The Unnamed Saga

Episode 30 -

Work in progress…

Episode 29: Beneath Layers Of Drengy - Is More Drengy

Accompanied by a flash of purple flame, each of the adventurers materialized back in the basement of McWands’ mansion. Drengy experienced only the slightest of nausea from traveling through the Shar Cultist’s shadow plane teleportation circle. His allies seemed to fair much worse, but then again they were not Githzerai and had not come from generations who had either adapted to or died from the hardships of planar travel.

As the group headed out of the mansion destine for Amcathra’s home, Drengy felt a cold uncomfortable sense of being watched. Lengara felt it too and though he scanned for mystic scrying he detected no magic irregularities here other than the thinning of planar barriers derivative of using the shadow plane teleportation circle. Drengy suggested the obvious means of flushing out hidden enemies – burning down the house and rapidly shooting arrows in random direction, but his allies desired less conspicuous tactics. The band began moving quietly and deliberately through the city to reach Amcathra’s safehaven, darting from alley to alley to evade or shake pursuers.

Thought the stalkers moved like shadows imperceptible to any normal person, Drengy saw them. Groups of two or three cloaked halflings, darting along the distant rooftops, scampering from cover to cover, keeping their distance but unmistakably tracking the heroes. As the adventurers entered the vegetable market courtyard Drengy with a casual grunt spread the message to his allies that they were definitely being tailed, and that the noose would be soon be closing.

Seeking a speedy exit Feral tried hailing a carriage, but there were none in this part of town. So he tried the next best thing by soliciting a nearby turnip farmer to rent his horse and wagon.

The farmer and his sons were in the middle of unloading the turnip laden cart, and seemed open to a lengthy negotiation as to price, until Drengy cut to the chase, “Here’s one platinum,” he said tossing the heavy coin to the turnip farmer, “I just rented your horse and cart.”

The stunned farmer accepted, but noted he needed to empty the cart first of its delicate cargo. The words were barely out of his mouth before Feral was hauling heavy turnip bags out of the cart with brute speed. Tin moved under the cart, ostensibly to help unload but more specifically to see if he could get a glimpse of who or what was chasing the band. Klemnon moved across the courtyard and appeared to be polishing his Pelor holy symbol while actually using it as a mirror to scan the rooftops behind him for pursuers. He didn’t have to look long.

From multiple directions blackjaw members emerged into the market. The leaders of the band were three bulky humans wielding mancatchers – long poles ending in crushing snares. The more numerous halfling gangsters each carried a net and a bandoleer of needle tipped darts. They were spread all over the courtyard, three even being on the roof above the adventurers. Although they wore hoods, each gang member clearly displayed the black jaw facial tattoo which was the gang’s calling card.

The largest made their demand, “You have to pay for what you did Woodsfellow! Turn him over and we’ll let the rest of you go.”

“Hmm, well that depends..,” Feral responded, “What’s the bounty up to?”, mostly trying to buy time for the heroes to prepare themselves, but also curious as to what kind of cash might be found at the end of this trail. The Blackjaw did not answer the question, but Drengy took the opportunity to jump atop of the wagon for an unobstructed view of the sprawling marketplace.

The Blackjaw spokesman was unimpressed. “Everyone knows Githzerai archers can’t hit the broad side of a barn, you better run while you can ya noseless coward,” he taunted.

Drengy was as motionless as a statue. Lost in a memory.

While a member of a short lived fungus cult, one night Drengy spotted and scared off a nearly invisible assassin infiltrating the self proclaimed Fungus King’s private studio. The elated Fungus King elevated Drengy to the post of high honor guard, and gave him two orders: never take up arms against the King, as he is your only sovereign, and anyone who insults Drengy must die, for an insult to the King’s guard is an insult to the King. The Fungus King boasted to his followers that Drengy’s eyes were like those of an eagle, and the cult would never again need fear hidden assassins.

That night Drengy’s keen eyes once again detected the nearly invisible assassin creeping towards the Fungus King’s studio. Drengy whistled to get the intruder’s attention, tossed the keys to the King’s chambers to his feet, and casually walked out the front doors to the palisade camp. Drengy, who’s vision is much better than an eagle’s, does not like being insulted.

As a hailstorm of Drengy’s arrows poured into the gang spokesman, Lengara moved to launch his own assault but the readied gang was faster. Poisoned darts launched at Tin from concealed snipers on the roof and grounds, two halfling boutyhunters threw ensnaring nets capturing Tin in a barbed web, and the mancatcher wielding humans bore down on Klemnon and Feral, snagging each in a vice like grip. Lengara and Tin rained eldrich energy and thrown axes, respectively, into the now badly injured spokeman, and Klemnon teleported out of the crushing vice which held him. But more and more gang members were pouring into the market, even as Drengy knocked the Blackjaw chasing Klemnon to the ground with a grounding shot.

Then in a flash Drengy vanished entirely.

Drengy reappeared in a rolling flowered meadow in the Fey Wild, the bright light of two suns illuminating a dazzling array of colors all around him. He immediately spun and notched a water arrow in his enchanted bow, preparing for the teleport back into the prime material world which would occur in seconds. The arrow formed in his bow, then split, and split again making three arrows ready to fly, but as all this happened Drengy became distracted.

At the edge of the field was creature not native to the Fey Wild. It was a white striped badger and it was locked in a brutal melee with a towering Fey Dire Strike Viper – a snake as massive as a large bull. It was an impossible sight, as this forty pound animal had apparently shaken off multiple bites and the normally paralyzing venom of the gigantic snake in order to locked itself inexorably into the snake’s neck. With focused intensity the badger was now thrashing to death its impossible foe.

The Fey Wild is a world defined by lush beauty and equal danger, where everything, even the plants, was potentially a lethal predator. Only the strongest and most deadly survived here, only the most determined. Most animals native to the prime material plane would not last a day. But this unpleasant beast, this out of place creature adapted, it endured, it overcame – no matter the odds.

Drengy nodded in approval and using muscles that had nearly atrophied from neglect slowly smiled.

Back in the vegetable market, things were looking bad. Tin had been poisoned by multiple darts, and the halfling bounty hunters who had netted him were dragging him into an alley. Feral was similarly immobilized by one of the long armed mancatchers. More enemies were arriving at the edges of the courtyard and the three Blackjaw snipers that had been peppering Tin with poisoned darts had become inbedded behind cover atop a nearby building.

Lengara scanned the scene to reevaluate the odds against the team when he heard it, first the crack of someone plane-jumping onto the roof, accompanied by a blast of wind that pushed each of the three halfling snipers to the dangerous edge, followed by the lethal thud of three water arrows blasting each sniper off the roof to their deaths. As the toughest of the roof snipers let loose his best Wilhem scream, Lengara knew the high ground now belonged to Drengy.

Lengara blasted eldrich charges into the Blackjaw thugs threatening to drag Tin off, and both he and Klemnon tossed themselves into melee with the huddled scrum of assailants carting off their halfling ally. It was an unusual sight for Drengy on his perch – seeing the pacifist cleric and pact bound warlock willingly choosing close quarters combat, but they seemed determined if not desperate to save Tin from abduction. Bypassing easier targets for the time being, Drengy began picking off the Blackjaw thugs threatening to flank Klemnon and Legara.

As arrows flashing by him on both sides, Klemnon raised his holy symbol high and changed the battlefield equation with a denunciating holy word so potent that the Blackjaw gangster who heard it was overcome with a sense of peace making him unable to attack Klemnon or his friends. Feral meanwhile escaped the restricting mancatcher grip only to be netted and dragged towards a dark alley. Panicking for a moment over being ensnared Feral seemed unable to escape the kidnapping, but roaring something about nobody putting Feral in a net he ultimately slew his abductor with a lethally aimed javelin to the back.

Though it had started badly and involved overwhelming numbers, the adventurers finally overcame the waves of gang members and kept the party intact.

Drengy contently collected macabre souvenirs from the battlefield while Tin and Lengara futility checked for valuables. None this time. Feral meanwhile took the driving seat of the cart determined to ride to Amcathra’s as fast as possible. Since the Turnip Farmer and his sons had fled the fighting, the half-lycanthrope left a semi-legible note on the turnip sacks indicating the cart would be left at Amcathra’s manner after it was used.

The normally familiar and welcome grounds of Amcathra’s estate was expectantly closed off and swarming with members of the none-too-happy looking city watch. District Captain Justin stopped the horse and announced no admission by order of the Lords of Waterdeep. Before Drengy, or worse Feral, could pipe up, Lengara smooth talked the guard into explaining what was going on. Apparently a warrant had been issued for the arrest of the wizard Amcathra on charges of engaging in dark magics and horrible experiments the likes of which had not been seen since the bad days of the McWands terrors. The wizard had apparently disappeared and there was a five thousand gold reward for information leading to his arrest.

With Amcathra gone and his estate off limits, the band needed an out of the way place they could get a safe nights rest. Tin said he knew a place, a solitary inn built into a hillside called “Tinker’s Loom” which would fit the bill. Upon reaching the inn, each hero chose a separate room and settled in for good night’s rest.

Come morning Drengy sat up in bed to scratch the sleep out of his eyes. He was fully clothed, of course, with bow already in hand – habits he had developed while a member of the last cult he was a member of. Or was it the cult he had joined before that, he couldn’t remember.

As he headed to breakfast in the inn common hall, Drengy past the closed doors to Klemnon’s and Tin’s rooms. The rooms were silent to Drengy’s keen ears and he implicitly knew their occupants were gone. The door to Lengara’s room was open, revealing the Eladrin still sitting cross legged on his bed looking disheveled and unkempt, his hair askew and heavy bags under the warlock’s eyes. It was an uncharacteristic appearance for Lengara, suggesting he had not rested well, or perhaps not at all. Drengy paused just long enough to look in while scratching the side of his cheek, then moved on. The door to Feral’s room was also open, revealing that the floorboards had been torn up and someone had been rolling enthusiastically in the dusty earth beneath. Drengy took it in while yawning but otherwise registered neither surprise nor concern.

The inn keeper looked on from the door to the kitchen with unease as Drengy began gorging himself on the spread before him. Four varieties of sweet rolls, fresh berries on buckwheat crepes, thick browned pancakes with maple syrup, and more spread across the table. The light berry wine was particularly good as well, although the vegetarian Drengy ignored the a tray of pork sausages and grilled anchovies.

Upstairs Drengy could hear the Feral and Lengara checking in on Klemnon, finding the door to his room unlocked and the room empty of both Klemnon and his gear. He could hear his teammates determining that the room had been slept in and tidied up after use, suggesting Klemnon Melk had headed out sometime during the night without telling any of his allies.

As Drengy used the crook of his bow to pull a tray of tarts across the table to him, he heard the door to Tin’s room rattle against the lock followed swiftly by the loud crash as Feral kicked in the door. With sudden alarm, the Inn Keeper move to investigate.

Looking up from his meal for the first time, Drengy caught the Inn Keeper’s attention. “These tarts, they’re exquisite. I could kill for more,” he glowered, his low, gravely voice not so much threatening as merely stating a fact. The wide-eyed Inn Keeper spun on his heels to return with to the kitchen, leaving Lengara and Feral to pursue their investigation uninterrupted.

The furniture in Tin’s room was overturned and scattered, and most of Tin’s pack and gear was scattered across the floor. As Feral searched for further signs of a fight, Lengara took a deep breach and let his third sight peer into residual magics of the room, revealing a left over thinness between realities which suggested a flash portal to the Shadow or Fey Wild realms had snapped open here during the night. Tin had been taken, presumably by the Blackjaws or someone motivated by the bounty on the halfling’s head.

As Feral and Drengy rushed downstairs to share their discoveries with Drengy, a runner from the Church of Pelor arrived to deliver a message of master Klemnon Melk working the wards and library of the church and Pelor hospital.

Drengy finished the last pancake, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, and announced “Well no use gabbing, lets go get `em,” and headed off for the Pelor Temple. Feral and Lengara scrambled to grab the rest of their gear and chased after him.

The adventurers found Klemnon studying in the Pelor library. The Pelor priest had come early to the church to help those still suffering the aftereffects of massive Night’s Embrae overdoses and to speak with the church’s high reverend, Father Caspian. Klemnon reported that he had learned that Amcathra had been indited on allegations of dark magics and a warrant issued for his arrest. Klemnon had also spent some time researching the history of the Archdevil Tasnia, and learned it was rumored to be one of the lords of the nine hells, probably a powerful pit fiend, and that it had perhaps fought the famed wizard Elminister in some old, ancient battles.

The party spent some time scouring the church records and nearby taverns and businesses for additional information.

Feral accessed the library’s accounts of forbidden faiths to find clues as to the headquarters of the Malar Cult of Sarenclaws. He learned that the subset of Malar followers in the cult were followers of the mad Malar prophet Garmos Saerenclaw, that the current leader was believed to be a human female vampire, and that they were believed to operate out of a hidden base deep within the Undermountain dungeon. Feral could barely contain his fury in learning that the same organization he had declared a Vendetta upon was not hiding in some distant land but were close, potentially concealed beneath his very feet.

Lengara worked the crowds in and around the hospital and surrounding neighborhood to gather intelligence on the Black Jaw gang. The gang was pretty excited, he learned, and word on the street was that the gang had nabbed or was about to nab Tin Woodsfellow. After some unspecified setbacks, the gang was regrouping at the Waterdeep Ironworks (an address Lengara noted that had been one of the sources of raw materials being shipped to the Black Jaw’s brewery to be made into the drug Nights Embrace).

On a whim or a hunch, Drengy decided to take the horse and cart he leased back to the vegetable market turnip farmer. As he rode up to the farmer, the man began fidgeting and packing his wares into a backpack with awkwardly deliberate speed, even offering to return ninety of the one hundred gold to Drengy had paid him to lease his horse and cart. Drengy felt the weight of the gold in his hand, and eyed the modest farmer’s coin purse. A coin purse suspiciously bulging compared to the day before.

“This gold, its no good. I’d like to see other gold, like the gold in your belt I think,” the githyanki growled.

Terrified, the farmer offered Drengy all his gold and began pleading not to be hurt. He explained that after Drengy left, this one Blackjaw guy, kind of a thin pipsqueak of a guy but accompanied by a bunch of thugs, showed up and threatened to hurt him and his sons if he didn’t tell him where the ugly Githzerai had gone. The farmer showed them the note that was left about Amcathra’s mansion, and they paid him to stay quite but he just wanted to leave and never come back. Drengy stared at him for a while before he refused the extra gold, but he wasn’t quite done with the turnip farmer yet.

“I’m not gonna hurt you, I’m gonna let you go back to your farm and stay out of the city. But….” Drengy trailed off, now leaning over the cowering turnip merchant, “You happen to see that Blackjaw again, the one that insulted me, you tell ‘em – Drengy’s on his way.”

Episode 28 - Enter The Church Of Pain

Although Lengara was the last of the adventurer’s to enter the teleportation circle left by the Shar shadow monk in McWand’s dungeon, he was the first to materialize at its terminus – such is magic’s fickle nature, he mused.

The heroes materialized within a swirling circle of concealing, heatless purple flame. They could thinly make out that beyond the swirling purple flame they were in the center of a room with arching exits in the center of each wall and a dozen moldering skeletons chained to the walls. Outside of each exit arch rest a terrible unholy altar displaying the defiled corpse of a sacrifice to the evil deity Shar, the horrible apocalypse goddess of darkness. Energy cracked off of each altar and flowed through a hall outside the central chamber to connect all four together. Not far off two Shar shadow cultists conversed. The first was the bloodied cultist whom had fled from the adventurers – he was kneeling on one knee in submission before the second cultist – a hulking animated skeletal knight wearing scorched black armor.

“We were ambushed, Master Vanrak, only I escaped to warn you. And the criminal McWands was not there!” plead the genuflecting cultist.

“You have your orders – find McWands so he can pay for his interference! Deal with the interlopers, or die in service to Lordess Shar.” spoke the menacing Death Night, his voice a faded hollow breath from absent lungs. The armored Shar champion spun on his heels and stormed out of the room, striding though more distant fortified doors and down a long hall.

Tin glanced around the room then to his teammates, silently communicating a count down until the band sprung upon the single cultist in the room. With luck, they would overpower him before he can raise an alarm. Or so they hoped.

With sudden fury, Tim and Feral charged the cultist while Lengara and Drengy blasted at him from inside the harmless concealing flames of the teleportation area. Though terribly injured, the cultist survived the attacks to yell a warning.

“It’s the interlopers, the one’s you warned us about. They’re attacking the temple!” screamed the Shar Shadow Monk as he was assaulted.

The temple’s energies responded to the warning of its servant, flowing into and animating the skeletons ringing the room. These shambling figures moved forward to skewer the heroes on the rusty hooks and blades each carried. The same unholy force lashed like whips from the profane altars, whips that burned and randomly teleported anyone they hit into the center area of this broad chamber. A Shar Cultist Soldier and two cultist shadow monks also ran into the room to repel the temple’s intruders.

Lengara’s eyes glowed with a dark crimson light, illuminating the pattern of magic of the chamber for his sight alone. “This is a shadow weave portal chamber, and we’re doomed if we can’t stop those energy attacks from the blasphemous altars. Shut them down before we are destroyed!” the eldarin announced before teleporting to the nearest control tablet. The necrotic energy of being near the altar tore at the sorcerer, but it injured him less than it should, as if such energy simply had less interest in harming him than it would others. Fast acting Drengy likewise bolted for a far altar, determined to shut it down as well.

Even in circles where impossible feats of strength, magic, and wit are common, the near instantaneous shutting down of two altars by Lengara and Drengy was a matter of surprise and statistical improbability. Lengara had barely begun to reach the altar when he smirked with complete comprehension and disabled it with a casual incantation. Drengy was the opposite, not understanding any of the magic involved, but reacting through instinct and his familiarity with the flow of life’s natural essence to terminate his chosen altar’s magic with an impossibly well placed and well timed kick. Had the party not been busy fighting skeletons, Shar cultists, and being brutalized by the energy whips coming off the altars, they would have all been stunned.

As the party fought off the Shar temple’s defenders, Klemnon heard it first – the ominous footfalls of the Shar temple champion rushing down the long hall leading to this room. Even from a great distance, Klemnon could sense the grave chill power and threat of this Death Knight. With the adventurers finishing off the cutlists and finally disabling the last altar, they were near exhaustion and were in no shape to fight the Death Knight Vanrak. In a final gamble, Klemnon rushed over to the towering stone doors to the teleportation chamber, closing and locking the same just as the rushing Death Knight reached for him. The doors held as the Knight battered on the other side, particularly when Tin pushed the nearby altar up against the doors to reinforce them. The group had bought themselves some precious time to regroup.

The bruised and battered band quickly debated whether to flee using shadow weave teleportation circle, or fight the Death Knight that was eventually going to batter its way into the room. Lengara noted there would be no time to rest if we set out to reactivate the altars and transit portal, and that it might not work correctly on the first try. Klemnon also offered to cast a ritualized spell to open up a passage into the Shadow Realm through which the party could pass to return to the surface. Wary of Shadow Plane travel considering that so many of Athola and Shar’s forces seem to be denizens of such a realm, that plan was nixed. The band decided to take a short rest, take up strategic positions, and confront the Shar Death Knight head on.

When the Death Knight finally bashed the doors open, he saw Feral and Klemnon waiting for him a few feet way, and Lengara and Drengy a safe distance behind pour ranged attacks down on the undead monstrosity. Concealed under a nearby altar tapestry, Tin’s location was concealed for the time being.

As the Death Knight leaped forward to attack Feral, Lengara dropped an illusionary chasm behind the knight to prevent his escape and disrupt any reinforcements that might come from the rest of the Shar temple, Drengy began shooting the hulking Death Knight, and Klemnon recited an empowering blessing to bolster his allies reflexes and stamina.

Feral muttered something about having been “saving this to deal with vampires but this will do” before the antlers on his ancestral stag head weapon transformed into formed radiant sunlight – energy particularly damaging to undead foes. In an exhausting attack Feral erupted in a frenzy attack on the Death Knight badly slashing and scorching the enemy. The Death Knight returned the attack, assaulting Feral with a Fearful Power Word – a killing word sourced from a forbidden magical language. Grievous wound instantly manifest on Feral as half of his life force vanished with the sound that can not be written.

Realizing the killing field he had strode into, Death Knight Vanrak dashed into a side corridor where with a short prayer to his accursed goddess he animated the skeletons lining the wall – more monsters to attack those intruding in the temple. Feral and Tin gave chase, attacking the Death Knight and trying to corner him so he could not flee to more chambers (which would allow him to animate an overwhelming number of skeletal soldiers). And to make matters worse, Vanrak was reactivating altars to bring back up the killing energies that attacked and teleported the heroes.

The party carried on, focusing on the Death Knight to end its blasphemous existence. Though Feral exhausted all of the enduring energies his Warden’s Font of Life delivers and was on the edge of unconsciousness, the party pushed, pulled, and teleported Vanrack to keep him from advancing into adjacent chambers, and with a perfectly placed bow shot from Drengy the undead terror was finally brought to an end.

The immediate danger had passed, but the adventurers were no closer to finding McWands or unraveling the Shar cultists involvement in the threats to their lives. Klemnon began preparations for the Speak With The Dead ritual to wrest some answers out of the fallen knight. Believing he too had a part to play in the performance of such a ritual, Feral took out Gartock’s Two-Handed Hammer and begun swinging it back and forth like an over-eager slugger in the batter’s box.

Klemnon righted the Death Knight’s body against the wall and cast the spell. Unlike other occasions of using the necromancy, this time a ghostly image of Vanrak the once-living man appeared over the hollow skull of the death knight and Vanrack’s returned spirit seemed confused and disoriented at being pulled back to answer questions of the living.

Klemnon asked why was the Shar cult after McWands, to which Vanrak’s spirit answered, “He lives. He disrupts Shar’s plans with his actions. He has the Infernal Mechanism of the Archdevil Tasnia, and the Goddess has ordered us to retrieve it.”

Klemnon twitched at the mention of the word Tasnia. It was a name he had heard once before when confronting the imprisoned wizard Calavakos, a wizard who had been possessed by a strange green flame entity now believed to be associated with Athola (or the forces of Athola). Possessed Calavakos seemed revolted with Klemnon, telling the Pelor priest that he had the stink of Tasnia on him. That Tasnia was the name of an archdevel was a new development, and not a welcome one.

Klemnon pressed on and asked what was the Infernal Mechanism of Tasnia, to which Vanrak’s spirit answered, “Shar has ordered us to get it, it would give her power to counteract Athola’s actions. More I was never told.”

With the two questions Klemnon’s spell allowed having been asked and answered the Speak With Dead spell began to fade, but not before Feral stepped up the the fallen Death Knight to ask his own question of whether ‘this rings any bells’ and smash Death Knights skull into tiny shards with his massive hammer – an act which Feral (inaccurately) had come to believe was required to end the spell.

While the rest of the party worked in the sacrificial transit chamber, Tin and Lengara snuck deeper into the Shar temple. They could tell from its architecture that they were somewhere deep in the Undermountain dungeon – a byzantine labyrinth of danger that rests below the great city of Waterdeep. Lengara noted that there were no obvious exits from the temple, although from what he knew of the Undermountain he suspected that hidden somewhere was some secret passage to connect up with the expansive Undermountain dungeon. Tin meanwhile discovered a cache of temple valuables – secretly stealing away some to keep for himself, and sharing with the party prayer books dedicated to he Apocalypse goddess Shar, three scrolls of protection from angels, and three level scrolls of protection from elementals. The party also claimed from the Death Knight corpse an enchanted Soul Drinker Sword and a Mighty Drawven Throwing Hammer.

Once the party was reunited in the Shar transit room, Legara reactivated the profane alters to re-open the transit portal, and the band teleported back to McWands’ Mansion in the city of Waterdeep.

Episode 26 - Trouble Brewing

After Klemnon applied the last bandage to Tin and helped him to his feet, the reunited group headed back to the Sigil door to Amcathra’s astral cottage to plan their next move.

Despite looking a bit frayed around the edges after he too was attacked during the last hour by Shadow Assassins, Amcathra was eager to share information about his activities and the staff the heroes described Athola as having wielded. Amcathra called in a few favors to get Captain Narascond and her crew of the Spelljammer ship “Oathsinger” to help out, and was able to leak rumors of Athola’s Abyssal activities to a few Sigil people suspected of being informants to certain Demon Lords. The whisper campaign thankfully worked out as hoped – a demon raiding army assaulted Athola’s tower pits, providing Amcathra the diversion he needed to get in for a closer examination of Athola’s staging area, and as luck would have it a chance to pick up the heroes from the courtyard of the Iron Keep.

Athola appears to be a devil that has found a means of dominating and controlling demons, and has used that power to build a demon army. His control seems tied to the obsidian amulets the demons the heroes encountered in the Abyss were wearing, and perhaps also tied to the staff Athola was carrying. Based on the character’s description of the staff, it sounds like Athola has found the Staff of Obyrith. The Staff of Obyrith is a truly ancient artifact from the Dawn Wars – a period of conflict which occurred before even most of the modern deities came to power. Some say the Staff was in some way tied to the Chaos Shard – the ruinously dense piece of physical evil that created the entire hell plane known as the Abyss when it tore through reality. Amcathra did not know the full powers of the Staff, he was no expert on the matter, but did hypothesize that if Athola has found the Staff of Obyrith, and if Athola was setting out to capturing and destroy some truly astronomical numbers of souls to power a terrible act of magic, that Athola intend on extracting the Chaos Shard from the very heart of the Abyss. The power and evil of the Shard is immeasurable – if it could be controlled and focused it could plausibly bring ruin to not just mortal men but destroy all the the heavens and the gods themselves.

The team debated a series of avenues to confront Athola’s plans. Options included trying to recruit armed forces that could help counter Athola’s growing military strength, focusing on subterfuge to covertly undermine Athola’s looming assault on the world, figuring out a way to take out what might be a single point of failure in Athola’s plans by assaulting the flying inverted mountain the band saw when the first obsidian tower portal opened above the work, and trying to gather more information about the Staff of Oberlith and the Chaos Shard. Drengy mumbled something about wanting to kill two birds with one stone- a plan that involved hijacking and then dropping the Atholian flying mountain on top of Waterdeep, but mercifully the other adventurers moved on.

Concerned that assembled armies would simply not be enough to stop Atholla’s plan, the heroes wanted more intelligence on magic and powers involved in Athola’s scheme. The group asked Amcathra who was the preeminent authority on the Staff of Oberlith and the Chaos Shard. Amcathra seemed uncomfortable, noting that getting information from that person would not be easy… or pleasant. Pounding a fist into the table, Feral proclaimed “I didn’t care who it is or how hard it would be, tell us who it is and we’re sold!”

Looking sorrowfully at Tin, Amcathra grimly announced, “The expert on this field is serving a life imprisonment in the most heavily secured section of the Waterdeep prison – he is the denounced wizard, Rayniere McWands.”

A plan was hatched. Though Tin was not enthusiastic about any part of it, the heroes would take a Sigil gate back to Waterdeep, and use Amcathra’s letters of introduction to visit the Waterdeep island prison to interrogate McWands about the Staff of Oberlith and the Chaos Shard. In three days, the Oathsinger would sail into Waterdeep’s wharf near Barnacle’s old docks ready to pick up the adventurers, who barring unforeseen developments should by that time have no difficulty being rested and ready to move on. The group shifted uneasily in their chairs considering the chances of three days passing without their lives being threatened in a few dozen horrible ways, but a plan is a plan.

After an extended rest, the group gathered in Amcathra’s one room cottage, where Amcathra selected a key from a dozen on his keychain, and used it to open the door which just 8 hours ago lead to the enchanted city of Sigil. This time when the door opened, however, the adventurer’s gazed into the Amcathra’s library back in his home in Waterdeep. Morning light poring in through the towering skylights as the adventurers returned to Waterdeep, and the door behind them closed. It wasn’t long before the band had secured a carriage from Amcathra’s stables to taken them to the Waterdeep harbor.

In Waterdeep, for capital offenses one gets the gallows. For worse, one gets Waterdeep’s island prison.

When viewed from shore, Waterdeep’s island prison looks almost picturesque. It’s red stone lighthouse, small dock, and barracks cover nearly all of the shore of the four-acre island on which it rests. Separated from shore by a mile of open and shark filled sea, it is not part of the daily thoughts or concerns of most Waterdeep residents.

Away from its support structures on the surface, the actual prison and its notorious inmates are deep below the surface, held withing a dense marble and steel prison. The prison is not for petty offenders (those are dealt with at short term jails on the mainland). The prisoners sent to Waterdeep’s prison are instead high-risk villains which for undisclosed reasons are considered too valuable, dangerous, or both to be kept anywhere else. Although ostensibly supervised by guards of no small military experience themselves, much of the underground prison is said to operate via a broad variety of autonomous magical and mechanical traps, defenses, and even dedicated monstrous deterrents. In addition to the obvious security features of being underground and underwater, the location of the prison is believed to have been selected because of the anomalous attributes of certain natural pillars which forbid extra-planar transit and teleportation into or out of the prison.

The boat ride across the bay was choppy and windy. Tin looked a little green around the gills, but seasickness likely had nothing to do with it. While the other adventurer’s kept watch on deck, Tin make it a point to talk up the dwarven ferry captain, extracting the ferry schedule for the rest of the day, asking about escapes from the prison. The dwarf gleefully spun a tale to Tin about how no one has ever escaped this prison, and that the closest anyone ever got was this one halfling, but what had made it to the surface was really only half of a halfling and that barely counts.

The group presented their paperwork and were ushered through layer upon layer of security. They were required to leave all weapons and magical items at the island’s security center before pressing on, which was particularly unpopular with Drengy and almost turned felonious when Klemnon tried to smuggle a magic holy symbol into the prison (Lengara talked him out of it). The captain of the guards thought the band was wasting their time with McWands, but approved the visit, and even offered Drengy a job should the archer ever want to join the law enforcement ranks. Ultimately the band was escorted deep into the prison into a windowless circular room dominated in the center by a warded circle.

Escorted in chains by six guards, his mutated left hand entombed by an over-sized leather restraining case, a disheveled McWands was ushered into the central circle. The magic circle flared as a magical blue tinged orb of force formed around the prisoner. A sergeant said good luck “interrogating” this one, and stood aside laughing.

After a series of questions, it quickly became clear that McWands was either uninterested in or unable to speak or communicate. Each time he tried to respond to a question, he merely twitched and chocked on the words. The guards told the adventurers that he had been a model prisoner since his arrival, causing no problems and never saying a word. Klemnon could tell that he was suffering from a sever case of the spellplague, and that he was nervous, traumatized, and confusion. Feral sensed that McWands was not being difficult or deceptive, but was genuinely in distress. Even efforts to encourage non-verbal yes or no communication were unsuccessful.

Only when Tin stepped forward from his reserved spot in the eaves to present himself to McWands did the party witness a remarkable reaction. McWands’ head snapped up for a moment, his eyes wide open in astonished recognition, and then he collapsed to the ground in a twitching seizure. To the guards, they saw the end of just another encounter with McWands. But Tin saw something startling.

With his one free hand, McWands was repeating over and over the gestures of a secret handshake that had been known and used by only one person other than Tin. It was the handshake exchanged only between Tin and his lost friend Reggie.

Using Klemnon’s short range telepathy to communicate without the guards hearing, Tin shared his discovery that this wretched prisoner might be his lost friend Reggie, trapped somehow in McWands body through some kind of polymorth, soul trap, or soul switch. Seeing no way to convince the guards to release one of their “most dangerous” prisoners the heroes left interrogation cell, but not before Tin passed one last secret message to “Reggie” through the secret hand signals learned as members of a local gang – to which Reggie reacted with even more violent twitching and garbled grunts.

Re-armed and back to shore, Tin shared his concerns about McWands, Reggie, and the Blackjaw gang. Tin had been worried that his friend “Reggie” was running the Blackjaw gang. Reggie had been tortured and experimented on by the psychopathic wizard McWands and had half his face melted off when infected with the spell plague, a process that left his jaw blacked and mutated. This physical deformity might be basis for the name of the Blackjaws gang.

If all this time Reggie’s consciousness was actually trapped inside McWand’s body inside Waterdeep prison, then McWand’s whereabouts is unknown – although it is entirely possible that McWands found a way to take over Reggie’s body to become the leader of the Blackjaws. From all accounts the Blackjaw leader was a tough foe, and if it turns out he is also the dangerous spellcaster McWands he would be all the more dangerous.

As if to drive home the threat, the band noticed another wanted poster advertising a reward for the capture of a halfling matching Tin’s description. The reward had risen since they last saw such a flyer to 4,000 gold.

The heroes needed to find McWands, and peeling back layers of the Blackjaw gang until they they found its boss seemed like the way to do it. Feral raised the prospect of pretending to turn Tin in for the reward to raise cash and find the Blackjaws. Tin said nothing while he took out a wetstone and began sharpening his ax, an act which effectively vetoed the proposal. Instead, the heroes planned a stake out near the Quail’s Inn (which they knew paid regular protection money to the gang). The plan was to wait for Blackjaw enforcers to come by to collect and follow them back to their cash base of operations (whether it be the Union Hall down by the docks, or some other location).

With Tin keeping a low profile inside the bar, and the rest of the team holed up in a partially abandoned (except for homeless squatters) building across the street, the band waited. When the inevitable Blackjaw bag man came by, Tin linkd up with the team to track the Blackjaws. Watching from a high window, Feral used his great eyesight and familiarity with traveling through jungle canopies to track the gang members while keeping far away from the same. Drengy noticed a distinctive but faint smell of fermented alcohol on the gangsters, and Tin knew from years on the street that there were three primary breweries in Waterdeep. Klemnon interrogated the vagrant residents of the building to learn that street people and even the city watch have of late been avoiding one particular brewery, even in the middle of the day. He also learned that after a drop in availability, the new hyper-stimulant drug “Night’s Embrace” had roared back into circulation and had become a serious problem in the city.

The adventurers met up outside the brewery. The complex was surrounded by high stone walls topped with broken glass, with a single large, closed entry point (for people and vehicles). Though dusk was arriving, beyond the walls they could towering smokestacks billowing grey smoke into the sky, and large warehouse/brewery complex.

Utilizing a disguise kit to mask some of their more distinguishing features, and Tin’s hedgewizard gloves to create short term illusions of a blackjaw tattoo on each hero, the band prepared to infiltrate the brewery by walking in the front door. Lengara took the lead on this potentially disastrous plan, walking up to the front door of the complex and rapping loudly one the same.

A slot in the heavily braced door snapped open, and a pair of bloodshot eyes peered out from behind the barricade. “What da ya want?!” the slightly inebriated guard slurred.

Lengara stared at him for moment, then barked “We’re in trouble with Gartock. He sent us from the docks to join the next shift, so let us in or you can explain it to him.”

The drunk guard labored to release the half dozen chains, bars, and locks to open the door and headed back to his tiny guard shack, pausing to object when he saw Lengara’s odd collection of companions marching into the brewery’s courtyard. “Wait a second, who are these guys?”

“Yeah, they’re with me.” Lengara deadpanning as if the answer was not just obvious and but also clearly comprehensive, which apparently it was.

The brewery courtyard was a strewn with orderly racks of barrels and carts, and lead to a large wooded warehouse on the left and a stone office and brewery plant on the right. Tin surreptitiously glanced into a window of the brewery front rooms to see it filled with half a dozen halfling brewers seated around a long table. Figuring their charade had gotten them this far, the heroes knocked on the door to the brewery break room. A halfling reeking of soot and grain answered the door.

“Gartock sent us up to help with the mash, so tell us where to get ready or you can explain it to him why were late,” Lengara announced. One of the seated halflings scratched his chin and pointed to a far door when he realized Lengara was clearly not alone. “Wait a second, who are all these guys?” the diminutive halfling asked.

“Don’t worry about em. They’re with me,” Lengara dismissively grumbled, already walking towards the far door. The halflings looked at each other, shrugged, and returned to their meal and card game.

Inside the brewery offices and worker locker rooms, the band did a quick search of the unattended space. Klemnon examined a long rack of tools, leather overalls, and brewer uniforms related to the manufacture of medieval beer. Tin opened up a series of locked chests in an office and took multiple ledgers detailing the daily operations of the brewery along with 500 gold coins. The Blackjaw ledgers detailed the brewery covertly receiving some unexplained illicit raw materials from three locations: a Waterdeep foundry, a farm outside of town, and from a nightsoil collection company that services a part of town lacking proper sewers. They also evidenced shipping final product to four locations: Waterdeep castle, the office of the captain of the guard, the office of the city magistrates, and a series of taverns. Either to improve his disguise or because he thought the band might actually have to begin brewing beer as they continued this improbably successful infiltration, Feral put on an ill-fitting halfling-sized work floor apron and grabbed a long wooded ladle.

Opening the door the the huge brewery floor, Lengara surveyed the scene. The brewery was a long, busy space, with multiple wood burning ovens being used to dry roast elevated platforms covered with hops, giant vats of beer being heated from below, and stacked barrels of brewing materials. Far across the work space large closed doors lead to a warehouse area, and to more brewery off around a corner. A nearby staircase lead up to an elevated manager’s office that overlooked to operation. A handful of halfling brewers working the fires were scattered across the huge room.

Up the stairs into the foreman’s office the band marched. The office walls had multiple windows looking out over the brewery floor, and seated behind a cluttered desk was a blackjaw floor warden jawing on a saliva soaked cigar that was well past its prime.

“Gartock sent us from the docks to join the next shift, and these guys – they’re with me, so, uh… why don’t you just tell us where Gartock is?” Lengara announced, leaning forward with his hands planted on the foreman’s desk.

Cursing about not being told anything, the brewery foreman craned his neck back and yelled out an open window to the brewery floor “Gartock what are you doing sending more guys up here! I wasn’t expecting – wait a second…” the foreman said, suddenly focusing his gaze on Tin. “Holy crap, its him!” he yelled as he rushed out onto the platform adjacent to his office, calling for help and arms.

Ominously emerging from a back-lit wall of billowing steam, Gartock’s hulking frame strode into view. “Kill ’em all boys,” he commanded, “But save the halfling for the boss!”

Up in the floor manager’s office, the heroes sprung into action. Tin and Feral chased after the fleeing manager to corner and chop him down before he could organize the now charging halfling workforce. Klemnon and Drengy took up positions to begin blasting oncoming assailants – with Drengy pulling off one of his impossible long-range-can’t-really-even-see-‘em shots to nail Gartock in the leg and temporary slow his advancement. Lengara teleported out onto the elevated ledge near the hops ovens to begin raining down fire onto a horde of massed Blackjaws. Safely above the charging enemies, and away from Gartock’s lethal two-handed hammer attack, the party seemed to have an uncharacteristic tactical advantage.

That impression ended quickly. Shaking off the effects of Drengy’s attack, the brutish Goliath Gartock ran across the floor of the brewery to the base of the wooded pillars that held up the manager office and oven catwalks. With terrible grunt, Gartock’s hammer swept out before him shattering support after support, causing a large portion of the office and catwalk to come crashing down to the brewery floor. Somehow graceful Tin managed to stay standing on the platform above, but Feral, Drengy, and ultimately Klemnon all came crashing down into the debris.

Feral in werewolf form began an exchange of blows with Gartock, each knocking the other with to the ground and inflicting massive exhausting injuries. Tin began weaving into and out of combat looking for the right opportunity to deliver his gruesome dual ax attack. Lengara dropped a chasm of illusionary terrain so real that opponent inside it were suffered lethal mental damage. Having fallen right next to the berserk Gartock and half pinned by fallen office furniture, Drengy vanished with a wink into the Feywild, only to reappear moments later a safe distance away to begin pelting arrows into a halfling warlock crouched 40 feet up near an open beer vat.

Whatever strategy that may have motivated Feral and Gartock vanished as the two held nothing back in wailing on the other. Feral got in close spinning his stag head weapon to brutally slash the goliath, and in turn was kicked so hard by Gartock’s hammer uppercut that the shifter was knocked airborne and horizontal as he sailed into the roaring fire of the nearby roaster.

Feral blinked fast to shake off what he thought must be a concussion, because from his vantage point through the flames he thought he saw Klemnon charge up to towering Gartock and a gang of halfling Blackjaws to deliver a ferocious sweeping attack with Klemnon’s mace – a brutal melee attack that knocked down each opponent! Though it was true – Klemnon had proficiently thrown himself into hand-to-hand combat, Feral was still convinced that he must be hallucinating.

Before sliming a series of enemies with acid and taking partial cover under an elevated walkway, Lengara pelted the halfling warlock with an eldrich blast that up-ended the suffering arcanist into the adjacent percolating vat. Being cooked alive in boiling beer, the halfling Warlock finally crawled out of his roiling container, only for Drengy to launch a no-look arrow shot into his chest, fatally and permanently knocking him back into the brewing beer. Lengara made a quick mental note to not drink brews made at this particular establishment.

Seeing Gartock down but not quite out, Tin bravely charged in to attack the prone Gartock, but suffered a series of opportunity attacks in the process and was unable to finish the dazed but still unbelievably dangerous Gartock. It came to Feral, leaping out of the hops ovens with embers and fire trailing behind him, to deliver the final blow. Grabbing Gartock’s own hammer from his hands to use against him, Feral spun to deliver a mortal skull crushing blow to the warrior who had humbled the heroes in the past.

It had taken all of their skills combined to bring him down, but Gartock “The Rock” had finally been broken.

Episode 25 - Destination Sigil via Astral Sea
In Which a Flying Leviathan Chases a Soaring Angelic Skyship through Hell

Ugh. You’d think with all the epic magic floating about, you wouldn’t need to climb up a rope ladder leading to a flying skyship… right?!? Tin bit his tongue before the snarkiness came out as Jules Amcathra flew down, his hand extended to them to grab hold. The ship suddenly lurched and shot up like a cork bobbing up through the sea of filth that was the Abyss. They dangled helplessly as they rose to dizzying heights above the smoke and grime and began rocketing to some safe destination.

The Spelljammer Oathsinger was scorched badly with part of the hull breached. The sails were torn and tattered and luffing in the acrid hellish atmosphere. The crew had obviously seen better days with dozens of bodies strewn about the deck lifeless or bleeding out amidst the necrotizing corpses of demons. Captain Narascond sneered scornfully at Amcathra. “THESE PEOPLE?!? This is what my crew sacrificed their lives for? They better be worth it, Amcathra.” She spit to her side in distain. One would hardly have guessed by her nasty demeanor, but she was actually a true-born Angel, with golden wings and plated armor. The uniforms that the deva/angelic spelljammer crew wore bore no insignia, which Klemnon found disconcerting at first, until he was able to piece together that this crew must have been Angels and Devas of a former-God. And if he guessed Amcathra’s affiliations right, likely they were rogue-arcane Ronin — creatures who once swore allegiance to the Goddess of Magic, before she had been murdered by Cyric.

Episode 24 - Fall Of A Champion

“You fools don’t think your attendance upon me was unexpected?” the humanoid Atholian sneered.

The heroes had infiltrated deep into the heart of the Iron Keep, up to a huge interior chamber which seemed to act as a focal point for the blasphemous energies siphoned into the Shadow Tower. The circular room was lined with five equally spaced recesses in each of which rest towering spiral staircases topped with a glowing energy sphere. Blue runes traced from each staircase to the center of the room to converge in a ritual circle bearings some passing similarities to the one Amcathra had in his library, but this one was defined by hellish inscriptions and terrible incantations celebrating the name of Athola. In the center of the ritual circle confidently stood the humanoid draped in the vestments of an Athola cleric, wielding a huge staff topped with a terrible, stylized head frozen in a silent scream.

“My agents told me about Amcathra’s meddling works and the servants he had summoned before you had even learned that the wizard had duped you into being his pawns. You were tracked as soon as you interfered with my first binding ritual. By all rights, the agents I sent to find out what you were up to should have finished you in the streets of Waterdeep, had they lost you to whatever cloaking charm was draped over your souls.” He said, the words ‘cloaking charm’ laced with sudden, angry contempt.

“But all that is over. You have quested so long to find your new master, to find the one whose destiny it is for you to serve. Celebrate that your quest is over. I am Athola.”

Episode 23 - Below the Chamber of Horrors to the Hub of the Keep
Hellbent on Trashing the Factory

Flashes of runic cerulean light sparked and sputtered as the arcane connections that fueled the room were unlinked by the powers of might and magic — swift secure hatchet-blows across key runes and whispered dark curses unweaving threads of the “Great Binding.” Darkness fell, but soon the bright flare and hiss of a Sunrod’s golden alchemical light showed the party grimly facing each other in a tight circle around the central spire of the Chamber of Horrors. They silently bandaged their wounds and Feral pried a trap door open in the middle of the floor. Loud crunching booms and spiraling cracks began to appear at the entrance to the Chamber, leaving them little time to pause and catch their breaths.

A hulking mailed-fist burst through the obsidian stone as if it were baked clay and the rest of the wall tumbled down revealing the malevolent abyssal demon-soldiers flanking their Atholan commander, Sulimak.

Barely a nod was exchanged and they all leapt into action, moving as finely tuned machinery of adventuring action.

Episode 22 - Return to the Chamber of Horrors

Having ascended the Shadow Tower and found a way past the silvery dimensional portal from which it had fallen, the adventurers emerged into a hot, dry landscape of angular dread.

They stood at the interior base of a massive quarry with walls over a thousand feet high. The sky was a cloudless persistent red, and the ground was devoid of vegetation. Everywhere was broken stone and periodic flows of horrid blood red liquid cascading into the quarry and then further down beyond. Nearby rest the top of the Shadow Tower they had just climbed, its crown protruding from the silvery energy planar barrier leading back to the mortal world. The flat top of the Shadow Tower was dominated by an iron fortress, a metal keep with redundant layers of walls, towers, and gates. Although the quarry was roughly five miles wide, the heroes could see in the distant four more Shadow Towers, each crowned by an Iron Keep, being carved from the quarry walls by swarms of active laborers. While most of the towers were in various stages of completion, one appears to be complete and stood towering a thousand feet tall. If it was destined to be deployed in a similar fashion to the one the party had just climbed, then the distant towers had not yet been activated. High above them on the quarry edge, iron fortification rim parts of the quarry. Dark armored shapes could sporadically be seen patrolling the heights of the quarry, and the Iron Keeps atop each tower.

Episode 21 - Climbing Into The Depths Of The Abyss

After having traversed two sides of the mighty stone shard, the adventurers were able to obtain a short rest in a cavernous passage after having collapsed the entrance of the tunnel to prevent pursuit.

As they rested, they examined the passageway, and discovered evidence of a great engineering work. The tunnel, even the very shard itself seemed to have been carved from a great stone. The stone was the color of the blackest obsidian, yet had the appearance of hard granite. The stone passageway showed signs of having been worn by a great chain or rope. Investigations also suggested that the shard might be hollow in some way.

The heroes had to continue their climb across and around the exterior of the giant Shadow Tower- all while being attacked by waves of scampering and flying demons. Lengara almost died when he teleported out of his climbing harness and was unceremoniously knocked unconscious by a flying demonoid. His ragdoll body would have fallen the full 1,000 feet to the earth below had he not by shear luck crashed onto a narrow ledge, allowing Klemnon to rescue the shifty warlock with a healing prayer.

Finally finding a passage into the Tower and up beyond the shimmering energy portal from which the tower emerged, the adventurers found themselves in the thoroughly unwholesome hell plane known as The Abyss.


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