Return to Caldera

Back to the kobolds!
In which our heroes show us why they are, indeed, heroes.

...we last left our heroes as the mists of the swamp they were trekking through parted, and they found themselves in amongst the kobolds they were tracking! The fiend with the skull mask, standing on a raised platform, sliced the throat of one of his companions. The now lifeless kobold tumbled into the swamp as his leader seemed to suck a purplish energy from his corpse. He channelled this energy into some kind of huge, bloated troll corpse which sniffed it in eagerly, erupting to life and roaring with sudden vigour!

The skull masked leader cried in anger at our heroes and the small swarm of kobolds in front of his all snapped their fanged faced faces their way. Things were about to get ugly(er). The giant corpse charged, picking up a kobold and flinging it at Ell, landing (appropriately for a kobold) short. Dragon, ever the gentledragonborn, raced up to protect her. He would need to. Throughout the battlefield were islands of semi-firm ground surrounded by a sea of fetid swamp water, which made moving difficult. The kobolds didn’t seem to share this problem, however, as they dived into the water and snaked their way though it effortlessly.

They weren’t the only things in the water, either. Ell and Keridwen quickly saw that the ‘earth’ beneath the water wasn’t that at all, but the corpses of hundreds of kobolds. With each step, their feet came to rest on the hand, face leg or body of one of these creature’s fallen kin! [[Oranna] saw this as well, and her response wasn’t quite as ‘staid’ as the others. There was no time for timidity, however, as the kobolds fell upon their adversaries. Thoradin did his best to put his hard won military knowledge into practice, and a cleverly placed cloud of mists by Calitris helped protect Dragon, who was standing toe-to-toe with the frontline of kobolds and the giant hulk of undead flesh. The dragonborn’s fiery breath was put to good use against this onslaught.

Meanwhile, Calitris captured the hulk in a swirling vortex of buffeting winds which tore haggard pieces of muscle and sinew from it. It was Ell who stuck a decisive blow against the huge zombie, however. She deftly manoeuvred around the spear-points of the kobolds before leaping onto its rotting flesh. Her well-maintained, acid-tipped blades easily pierced the creature’s bone as she dragged them down its chest cavity. The creature paused for a moment, stumbled, and then its ribs opened up letting forth a torrent of fetid pus and blood. Ell was covered, and the necrotic energies inherent in the mess weakened her, but the creature fell with a splash into the water. Still, the battle was far from over. The kobold necromancer had begun raising the corpses beneath the water while, at the first opportunity, he slit the throat of another ally and brought his monstrous creation back to life!

Calitris’ obscuring mists were now protecting Ell, and so the beast moved against the nearest enemy it could see – the glowing deva, Kerridwen. She was intent on bringing down the kobold leader, however, and as the giant zombie reached down to grasp her, her divine radiance blasted the thing, sending it stumbling backward. She would not be put off her task. The necromancer was getting his first glimpses of defeat and decided retreat was a good option. Dragon and Ell were not happy with this, however. The mighty dragonborn lifted his tiefling companion and threw her at their damned enemy. Ell deftly tumbled upon landing, sped forward and jammed her blades into the leader. She was still weakened and covered in the bile in the zombie, but she certainly left her mark. Unfortunately, she was also alone among enemies, and stood no chance surrounded. She fell soon after. Luckily, Keridwne had found the shot she needed. Calling on the favour of the Triple Goddess, Keridwen brought down a searing gout of flame from the sky. Against such an awesome showing of power, the kobold leader could not stand. His charred body fell, adding yet another corpse to the total. The standing undead fell as a result and the kobold followers ran for the trees. As the leader lost his staff, it collided with an outcropping tree root, and suddenly the area was filled with wandering spirits – those that were trapped within the staff’s orbs! They didn’t seem to notice our heroes, and many looked severly weakened and gaunt.

Ell soon recovered, and Calitris examined the orbed staff the kobold necromancer carried. The wood, twisted by its exposure to necromantic magic, was nothing; the orbs that hung from it were something else entirely. Oranna correctly deduced that there were ‘batteries’; something some necromancers used to store souls which would in turn be used to power very dangerous spells or summons. This kobold had a lot of them. Much more power than that which was used in the battle. Meanwhile, Dragon found a large bone of the kobold leader’s body. It looked to Calitris like a large tooth taken from the skull of a chromatic dragon.

At this point, Nic appeared again. He thanked his savious, but bid them on one more mission, ”...take my remains to a colleague of mine in Stoors Landing. He will be able to release my soul and set me on a path to the afterlife.” How this would fit in with their quest to find the Hand of Agaman, something the kobolds were supposed to know something of, we will find out next week!

Session 8: Meanwhile...
...back at Winterhaven.

Wrafton's Inn

With our heroes gone, the good folk of Winterhaven are relaxing at Wrafton’s Inn, little aware of the immense danger confronting Dragon and the Stormseye Insurgents at th hands of those necrotic kobolds. They’re also unaware of the great trouble they, themselves, will soon face.

Carmine Wrafton is busy tidying up his inn after a long night of revelry – the only patrons left are Kerrina, the tiefling astronomer, who is continuing a long argument with Dorn Gular, the half-orc leader of the Frontiersmen. Oris Bavak, the deva dedicated to Erathis and, of course, our old friend Perrin Pouchworthy are also in attendance. The excited halfling would not let the cleric leave until he had told him everything of what happened at the dig (see last session!), in as many different ways as possible. Thanks the Gods that Oris was a patient sort.

The evening would have continued thus had not the group been rudely interrupted by a sudden blast of energy! A pulse of white light that carried with it thousands of furtive whispers, each of those a seperate attack on the listeners sanity. The voices invaded the minds of the Wrafton patrons, sinking into their brainpans with the subtlety of a greatsword. After what seemed like hours, the energy passed and the barflies found themselves sprawled on the floor. No answers were forthcoming; it was only Oris who could make any sense of the whispers: “_All hail the Ivory Queen_.” He had heard of such a creature – though what form it took and from whence it came he could not place. Something from a children’s story perhaps? The name did not sit well with him, though, of that he was certain.

Kerrina was the first to leave the bar. Outside, she found herself walking into a bloody melee! Three of the Winterhaven guards and two of the townsfolk were trying to beat each other to death! She moved to intervene, but when she did, they merely stopped what they were doing and turned to her – their eyes were pallid and glazed, their faces expressionless. Blood poured from eyes, ears, noses, fists, and the arm of one of the guards was bent at an angle that healthy arms couldn’t. Kerrina had thought that the energy blast was mind controlling in nature, and now here was her proof.

Worried for her life and unsettled by the scene before her, she let fourth a chaotic blast of energy, felling one of the guards. The sound, as well as that of Kerrina’s terrified scream, led the others to pour out of the inn. No sooner had they done so, than the guards and villagers, now acting together, moved to attack! Dorn raised his bow, warning the approaching guard to stand down. The guard kept on moving. Dorn warned again. The guard continued. When he raised his spear, ready to fling it at the half-orc, Dorn had no choice; he let loose an arrow, aiming for a non-mortal wound on the shoulder.

Before long they were surrounded by those they once considered friends; people who were now trying to beat them with their fists, their spears and whatever they could lay their hands on. Fortunately, their fragile minds meant that they fell easier than they normally may have, and our new heroes prevented any real harm to themselves. Though, this was certainly far from the end.

Another burst of white, whispering energy, and now outside, it was obvious where the energy was coming from – the top of Kerrina’s tower! The tiefling had no idea what could have happened up there to cause this, despite questions from the others (Dorn, in particular). She was just worried about her books! This last blast didn’t seem to have as much of an effect on them, and for some reason they were very heartened to have Perrin, of all people, at their side. They may have needed the extra hand, though, as the later pulse was enough to raise those they had felled to their feet once again, and there were some new arrivals to make things more difficult for the group. Oris called on the favour of Erathis who helped him purge the area before the group ran off in the direction of Kerrina’s tower – and none faster than the astronomer herself!

What she found when she entered was stomach-turning. Her new assistant, Moira, was lying on the floor dead – her skull split open. Her murderer, Thair Coalstriker, Winterhavens friendly, orderly blacksmith stood over her, covered in her blood. He was using the the refuse that poured out of her head to write on the wall:

_“All hail the Ivory Queen. All hail the Ivory Queen. All hai…”_

When Kerrina interrupted him, he turned to her, glaring at her the same glazed over look as the other villagers. He attacked, his shield and maul flying wildly – one crack with the wrong end of that hammer and Kerrina would be finished! She let loose a chaotic bolt of energy, but it did nothing to stop his march toward her. Reaching deep into the recesses of her subconscious, she drew forth great, uncontrolled power. A massive blast of light erupted forward, smiting Thair verily, causing his maul to fly across the room and bringing him to his knees. Dorn, Oris, Carmine and Perrin burst into the room at this point, and together they managed to subdue and tie up a severely weakened Thair. They proceeded up the stairs.

A massive blast of light erupted forward, smiting Thair verily...

Here, Dorn was unsettled to find LoKag, his second in command, and a few other Frontiersmen. It seems that they weren’t immune to the effects of the mind control as he was. Regretfully he fought alongside his new allies after his old ones, predictably, attacked. Proving why he is first in command he dispatched his ex-comrades, with a little help and careful manoeuvring by Carmine.

Finally they reached the top of the tower. It was an open-air level that Kerrina had previously used to in her studies of the heavens. Floating gracefully in a ring of white energy was Taluana Adalasia. Standing beside her was Erathia, the eldarin daughter of the town’s mayor, Bairwin Goodfellow, the half-elf shopkeep and Percy Duvall, the human captain of the guard. Taluana smiled at Kerrina who was, once again, the first to arrive, “Isn’t it beautiful? Very soon there will be no fighting! No needless deaths. No conflict of any kind.” Taluana was committed to her goal, it seemed, and the question now became ‘how’. Taluana indicated a necklace she was wearing, itself burning a bright white, “Not everything you find from empires old is past its usefulness, it seems.” With that she smiled and lifted her hand, her glowing white aura extending toward Kerrina, “Join us, my old friend, and you will see.”

Kerrina’s mind filled with images of a tall, pale woman smiling warmly at her, but she was able to shake these away as her friends came barrelling through the door after her. Needless to say, battle ensued. Dorn let loose a few arrows at the harpy he quickly discerned was at the bottom of all of this, but Percy leapt in the way, taking them into his own chest and surprisingly happy to do so. When Perrin entered, Taluana turned her attention to him, “Ah! There! He is the one! He has the sigil! Get him!” Bairwin and Erathia did just that, and before he had a moment to guess at what was happening, Perrin was battered to the floor, Bairwin rummaging through his clothes.

Time was of the essence. With each passing moment, Taluana’s power grew, and our heroes could feel their will slipping. Dorn raised his bow and pointed it at Taluana, but instead of seeing the witch he was trying to put down, he saw a graceful, gleaming beauty. What’s more, Oris was trying to hurt her! He let his arrows fly and they embedded themselves into the back of the deva before he shook the controlling influence off. This had to end now, before they tore themselves apart. They turned their attention to Taluana, ignoring Bairwin. Kerrina led a full assault which brought the elf to her knees – she was barely hanging on to consciousness, but it was at this moment that Bairwin stood tall, “I have it my queen!” He held a loft another necklace, this one stolen from Perrin. With its removal, Taluana’s power suddenly grew! She exploded in a blaze of white light which spewed fourth into the minds of those around her. Much to Kerrina’s terror, she came to realise that she was the only one still free of this Ivory Queen’s influence! All of her former friends glared at her, and Dorn even sent some arrows her way. Kerrina’s hold on her own free will was also slipping, and so she made a last ditch effort to end Taluana for good. She raised her hand and they cackled with primal energy – she called into the deepest recesses of her strength and drew something forward.

But it wasn’t enough.

Her spell crackled and fizzled into nothingness before everything became a bright, blinding light.

All hail the Ivory Queen.

Session 7: To (ko)boldly go...
...where no man has gone before. Well, at least for a very long time, anyway.

Letting the kobolds go for the moment, our heroes turn their attention back to the dig and looking for any information regarding the Hand of Agaman. Not long after, Ell arrives from town, being lead by Taluana, Perrin’s elven assistant.

They’re both quite shocked to find everyone looking rather haggard and most covered in a sticky, white glue. Taluana goes straight for the campsite, making sure that her precious findings haven’t been lost. Ell, on the other hand, takes the times to laugh at her comrades (though I’m sure she would say she was laughing with them).

After explanations had been handed out, Perrin began showing the others around the dig whilst our resident rogue tried to work off the less than clear head she’d acquired from the previous nights lamenting. It was about now that she started hearing the voice. Something vague and far off, but it was definitely saying her name! The others paid little attention to her as she tried to find the source. The voice disappeared before coming through even louder than before! It was now that Ell realized how she knew the voice – it was Nic, her now deceased old friend.

Half a minute later and he stood before her, calling her name, though he couldn’t quite see her, it seems. She probed the space he occupied with her dagger; he locked onto her then (perhaps recognizing, intimately, the feeling of being stabbed by his friend, even beyond death). He pleaded with the tiefling, “Ell! Thank the great bard I found you! You have to help me! Get me out of here!” A few questions later and the group surmised that Nic was trapped inside the orbs on the kobolds leader’s staff. More importantly, Nic was able to get a little more information to our heroes – that same kobold apparently possessed the Hand of Agaman! Guessing that he needed the souls to power the Hand, the Stormseye Insurgents and Dragon decided to follow the beasties. Ell was first in the cave, and she managed to see the last kobold slip down a narrow tunnel and escape into the sunlight. Calitris followed that same passageway, donning the shape of a snake to do so, and found that it opened nearby the dig site. He also saw that the kobolds were running into a nearby wood.

Ell, meanwhile, explored a little bit of the cave, finding it got hotter as she went in. When she couldn’t see any more, she came back to join the group who decided to chase the kobolds down!

Keridwen trekked back to Winterhaven to pick up Oranna, while the rest fleet footed it into the tree line. Calitris and Ell did their best to discern where their quarry was headed, and did a pretty good job of it as well. Ell used her commonsense and knowledge of fleeing the scene of crimes, whereas Calitris gauged the forest, asking of it questions and receiving answers in turn. Thoradin and Dragon pushed the group forward, powering through the wilderness.

First there came a bramblethorn, roaring and stinging...

Thoradin in particular did a good job of finding everything that was dangerous along the way, but unfortunately didn’t do a good job of avoiding it. First there came a bramblethorn, roaring and stinging; then the hungry spiders as our heroes traversed the cliff face, and finally the trio of apparitions wandering lost deep in the forest, mistaking the dwarf (and eventually his allies) for an enemy of ‘the crown’. Ell tried to convince them otherwise, but came up short of an explanation.

By the time they’d managed to best those sword-wielding souls, the group were tired and worn. Furthermore, the forest had become a dark, desolate place and each step forward brought them deeper into a fetid swamp. Boots became lodged in the muck and there were no bird calls, no distant growls – nothing to give any impression of life. The weariness, combined with the ever-present gloom, eventually served to separate our heroes. They wandered lost in the fog for some time before it lifted. The good news was that they had found the kobolds! The bad news was that they were standing, seperated, right in the middle of their camp…

A few dozen of the critters turned to see the new arrivals, while their staff-wielding leader finished cutting the throat of one of his willing subjects before pushing him into the marsh. This was some party to crash.

A few dozen of the critters turned to see the new arrivals...

Session 6: Can you dig it?
The group finds themselves in a sticky situation...

Our heroes, minus Ell (who is lamenting Nic’s death at the tavern in Winterhaven) and Oranna (who is remaining to comfort her), march into the wilderness with Perrin Pouchworthy. They’re seeking the Hand of Agaman which, from reports, is a powerful lost relic which might secure Calderas future should Halgard invade. Perrin, ever the archaeologist, has found a site that he thinks might hold the key to finding the treasure, and eagerly (perhaps to nausea) tells his listeners all about the ins and outs of his duties as they make their way there.

Upon arriving at the dig, however, our heroes are somewhat surprised to discover a few kobolds rummaging through the camp! Dorn Gular had told our heroes that he’d run into a few of the critters, even cleared them out of Winterhaven after finding it, and that they never posed too much of a threat. With this in mind, the present Stormseye Insurgents and Dragon, Perrin’s bodyguard, marched into battle, spurred on by the fear that Perrin might get himself in by charging toward the bite-sized nuisances.

Things did not go to plan.

The kobolds were under the command of a magic-user of some kind, who wielded a staff adorned with numerous blackened orbs. He was able to unleash some pretty nasty spells which burned away at the very life-force or their target! Necromancy at its worst. What’s more, Dragon and Thoradin found themselves in a sticky situation when the kobold archers hit them with some kind of viscous concoction which glued them to the ground! With the kobolds weaving their way past our hero’s defences, things were looking dire. Keridwen stepped up, putting the terrible fear of the Triple Goddess in her enemies hearts, whilst Thoradin, Dragon and Calitris did what they could to whittle away at their opponents.

pic by Luaprata91 of deviantart

Not wanting to risk defeat, the kobold leader ordered his men to stay and fight while he, himself, took flight. He ducked down a hole in the digsite that Perrin had mentioned he was yet to explore. As soon as he was out of sight, his minions selectively forgot his orders, and followed. Speedy things that they are, it wasn’t long until they had all disappeared. All but one, that is.

Flashing the fearful visage of her deity once more, Keridwen ‘persuaded’ one of the kobolds to stick around. He did so, cowering against the rock. An interrogation followed, and the kobold revealed what he knew… which was very little. They did, however, discover that it was these kobolds who had attacked Nic! More than that, it was they who stole his soul!

They were distracted almost immediately by a stone tablet that Perrin was happy the kobolds hadn’t destroyed or run off with. The table depicted a riddle, written in supernal:

A five point star with a perfect mate, I have no mouth, but tell your fate. On battlefields I double men, But oft ‘mongst thieves, I’m half of them.

He group puzzled over this for a little while; long enough to allow their kobold prisoner to escape!

Session 5: Leaving for the frontier
Our heroes reuinte after months apart, and are sent on an important mission.

It’s been three months since the Stormseye Insurgents rescued the hundreds of passengers who were headed for the Umbra Isles. There were dinners held in their honour and many came to know them, if only by name alone. They even met Oloret Stoor, the hero of Halgard who’s own efforts have saved thousands.

For the first month of this time, our heroes and many others lived in tent cities dotted along the coast near where they landed, whilst the battle-ready folk worked to clear the cities for habitation. This was hard work; most of the streets and houses had become home to wild animals or, in some cases, small tribes of kobolds. As the soldiers cleared the areas, others came in to clean up. There was a general feeling of community in the air, and everyone seemed willing to do their part.

So far, three cities have been cleared. Stoor’s Landing which, as its name implies, is a large port city on the coast of Caldera, a little ways north from where you first landed.

Atredia is a little ways inland, and has already garnered the name the City of Pious souls. It seems it was a city of many temples and, as such, many devout deity worshippers have flocked there to reconnect with their guides.

New Caldera is the third and largest city that has been cleared. It has been named the new capitol, and most likely served the same use back when it was inhabited by native Calderans. It is the home of the burgeoning new government, and is where Oloret Stoor hangs his hat.

Not everyone has seen fit to inhabit one of these cities, however. Many have struck inland, either alone or in groups, with the purpose of exploring Caldera for themselves. Some want gold and glory, whilst others just want a quiet place for themselves; especially many who lived in the wilderness back on Halgard.

There is talk of a settlement called Jack’s Corner, which from all reports is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, where all manner of thief and cutthroat has migrated to. If such a place exists, however, it has not yet been found by officials.

There are also rumours of black skinned elves attacking some of the more remote settlements. This may be just talk, of course, as everybody knows that the elves fled to Halgard back in the day with the rest of the Calderans – and who ever heard of a black-skinned elf?

For three months our heroes busied themselves about Caldera, following their own paths. Calitris had headed into the wilderness, looking for evidence of that rumoured cesspool of Jack’s corner. Thoradin elected to stay with the cities, helping to clear them out put his hammer to work rebuilding. Ell remained in the shadows, gathering information and keeping her head down, whilst Oranna and Keridwen adopted more scholarly pursuits, learning and teaching respectively.

Time came, however, and they were all called together once again. A message from Balar summoned them to New Caldera where, it seems, they were to be sent somewhere else. After a brief reintroduction, Balar informed them that the, now renowned Stormseye Insurgents, were required on the frontier. There was evidence from a Halfling archaeologist leading officials to believe that the fabled Hand of Agaman may be located somewhere in that region. And, while morale had been reasonably high since the Halgardian refugees landed on Caldera, Balar and others had decided that having the Stormseye Insurgents on the case certainly couldn’t hurt in that respect. He also told them to look out for ‘dark skinned elves’ that had, from all reports, been attacking wilderness settlements.

As they left, they were stopped by Bartholemew Trusk, an old ally from the Stormseye. He had heard that they were headed west, to the small town of Winterhaven. It just so happened that he had a friend there who had troubles of her own. There had been two apparent murders in the town, and many people were on edge. It was enough that they had to deal with everything else going on around them, but now there might be a killer in their midst!

Agreeing to look in on Trusk’s friend, our heroes left New Caldera for the wilderness. They didn’t have to go out of their way to find trouble, as well. After four days journey along roads that were just now coming back into use, they came across a sickening sight. Five of the dark-skinned elves that had been warned about milled around a corpse on the road. The two parties got into an argument, something that wasn’t helped by the fact that the enemy elves didn’t seem to speak a language anyone understood. They captured the curious Oranna, putting a sword to her belly and kicking her to the ground. This was enough for Calitris who attacked. The battle was long and hard – the enemy elves were a fierce force and were headed by a priestess of some sort who was merciless enough to explode one of her own wounded men into a swarm of biting spiders. Thoradin almost fell, were it not for the restoritive powers of Oranna’s elixers.

The young wizard further saved the day after putting some of the enemies to sleep whilst Calitris and Ell chased the fleeing priestess down. She fell soon before their blades, claws, and the residual energies of Keridwen’s blast of divine flame. Thoradin, meanwhile, mopped up the rest of the elves – though one did manage to escape to parts unknown. They quickly tied the sleeping elf before examining the body on the road – much to the horror of the party, they quickly realised the body belonged to Nic, their fellow Stormseye Insurgent! The grotesque sight of his internals spilling onto the ground must have been hard to bear indeed. That wasn’t the only surprise they were to have, however – Oranna had heard of the kinds of wounds Nic had inflicted in many of the stories she used to read, and she was certain the many small cuts belonged to kobolds, and not the long, sweeping blades of the dark elves they just fought.

Perhaps even more troubling was Keridwen’s discovery – Nic’s soul had been stolen before or at the time of his death! Wit this knowledge in mind, the company decided to burn the remains, rather than bury them (something that would come back to haunt Ell later). Near Nic’s body they found his pouch, filled with sheets of lyrics (one song entitled “[[Nic. Hero of the High Seas]]”). The pouch also held the message Nic was supposed to deliver to the town of Winterhaven on behalf of Balar before his unfortunate… end.

Continuing on, the party came to the walled city of Winterhaven, being guarded by a very lax halfling and tiefling. Meeting little resistance (or assistance), the group wandered into town and began looking around. In the tavern they met Carmine Wrafton, an aging longtooth shifter who seemed amicable enough. He asked them about the dark skinned elf they were carting around, and directed them to the Frontiersmen when they said they were looking for answers themselves. More physically, he pointed out a broad goliath in the inn, [[Lo-Kag]] who was the second in command of the Frontiersmen. They thanked him, and while Thoradin and Calitris went to speak to him, the others disbanded – Ell, surprisingly, went to find the local temple, Keridwen went to find their contact in town, and Oranna went to check out a tiefling boy she’d seen at the stables on her way in.

This boy, identifying himself as Whippit was not happy to be disturbed from his job grooming the horses. He had Oranna moving horse armour from one side of the stable to the other, though there was little reason for the move. She continued to, well, pester him, until eventually he walked away. She followed, but he strode into the Hall of the Frontiersmen, and a couple of burly folk at the door made it clear that Oranna would not be following any further.

Ell, meanwhile, sat silently in the church. A deva, tall even for his race, knelt at the front of the pews, talking with Erathis, the god the temple was dedicated to.

Outside, Keridwen was having trouble rousing the groups contact, Kerrina, from her tower, if she was in there at all, and in the inn, Thoradin and Calitris’ conversation with Lo-Kag was like pulling teeth. Eventually the goliath rose, and with a distinct ease of effort, he picked up the dark skinned elf with one hand and began dragging it toward the door. The dwarf and shifter looked on, but did nothing to stop him. The goliath strode out the door and past Keridwen who was returning. He then walked past Oranna and into the Frontiersmen headquarters; the four attempted to follow, but the pair at the door didn’t show much interest in letting them in. A few moments later, however, and a rather stern looking half-orc opened the door, and nodded at the group, allowing them to come in.

Once inside, the half-orc introduced himself as Dorn Gular, leader of the Frontiersmen. He was very interested in how they came by the dark-skinned elf, as he’d been hunting them for some time and had been unable to procure one for himself. He was suprised by their story that they were merely standing on the road, but happy enough that the Frontiersmen now had a living elf to study. Keridwen was not about to let them hold the elf, afraid of what they might to do the helpless creature, and she and Dorn came to argue. Eventually she relented however, but was allowed to at least tend to the elf, bandaging his many wounds. Thoradin went to find Kerrina, and Dorn was unhappy when he brought her back as the pair don’t seem to share much love for each other. She couldn’t do much to help the elf though, and Dorn was growing impatient with all of the unwanted company in his lodge. Finally the group left, with plans to meet again at the inn that night.

Moving forward to that time, the group first met with Kerrina. They talked about the murders for a little while before Thoradin decided there were more important fish to fry – namely searching or the Hand of Agaman. Just as he said this, Perrin and his assistant Taluen entered the inn, just back from the dig.

Session 4: Journey's end
The hag is released and the heroes find themselves taking a not so quick nap.

This session began in the midst of battle! The heroes were busy trying to hold off the massing pirates as Keridwen unlocked the hag from her magical prison. Thoradin had things well in hand, however, his mighty hammer inflicting many fractured bones and ruptured organs as pirate fodder fell before him. Calitris was also holding her own as each swipe of her feline claws seemed to fell yet another of the sea-dog slavers. Skitch was contributing in his own way, employing a rather potent dart gun against his former fellows whilst Nic and Oranna were holding the backline, supporting their brethren with bardic songs and magic missiles respectively.


Three seals were down and the Hag was getting restless. Keridwen, still unsure about the decision to free the creature proceeded with caution, despite the ruckus going on behind her. Crabseye, distraught that the heroes are attempting to free the hag, wades into that ruckus, striking out with his demonic powers. He comes face to face with Thoradin, who is becoming more and more unhappy with the lingering presence of the warlock. The hammer-wielding dwarf does a good job of cracking the bad egg, but Crabseye smiles through bloodied teeth and clenches his fist – ice shards quickly form around him, organising themselves into a solid set of plate armour complete with skull-adorned helm. It looks as though he’s ready to stand up to the dwarf (despite the fact that the latter is half his height).


It’s about this time that a rather large blackscale enters, barely squeezing through the door. It glares hungrily at the heroes, using it’s extensive reach to swipe at Thoradin from behind its allies. Calitris respods, stepping back and caging the creature in a prison of buffeting winds! It roars in anger, swinging wildly, before bringing his club down onto Thoradin, flatening him despite his dwarvish resilience. Immediately regaining his footing however, the headstrong battle veteran delivers a devastating blow to the ice-armoured Crabseye, bringing him to his knees, “See now, lad? That’s why yeh always go with metal armour!” Thoradin smiled, feeling victorious. Crabseye smiled back, another line of blood dripping from his mouth down an already soaked chin. He raises his finger, pouring a raging, infernal fire into the dwarf’s armour, cooking the stout hammerbearer before fleeing the room past the aforementioned blackscale.

...pouring a deep and infernal fire into the dwarf's armour...

The blackscale moves, dispelling the Calitris’ wind prison; but the enchantment leaves rather violently, and a few of his allies are pushed to the ground as it does so. Crabseye, now looking into the room from without, summons an impenetrable darkness. It swirls around him momentarily before streaking toward our intrepid heroes! A few are caught in the sudden night and invisible shadow-sprites tear shreds from their flesh. Crabseye cackles with pleasure.

...the enchantment leaves rather violently, and a few of his allies are pushed to the ground as it does so...

Captain Blaggard finally makes his way into the fray, pleading with the heroes to cease their attempt to free the hag, “Everyone will die if she is freed!” The sincerity in his voice causes Keridwen to falter in her unlocking ritual as the hag tries to reassure her that it will harm only Blaggard and his men. Oranna, meanwhile, is distracted by the captain as well. She teleports to his side, suddenly conflicted – she wants to believe in the man she knows as a symbol of freedom, but is seeing so much evidence to the contrary. When he does not help her after being beset by some of his crewmen, her decision is made. She fights against him, and he solemnly draws his sword to fight her.

Meanwhile, Thoradin has pursued the much bloodied Crabseye to the back of the ship. The two trade epic blows, the dwarf swinging his hammer with practiced savagery and the warlock calling on every dark power he possesses to fell the rampaging warlord. In the end, however, Thoradin’s hammer cracks into Crabseye’s chest, cracking his ribcage and breaking his jaw. The warlock falls to his knees. Behind him, the back of the ship tears open as a large demonic portal forces itself into existence! From this portal two, large, red-skinned hands reach outward. Crabseye has only a moment to scream before they snatch him and drag him into the hellish abyss. His cries of abject terror ring over the fray even after the portal closes itself and the ship is restored.

That’s when Keridwen opens the last seal.

The hag smiles plainly and takes a solemn breath; it then disappears in a cloud of purple smoke, reappearing fifty feet ahead in front of a suddenly terrified Blaggard. She brings her scythe-like claws to bear on the captain; drawing large gashes over his face which spray blood onto the wooden ceiling. He flees, holding his face. Our heroes decide that this may be the best time to beat a hasty retreat of their own. They make for the portal to the Stormseye and each, one at a time, leap to safety. Back on the Ghostly Stallion, meanwhile, the remaining pirates attacking the hag suddenly find themselves very sleepy. They topple over whilst she, cool as a cucumber, glides out of the room after Blaggard.

On the Stormseye, our heroes debate for quite a while as to what they’re going to do regarding this ship. Eventually, they decide to take it by force, but as they rush out to do battle, they see that everyone seems to have fallen into a deep sleep. The pirates and the passengers both. They wander up to the top deck a little perplexed by the situation, when they see one of the pirates lurch to a semblance of life. Though seemingly still asleep, the pirate begins piloting the ship, followed by a voice like nails on a chalkboard above them, “Don’t worry about getting to Caldera. It’s taken care of”. The Hag sits on the main mast, looking out to sea. They question her for a brief time, but she seems uninterested in talking. After a minute, our heroes too feel sleepy. Unable to stay awake, they each fall asleep, the last thing they see is the hag’s face looking down at them, smiling through crooked, yellowed teeth.

They dream. Or, rather, have nightmares. They’re in a desolate, distant place and watch as Captain Blaggard is systematically tortured. Parts are cut off, skin is peeled, things are boiled, bashed and broken. Everytime it seems as if he’s about to pass on, he’s suddenly revived and the torture continues. The whole time, the hag looks on, laughing with an eerie glee.

When they finally do awake, the ship has beached itself on a foreign shore. The other passenger carrying ship in Blaggard’s fleet, the Silent Harpy, is beached nearby. Oranna does not wait for the conversation to begin. She races off the ship as fast as she can whilst the others try to discern what has happened and where they are. It is here that Oranna meets the hag again. The latter smiles at the Eldarin, in the creepy, unnerving way that she does most things, “You know, I thought I recognised you. It took me a while to remember where, but I finally put my finger on it”; as she says this, she lifts one of her fingers, before breaking it off and handing it to Oranna. The hag continues, “Hold on to this for me. Keep it safe. I’ll be back to claim it in the future.” With that she is gone, and her presence is replaced by the sound of horses galloping through the forest. Startled, Oranna teleports into the nearest tree, and watches as a small contingent of armoured men and women ride past beneath her. There are a mixture of riders – humans, dwarves, tieflings, elves, dragonborn and even a halfling. She recognises the banner they hold – it’s that of Oloret Stoor! She runs after the riders who make their way to the ships, where the others are still unsure of their situation and Ell is busy stealing a dagger from Grimscale’s quarters. The riders call out to those on the beached ships. Our heroes respond and discover, much to their delight, that they’ve reached Caldera at last!

Session 3: Better the devil you know?
Our heroes trade swords for words, but at what cost?

Standing on the bottom-most deck of the Ghostly Stallion, our intrepid heroes began the day with their backs to the wall, standing tall against a seeming endless flood of pirates and lizardmen, neither willing to give ground. The battle had also been joined by Grimscale, the lizardfolk captain of the Stormseye, the last ship our ladies and lads occupied. He was refusing jovial calls from the deck above to cease the fighting, and giving our heroes a lot of trouble with his power over biting cold.

...Grimscale, lizardfolk captain of the Stormseye...

Utilising some impressive moves and a little luck, however, the incursion force managed to gain the upper hand on the defenders! It was a combined effort from the group – Keridwen, the Deva Invoker, smited Grimscale’s spirit companion with the power of her God. Thoradin, meanwhile, brought Grimscale to his knees after cracking his upper leg with his mighty warhammer. Calitris pounced, lying the scaled shaman onto his back and Ell, ever the opportunist, flourished her sword high before driving it across his chest. Grimscale was dead.

Before they could gut the last remaining lizardman, however, a tall figure with a broad smile joined them, casually eating an apple. Though he was flanked by a couple of crewmen, he made no attempt to engage in battle. Instead, he talked. It didn’t take long for Oranna, the youngest member of the group, to recognise the man as Captain Carmine Blaggard; much chronicled pirate and adventurer! He was either a charming, swashbuckling hero or a foul-mouthed plundering pirate, depending on who you asked. Oranna was immediately besotted, forgetting that they’d just spent a good amount of time felling his crewmen. Blaggart didn’t seem too phased, however, and took the heroes aside so that he could talk with them more privately. He offered them a deal. Basically, they could return with him to the Umbra Isles where he would, indeed, sell off his human cargo, but cut them in on what was promising to be a great profit. They were then free to either continue their journey to Caldera, or stay on with him as high-ranking pirates – they’d certainly proven themselves in battle, after all!

...a charming, swashbuckling hero or a foul-mouthed plundering pirate...

Some were more interested in this deal than others. Oranna and Ell (the latter in a more roundabout way) ended up dining with the captain and a few other pirates in his quarters. There was good food and mead a-plenty. The others were more hesitant, and had convinced Blaggart that they’d like to stay on the bottom deck to consider their options. He tried to dissuade them, but didn’t press too hard, and relented. He did post a few guards on the bottom level. These, he said, were to help them if the hag in the back got up to any mischeif. After a time, the ship went to sleep, leaving only a skeleton crew awake. Ell walked back down to the bottom deck where Keridwen, Calitris and Thoraden had already begun putting their plan into action – they were going to release the hag! Ell fetched Oranna who maintained the portal that ran to the Stormseye, for a quick escape should they need it, whilst Keridwen turned her attentions to the seals holding the hag.

Breaking those seals meant noise, and the crew of the Ghostly Stallion were immediately alerted to Keridwen’s machinations. Thoradin, having previously positioned himself for just such a happenstance, hammered the first of the pirates who raced through the door, breaking the thug’s foot. He wasn’t quick enough to tag the others who flooded in, however, and Oranna joined the battle; her magic missiles tearing through the rabble. Ell, who returned to the group after a brief ‘reconnaissance’ through the portal to the Stormseye, joined in the battle as well. They had to hold off the enemy until Keridwen managed to free the hag. After that, their decision to free her would be shown as wise (meaning that she aides them in felling the pirates) or foolish (meaning that she kills everyone on board, including them).

...when they're either slaughtered or saved by the brooding creature...

Session 2: Jumping Ship
A teleport, a crone and a not-too-sneaky rogue.

Arr, me hearties! Last session, our intrepid heroes found themselves with a quandry; help the pirates who intend to sell them off as slaves, or aid the unknown critters that seem to be attacking them. Hoping to get the pirate folk onside, our forthinking adventurers chose the former, and started making blue goo out of the misshapen attackers. It was about this time that they were joined by a pair of fellow slav…er… passengers. A stout dwarf named Thoradin and a whimsical human named Nic. Thoradin waged headfirst into the battle. He was blissfully unaware about the motivations of the pirates, thinking they’re merely shipping people to the free lands of Caldera, and wanted to save them from this alien menace. Nic, on the otherhand, identified the attacking creatures as Void Crawlers; chaotic beings that liked to slip into the material plane through rifts left from unstable teleportations. He helped for a little while, before deciding it was more entertaining to sit back and watch the show… and quite a show it was! The pirates were all but decimated by the sudden appearance of the Crawlers, leaving the party to (not unskillfully) mop up the mess.

...this alien menace...

Meanwhile, back in the captains quarters, Ell was busy trying not to get diced by a couple of ghosts she’d managed to unintentionally free from a bottle she was attempting to steal. Her quick, tiefling reflexes kept her in good stead, however, and she managed to dispatch both before they’d done any lasting damage. Still, spooked by the enounter, she ran back to the rest of the party. By the time she’d reached them, they’d polished off the last Crawler and were now standing in a room of damaged furniture, boxes and things, wounded or dead pirates and various puddles of blue goo. She recognised Nic as an old friend, and Thoradin made himself known to the group, hoping to get to the bottom of what they’d just been through.

Keridwen, the Deva Invoker, led the group forward. A blue glow emanating from a door up ahead piqued her interest, and when investigated, she correctly identified the circle of teleportation that generated it. It was a strange thing to find on a ship at sea, being that this particular kind was a short-ranged circle, but they guessed it was linked to one of the other ships in the fleet. Also in the room was Grothic, the large blackscale first-mate of the ship. He was lying on the floor covered in much of his own blood. It seemed the Crawlers overcame him. Thoraden did what he could to heal him, but it wasn’t enough. Grothic hissed angrily at the dwarf as his soul passed toward oblivion. There was no sign of the ships captain, Grimscale.

As the group studied the glowing circle, Ell had Keridwen look at the maps she’d ‘borrowed’ from said captain’s quarters. Things were worse than they thought – they only had a day before they reached the Umbra Isles and the many hundreds of pirates who inhabited them. Determined not to become the playthings of scurvy ravaged sea-dogs, they activated the teleportation circle and stepped through (though Ell stayed behind a moment to make sure there was no immediate danger on the other side).

...a hairy, loin-cloth wearing, dishevelled human...

What they found was a hairy, loin-cloth wearing, dishevelled human who made no attempt to enter into conversation with Nic, who had happily attempted to provide it. Instead he attacked; against the six of them, however, he stood little chance. He was tied up and unconcious before long. This gave the group a chance to look over the room. On one wall was a small shrine dedicated, it seemed, to the red-skinned demon they’d seen in their dream! Knowing nothing good ever came from evil altars, Nic wasted no time in trying to defile it. Ell and Oranna, meanwhile, had roused the hairy cultist from his unconciousness and were doing their best (or perhaps worst) at interrogating him. When he merely laughed and them, telling them that his master would see them burn in the abyss, Ell began to use her dagger to do the talking for her.

Back at the altar, Calitris and Kerdiwen were doing their best to subdue Nic when the former noticed a closed doorway hidden behind the curtain beaing the visage of the red-skinned demon. Determined to have the party focussed on this new find, she sauntered over to their captive and put the man out of his misery with one swipe of her feline-like claws. Ell’s attention now focussed on the secret door, she decided to put her rogue-ish skills to use. She picked the lock, but had to withstand some kind of necrotic feedback after doing so. The door swung open and there, locked in a circle of binding, was the woman from the communal dream. She looked weak and bent over. She spoke to them, pleading with them to help her escape. Keridwen and Calitris weren’t completely won over by the situation, and Thoraden’s natural suspicion of humans served to alienate himself from the prisoner.

Bored with the woman’s cries for aid, Ell and Nic decided to investigate the ship. Ell peeked through the door near where they found the first hairy human; there were two more guarding this door. Deciding to utilise the element of surprise, Ell leapt out, delivering a mighty blow to one of them, seperating a large chunk of flesh from his arm. They immediately returned fire, so to speak, and battle ensued. Back at the, now identified, circle of binding, Keridwen, Calitris and Thoraden were pressing the magically shackled woman with questions. She quickly became angry with them, promising them that they would all be killed by the others on the ship unless they freed her. Hearing the ruckus that Ell had started, Calitris and Oranna left to investigate, leaving Thoraden and Keridwen to watch over the woman. As they did so, the woman’s skin began to peel away; she wasn’t interested in maintaining the illusion any longer, and after a few moments a gaunt, an old crone with midnight blue skin stood woman once did; she smiled confidently to herself, despite still being caged, “You’ll need me soon enough.”

...the woman's skin began to peel away; she wasn't interested in maintaining the illusion any longer...

Calitris and Oranna weren’t the only folk to be drawn by the sound of battle nearby, a haggard, skittish man in the soiled garments of a warlock scampered down the stairs. He became enraged when he saw that his men were under attack, literally tearing out a large clump of hair in his rage. Afterwards, he unleashed a powerful black energy at Nic which burned the bard from the inside, exploding through his eyes and mouth. He and Ell had no choice but to turn their attention to this new entrant into the fray, lest his spells overcome them. Backed up by the rest of the group, they held their ground forcing the spellweaver back up the stairs, and not before Nic got a good swipe in with his blade.

...Nic and Ell were surrounded...

Their respite was shot-lived, however, as in place of the dark cleric, two lizardmen joined the battle! Nic and Ell were surrounded. By this time the battle was joined by all! Nic cut one of the lizardmen in half as it charged for Ell, and also managed to cleave a cultist from cox to crown! Grimscale, the shamanistic lizardman who captained the Stormseye, the first ship our heroes inhabited, meandered down the stairs then. He looked with a distant disdain at the goings on; his easy demeanor offset the chaos around him. Lifting a hand, a great swirl of icy shards sliced through Keridwen’s immortal body. When it had cleared, a small, white-skinned draconic creature remained, snapping angrily at the Deva. The dark cleric could be heard on the upper levels of the ship summoning re-enforcements, whilst still in the circle of binding, the crooked crone smiled confidently…

Session 1: Ship too sure?
Our intrepid heroes have hopped the last boat out of Halgard. The journey to safety, however, is littered with it's own dangers.

The group began, standing on the deck of the ship, Stormseye. The fear and uncertainty of Halgard was behind them for the time being, and all that was ahead was the promise of something better. There were beautiful blue skies above as the ship streaked through the pristine ocean. At no point in particular, however, they realised that they were the only people on deck – no crew or other passengers. The permeating silence was shattered when a scream of terror exploded from the captain’s quarters. Turning, they saw a beautiful woman standing in the doorway, framed by the darkness. She looked terrified. The doorway slammed shut and there is an audible locking sound.

...a skeletal horse who towered over the party...

Eager to uncover what exactly was transpiring, the group immediately began looking for ways into the captains quarters. All they found, however, was that they became surrounded by skeletons who crawled onto the deck from the sides of the ship! These included a skeletal horse who towered over the party. What’s more, the sky clouded over, turning the brilliant daylight cold and bleak. The skeletons, without warning, attacked! In the beginning, the party made short work of the boney fiends, dispatching them without raising too much of a sweat. As the horse fell, however, things changed. It split into hundreds of bone fragments which, seconds later, reformed into four new, human sized skeletons; each of these parts were as dangerous as their previous whole. Things got deadly. The party was being cut to shreds! Keridwen, the Deva Invoker called on the power of the Gods, smiting her enemies and, finally, turning two into smouldering ash. Oranna was the real hero, however, slowing the skeletons and putting some into a restless sleep with her power over the arcane. The others chipped in when they could and, eventually, were victorious!

The doors to the captains quarters flew open and the woman came running out; “Save me! Rescue me!” She couldn’t say much more, it seemed, but she was certanly terrified and in danger. Before she could be questioned too severely, however, the group was beset by evil once again, this time in the form of a giant demon! It clambered out of the captains quarters and stood tall on the ships deck. It was hard to imagine how it had fit in the small room in the first place. It grinned with evil pleasure at the party before brining it’s flaming whip to bear. It snared the pleading woman who was dragged back through the doors which closed behind her, then it turned it’s attention back to the others. They valiantly fought the creature – Ell, the rogue, did some fine damage in particular – but in the end it was all for naught. The demon lifted its flaming whip once again, latching onto the group and dragging them all towards it’s quickly expanding maw. The party was swallowed and everything went black… grinned with evil pleasure at the party before brining it's flaming whip to bear...

...that’s when they were woken up. Each had just survived a very real, very disturbing dream. What it meant was lost to them, as they were about to learn of other, more pressing troubles. An old collegue of Oranna and Keridwen, a refugee named Bartholemew Trusk, said he needed to talk with them in private as he had some very important news.

On their way to the top deck, the party stopped to attempt to help a small greenscale, one of the crew, who was having trouble winding a winch on the ship. Unfortunately none had the strength to do so, but when Keridwen stood up to a blackscale that came to threaten the greenscale, she gained an ally in the skitterish individual.

...a large blackscale came to threated the greenscale...

Afterwards they went to hear what Bartholemew had to say; “I don’t think we’re heading to Caldera.” This was troubling indeed; if they weren’t going there, where were they headed? It was at this point that Keridwen reverted to a past life where she was, luckily enough, a pirate. She ‘remembered’ where they were heading – the Umbra Isles; a secret pirate hangout, known amongst those in the know as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The passengers were likely going to be sold as slaves, as meat for the lizardfolk, made to fight for sport or a myriad of other equally sickening ends. Something needed to be done.

Dusk came quickly and the passengers, still unaware of the danger they faced, were herded to the second deck, where they would be locked in to sleep the night. Ell had other plans, however, hiding away so that she could observe the pirates on deck over night. Not speaking draconic, however, she found it hard to listen in to the conversation. She saw Grimscale and Grothic, the lizardfolk captain and first mate, respectively, leave the captains quarters for the lower part of the ship. She made to sneak in to Grimscale’s quarters while they were gone, but she was discovered. Just as she was about to be locked away with the rest of the passengers, however, the boat was rocked by an explosion on the bottom deck. The pirates were so startled that they ran downstairs to investigate, leaving the passengers cage door unlocked. Ell wasted no time in heading back up to the captains quarters, hoping to find something of value. She found some shipping charts which might come in handy. She also had to look through the chests, not being able to contain herself. She found some shiney totems and a particularly interesting looking potion. She tried to pour some of the potion out into another vial, but she mustn’t have been paying attention, because the bottle slipped. It smashed on the wooden floor, and from it a pair of whispy spirits rose up; their smokey, rotting visage did little to hide the malice they bore Ell – they moved to attack…

Meanwhile downstairs, Oranna, who was failing to remain hidden after teleporting away from the rest of the passengers, had been assaulted by Grothic as he made his way down to the bottom deck. The sound of the explosion, as well as the sounds of ensuing battle, had startled the rest of the passengers, and Keridwen, Oranna and Calitrus went to investigate. What they found was the pirates in pitch battle with a group of skittering, teleporting creatures (void crawlers). They tried to talk to the pirates, but they were too busy trying to stay alive. After a nearby pirate was taken down by one of the critters, it was time to make a decision. Fight for the pirates who may try to kill you later, or fight for the alien creatures who’s motivations were a complete mystery? Ah, the decisions of an adventuring party…

...a group of skittering, teleporting creatures...


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