming with business and a line out the door, Tallendryl could scarcely recognize the new massive edifice, complete with puffing pipes, and decorated signage.

Tallendryl was about to let himself in, (upsetting a bunch of people waiting to get in) when Toll appeared at the door. He greeted Tallendryl and let him in… after paying the “Toll toll,” or cover price for entry. Inside much had changed- magical furniture seemed to appear and disappear out of the floor as needed. A crowded room with an expertly decorated interior made the tavern truly amazing. The bartender, Uurl, directed Tallendryl to Wiggledorf, who was in one of the private rooms… naked with two women. He was happy to see Tal, despite the interruption, and showed him the rest of the place- from the brewery in the basement manned by Thorgrim, (creator of the now-famous Schnappy Peach) to the luxury bedrooms in the upper floors, all adorned with the finest leathers and valuers by Drakkablak. Tallendryl greeted each, and told them of his travels, and introduced Verlin to his new basement home, and informed them of his idea to create a black spice laboratory next to the brewery. Wiggledorf mentioned that a number of fires had somehow kept starting in the tavern, but each time they were quickly extinguished. This news alarmed Lan’Lei.

Weiss meanwhile got right back to investigating the burned down remains of the Giant’s Flagon. Considered a cursed and haunted place, it is now avoided by all of the locals. As such, its remains were undisturbed from when the party had left for Scarsdale. After finding some evidence of demonic activity here, and learning of Sister Catherine’s past, he departed for his nearby monastery immediately to make a report.

At the same time the Peach Pit was preparing a grand festival for the sudden return of its patron and hero, and spared no expense- a feast was set out under pavilions, ales were brought out, and a great party was thrown. Tallendryl mingled freely with all who were there in very flashy garb while Lan’Lei stayed on the edge of the celebration, watching for signs of an arsonist.

Tallendryl was introduced to Lady Kaira, who had recently moved to Dunbarrow from Glitterhagen, and generally had a good time drinking competitively with other revelers. Eventually, however, Lan’Lei’s suspicions were realized when two fires sprang up- one at the tavern itself, and one on on of the streamers attached to a pavilion, which resulted in some damage to neighboring buildings. She spotted a shadowy figure attempting to run away during the confusion, but he suddenly and inexplicably vanished once she thought she’d cornered him.

The next morning Tallendryl collected himself after the party, learned of what had happened, and, from Lan’Lei’s description of the possible arsonist, learned that Draven Halfhand was in town and trying to destroy the Peach Pit. The threat must be addressed, and getting Hugh to Santa Cora is another journey unto itself…

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