The Unnamed Saga

Episode 33 : Desperate Times, Reckless Measures

From inside the moon sized Budong the heroes had irritated the monstrosity enough for it to convulsively spit them out into the Astral void. But the superfluous flotsam expelled by the creature was astronomical – creating a dense, mile upon mile wide field of drifting stone, fragments of shattered ships, and sundry quantities of gelatinous organic castings. And while Drengy, Lengara, Tin, and their prisoner Rayniere McWands had ridden the wild expulsion inside McWand’s reinforced jail cell, Feral had been separated and flung free into the maelstrom. Lost to the astral sea.

When Feral came to he was drifting aimlessly amongst the errant debris. In every direction Feral saw a nearly uniform field of bobbing, twisting detritus. Had he been in the natural world his instincts and senses might have helped him track his friends, but the Astral Plane lacked wind to carry scent, a single sun to relay time, or even objective gravity to determine which way was “down.” Rather than pick a random direction and end up further lost and far from his friends, Feral worked his way to a nearby section of a splintered ship to try and figure a way out of this mess.

The refuge he found was a partial chamber from the ruined Saerenclaw ship. This island of wood offered no food or water or shelter, and had but one intact fixture. Rising up from the planked floor was a wooden altar carved to appear like a pyramidal pile of assorted slain cloven, horned, and feathered beasts. It was an idolized representation of a successful hunt – and an unmistakable altar to Malar, god of the savage hunt.

Feral took a seat along the broken edge of the drifting chamber farthest from the altar, fruitlessly scanned the distant scene for signs of his friends, and reflected on what he and his allies would need to survive and continue their quest to save the world from Athola’s threat.


“I’ve done crazier things, right?” Feral muttered, trying to convince himself as he pulled from his pack the Malar holy symbol and book on Malar teachings which he had been studying. Feral had an unspoken mantra he learned from his great were-stag aunt: ‘Desperate times call for reckless measures.’ It guiding him in his vendetta against the Malar worshiping Cult of Saerenclaws and during the party’s quest to stop Athola’s world ending scheme. He stood and turned to face the Malar altar, and in the Primoridial language of the uncivilized Chult jungles began reciting the ceremonial Malar prayer normally reserved for the Cult of Saerenclaw’s alpha to start Malar’s greatest sacrament: the High Hunt.

The last word had barely left Feral’s mouth when everything but the wooden floor and altar vanished in a darkness that moved like a speeding fog. An impossible silence arrived bringing with it an unmistakable sense of dread and power. Almost imperceptibly Feral could sense the outline of a great predatory beast hunched atop the wooden altar, still concealed by darkness but for two saucer sized pupils that reflected a silvery red light back to the shifter. The unblinking eyes lowered and scowled.

“There is a campaign being waged to save the universe.” Feral spoke. “If this war is to be won, my team needs divine power to win this yet unnamed saga. For the sake of both the living and the celestial, grant me the divine powers of your pack leader so the gods like you may still survive.”

“MALAR HAS ALREADY BAPTIZED YOU IN THE WARDEN FONT OF LIFE AND GIVEN YOU THE CALL TO SAVAGERY, YET YOU RESIST MY GRANT WITH BLASPHEMOUS RESTRAINT,” growled Malar, The Beastlord. “YOU SQUANDER YOUR GIFTS AND YET DARE CHALLENGE THE PLACE OF MY HIGH CULT OF SAERENCLAWS?"

The darkness incrementally fled from the Malar avatar as he spoke, revealing a hulking furred form, covered with fresh wet blood, with the head and jaws of a giant wolf with the fangs and clawed forelimbs of a great cat. The god of wild marauding beasts leaned forward and shifted its weight from foot to foot.

“I’ve studied your holy works,” Feral stuttered, holding up the book of Malar’s teachings as if to drive home the point. “The Cult of Saerenclaws has meddled in affairs it doesn’t understand and turned its back on your gospel with lopsided, unfair hunts that make…”

“TESTAMENTS ARE FOR MEWLINGS THAT HIDE BEHIND WOOD AND STONE," roared Malar, the book in Feral’s hand decayed into molding ruin. “MALAR’S COMMANDMENT NEEDS NO RECORD TO BE TRUE: THOSE WHO HUNT AND SUCCEED LIVE, THOSE THAT FAIL DIE.”

For a fraction of a second Feral glanced down at the rotting pulp in his hand. When he looked up, Malar was just feet away. And whether a trick of perspective or an attribute of divine whim, Malar had grown to double his former size. The god of malevolent shape-shifters and berserk slayers towered over the shifter, hot breath from flaring nostrils, sharp claws flexing with anticipation.

Daring not to blink or turn away, Feral stared back at the personification of wild predation. He chose his next words as deliberately as any man fearful that his speech may be his last.

“Your Cult is sick. It has turned to the infection of eternal undeath rather than live or die on the success of the hunt. The Saerenclaws were once the embodiment of savage survival of the fittest, of the life and death cycle of predator and prey. It has turned those words into a lie where death and the hunt have no consequence for the hunter. And if the sin of vampirism is not enough, I stand before you as the ultimate proof of the Cult of Saerenclaw’s sins: I live despite having been prey of two consecutive High Hunts. Make me your divine hunter to wean your pack and save the world. Your Cult may end decimated, but it will recover when other sects loyal to your teachings take up the mantle. Do this if your single Commandment is to ever have meaning again. Or kill me, and let perpetuate the disgrace that the Cult of Saerenclaws has come to represent.”

Growling with such a tenor that Feral could feel it more than hear it, Malar leaned his head down so his long toothy maw ran along the entire height of the standing Feral.

“KNOW THIS FERAL OF CHULT. MALAR PROVIDES HIS HERALDS WITH NO CODDLING. AND THE BLESSING UPON MALAR’S APOSTLE IS NO GIFT. IT IS A CRUCIBLE. ONE THAT WILL NOT LEAVE YOU UNSCARRED."

Before Feral could respond he was snapped bodily into the Beastlord’s jaws. Malar’s fangs sank deep into the shifter as the god of the savage lycanthropy shook him like a rag doll. Along with the blood flowing from his wounds Feral felt his Warden strength and connection to the primal font of life drain away, leaving only rage and a desire to fight against Malar, against any opponent. Then with a whip of Malar’s head Feral was thrown to careen head over heels into the suddenly reappeared Astral sky.

Limbs distending into claws as the affliction of lycanthropy coursed through Feral’s body, Feral struggled to speak.

SAVE YOUR WORDS, MALAR’S TENANTS LIVE AND SPREAD ONLY IN ACTION,” gloated Malar as he faded from sight even as his booming growl seemed to originate all around Feral. “NOW GO FERAL, CLERIC OF MALAR, AND PREACH MY TEACHINGS THROUGH EVERY ACT OF YOUR SAVAGE HUNT.”

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Episode 32- Hazards Of The Astral Plane

When the crashing and jostling finally subsided, Lengara and Drengy surveyed the ruin all around them in uncomfortable silence.

The astral ship Oathbreaker was wrecked- split horizontally into the three component decks which now rest scattered across the, what – the esophagus of the astral leviathan. Bodies, cargo, and debris lay strewn haphazardly amongst the fleshly ground and erratic streams of bubbling caustic digestive fluids. Some eighty feet above along the top of the esophagus rest writhing tentacled protrusions and periodic flows of acidic drips. The ship’s captain was missing or dead, as was most of the crew, but somehow one angelic crewmember and three blackjaw halfling prisoners cautiously emerged from partially intact lower hatch. The air was humid and acrid, darkness rest at the edge of Drengy’s sunrod’s glow, and there was silence but for an occasional low rumble that shook the “ground” and less frequent muffled screams that emerged and ended abruptly in the distance.

The Malarite vessel had suffered much worse, having been shattered with but a few chambers intact. Up from the debris of one smashed chamber Feral and Tin emerged some distance from the deck of the parts of the Oathbreaker, both having been battered and momentarily knocked out by the ride.

Although Lengara was usually the go to member for questions arcane and impossible, he did not know where they were. Sure, he had enrolled in a class addressing the challenges of planar exploration while at university, but he infamously abandoned the coursework for a more “direct” path to arcane power – an act which got him expelled. Well, it was one of the reasons he was expelled.

“I think its a Budong, an ancient creature of the astral sea that feeds upon arcane energies – among other things,” lamented the surviving angel. “I’m not sure how long it will be before we are pushed into the stomach proper, but there none can survive.”

While Lengara glanced around trying to remember something about escaping giant space creature’s bellies, Drengy looked suspiciously at a quivering in a nearby stream of digestive acid. Casually, almost as if he did not know (or care) what his hand was doing, Drengy reached over to one of the ship’s energy ballistas and let loose an electric blast into the fluid.

The energy sparked out into the Budong’s flesh and produced an immediate reaction. The entire esophagus lurched a bit at the irritation, and bursting up from four different pools came large red green amorphous globs, digestive enzymes intent on dissolving the organics in their midst. The party knew they needed to find a way out and perhaps irritating the Budong enough to expel them was the solution. But they needed a plan, and they needed to protect McWands from injury, since Tin was still tethered by McWand’s binding collar that inflicted any injury upon McWands ten fold back upon Tin.

Tin whipped his head around to where the Oathbreaker’s priority prison cell rest. It was exposed due the rending of the craft but covered with debris and separated from the rest of the adventurers by a stream of acid. Tin immediately began running towards the cell and McWands.

Lengara, Feral, and Drengy united on the deck of ruined Oathbreaker to organize a defense and keep the monstrous enzyme blobs occupied. As Feral and Drengy began raining arrows and antler slashed into the creatures, they discovered such attacks caused the blobs to shed smaller but quite lethal mini blobs – blobs which en mass were threatening to overwhelm the heroes. Things also got worse when a spitting, shaking protuberance dislodged from the esophagus ceiling to plop down and begin spewing corrosive acid at range against the party as well as the halfling survivors, who were unceremoniously dissolved in short order.

The last angel yelled, “I know what we need” and began moving towards the ruined cargo deck near where Tin was excavating and unlocking McWand’s cell, but he was hit by lethal acid a moment later and collapsed into muck.

“Fire, I remember now! These things are weak against fire!” yelled Lengara as he shifted the necrotic attributes of an attack into the domain of flame to grievously scorch one of the creatures. He had been bamfing around the field trying to shred the half dozen mini-blobs surrounding the party, and had already been bloodied by passing attacks.

Feral tried lighting and using a torch as a weapon, but a single torch was hardly enough to win the day. And lacking a team member to coordinate attacks and provide essential healing support, the party was unquestionably reaching the very end of its stamina. First Drengy passed out from wounds, collapsing near McWand’s cell after having teleported to that area. Then Lengara was grabbed and pulled bodily into the interior of one of the blobs to be digested. Tin having secured McWands for the time being running wildly through the wrecked cargo hold before stopping, backtracking, and eyeing three barrels from the ship’s supplies. It was clearly time to go, and Tin had an idea.

“Hey Feral, got a light?” Tin yelled as he poured the oil over the side of the ship creating an expanding pool around the acid spitting blobular.

Feral toss the torch end over end into the slick before teleporting over to help extract Lengara from inside the gooey beast consuming him. In a flash Tin’s oil exploded into flame, roasting the acid spitter within, setting part of the Oathbreaker’s wreckage on fire, and creating a serious case of heart burn for the Budong. The entire esophagus spasmed and the contents were knocked forward twenty feet. Ominous rising rumblings from deeper in the creature echoed through the ground. Rumblings that were quickly escalating into a deafening roar.

Wiping slime from his face after Feral pulled the blob off of him, “Feral, it is time for us to leave,” announced Lengara as he vanished, reappearing inside McWand’s open cell. Tin arrived a moment later, his boots scorched from the expanding fire, to pour a healing elixir down Drengy’s throat and pull the sputtering archer into the barred chamber.

Feral stepped away from the remaining blob to see rushing up the esophogus a wall of tumbling rock, broken ships, and convulsing muscle. Leaping again like some wild cat he reached the edge of the cell and grabbed on as the wave overtook the crash site. The cell and its occupants spun and tumbled as McWand’s cell remained intact but was blasted free of the shattered ship. Feral roared as he held onto the exterior of the spinning airborne cell, straining with a death grip on a bar of the prison. With a startling crack, the bar in his hand snapped sending the shifter hurtling into space where he vanished into the maelstrom of crashing debris.

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Episode 31- Madness Of The Melk

Lengara’s mind dashed through the developments before him.

The Heart of Io, stolen. An ally, Klemnon, potentially betraying his friends, potentially insane. McWands, captured but clearly also part of the betrayal. And a battle engulfing their means of escape from the dangerous Astral Plane raging outside the Mechanism’s door.

All in all, not a great way to begin the next few minutes of one’s potentially very short life.

Taking a deep breath to re-center his focus and allow himself to master the anger, the fear, even the overwhelming murderous desires now trying to surface, Lengara turned to face his current allies.

“The Wishmkngers are real. They are REAL!” ranted a wild eyed Klemnon as he turned to sprint back into the Sphere. Lengara was taken aback, Klemnon continued to act in ways that surprised and even confused everyone, even the eladrin.

Ignoring the cleric for a moment … after all, where could he go, Lengara turned to the others. “Very well, how do we get the Heart of Io, back? And can we please kill McWands?”

Realizing the result that would have, he hastily, if someone unabashedly added to Tin, “We can raise you from the dead.”

But frankly the confusion in the party was rising and things were not getting better with the rapid appearance of another Astral vessel now pulling away from the scene even as the angellic crew of the Oathbreaker fought off the remainders of the boarding party left by the fleeing vessel.

Drengy, the cult scarred archer, was the first to really react as he strode out onto the docking terrace between the Oathbreaker and Mechanism. He was drawing and notching and loosing arrows so fast Lengara almost couldn’t see the individual motions. At this range and without cover, Lengara really had no doubt that someone was dying, but it probably wouldn’t stop the enemy ship.

“We have to get after that ship! Now!” Legara pronounced.

Tin pushed McWands out of the Doorway, now bound and at least temporarily gagged. The others were discussing what to do next when Klemnon began shouting an incoherent stream of words, “I … I can still fix this! It can all still work! I’ll be able to save us all!” as he triggered the conduits of the Sphere of Tasnia’s Infernal Mechanism.

Lengara wasn’t terribly surprised when he was ignored. Tin and Feral were arguing about how to safely retrieve Klemnon. They were loyal to their friend even when it was clear that he was as redcap-insane as any three sheet Pixie you could ever meet. Feral tried pleading with his friend to remember all the good he had done and the trust he had in his friends and come out- to no avail. Tin tried cloaking himself in a hedgewizard illusion to appear as what Tin assumed Klemnon might think a “Wishmonger” would look like and ordered Klemnon to stand down, but the unhinged cleric only became more deranged and paranoid of being fooled again. All the while a rising thrum and a dangerously erratic discharge of primal energies inside the sphere made it clear that Klemnon had already reactivating the sphere’s powers.

That. Was not good.

For good or ill, Klemnon now had Lengara’s full attention and suddenly the anger and rage was gone, giving way to fear … a very well educated fear at what a ritual caster might be able to do with all that raw power. Or perhaps not be able to control.

“Amaunator’s Nuts,” Lengara cursed under his breath, that crazy priest is gonna get us all killed. Really? The Dark One himself was probably laughing at Lengara and his fool allies right this instant. Biting down the urge to just slam the door shut he decided to assist Feral and Tin in trying to talk the Pelorite down.

But it wasn’t going to work. Blinking in frustration and trying to go through his list of available options, Lengara decided to try and use his most powerful hammer. Magic, of course. Slowly he worked the runes in his mind and in the air and let the power grow. Then he cast the illusion. At Klemnon.

A shimmering doorway appeared, its magic drawing at Klemnon, daring him to strike at Lengara.
To this, Lengara added a plea: “Klemnon, listen to your friends, listen to us! We are stronger together and we have a much better chance as a group of undoing whatever has just happened. Come back with us, now!”

For his part, Klemnon wasn’t going to fall for Lengara’s illusions. He had far too much experience in the last few weeks to fall to that guile. But, for an instant, lucidity seemed to return to the priest and his words. Weak and confused, he answered Lengara’s call.

“What, what am I doing here …. oh.” Klemnon realized the enormity of what he had done, and perhaps what he was about to do. In Lengara’s senses, the Sphere’s magick’s of teleportation and transmutation were already thick and cloying.

“No, go without me. You’ll need these!” as he kicked the treasure case that had been on the Mechanism’s control platform through Lengara’s transit portal to the party. “Go! Get out of here!” Klemnon ordered as he pushed down on a rune on the pedestal and the single door to Tasnia’s artifact began to roll shut.

“Damnit! We have to go NOW!” the eladrin warlock shouted.

Lengara wasn’t even waiting to see if anyone was coming with him, he was not getting taken to wherever Klemnon’s addled mind had decided to spin the sphere to, he was just diving out of the “foyer” of the Mechanism and over the intervening space back onto the Oathbreaker. Somewhere along the way, Tin, Feral and McWands ended up making the same jump and they all tumbled onto the deck as the sphere vanished in a massive thunderclap. The shockwave washed over them weakly as they stood.

“Zotz,” Lengara cursed, brushed himself off and turned slowly to examine the new situation.
Drengy was already giving orders to the crew to make ready to chase the fleeing ship. Tin was busy helping the crew jerry-rig repairs to the scorched and battered rigging. Feral seemed lost in sorrow and fell to his knees to roar a mournful howl over his friend’s descent into madness. Despite the urgent work all around him, Feral slowly took up and opened the box Klemnon had sent the party before vanishing. Inside was a kings fortune of rare gems, but the treasure offered no solace to the loss felt by the normally raging half lycantrope.

Lengara strode to the bound McWands. “Tie him to the mast and keep him gagged,” the warlock glowered.

One of the crew noted that the Oathbreaker did have a brig. Several glances of confusion and then agreement were exchanged amongst the party. Sure, a brig would work.

“Then … take him below and make sure he remains blinded and gagged,” amended the eladrin.

Everyone returned to examining the pursuit of the Cult of Saerenclaw vessel. Drengy had apparently killed enough of their crew that the halflings Blackjaw members had fled below deck and the Malar huntsman turned invisible. The Oathbreaker was gaining, but not swiftly. Crewmembers were running this way and that tying down broken rigging, making repairs, doing what they could to clear the decks. Feral tossed the dead raiders’ bodies overboard after Tin had picked them clean. Less weight might make the Astral dromond faster?

Lengara rather doubted it, but really who wanted to see a bunch of dead halfling gangsters?

After a few more repairs were made and after Lengara had communed with the elemental bound in the helm to see if it could move the ship faster through the astral sea’s currents, the party retired below. It was time to interrogate their prisoner about the ship they were chasing.
Lengara let his blood boil a bit.

With Tin hanging back, the party pepper Rayniere McWands about his alliance with the Cult of Saerenclaws and motives. McWands claimed to not know why the Cult of Saerenclaws would be interested in the Heart of Io, although noted that it is an immensely powerful artifact. McWands intended to use it to heal the magically malformed body which his spirit currently possessed, the body of the halfling Reggie. McWands said he worked with the Cult of Saerenclaws because he had no choice, the band had killed or scarred off all but a tiny handful of halfling Blackjaw members and left him desperate for allies. Had he known the Saerenclaw cult would steal the Heart for themselves he would have preferred more loyal soldiers.

Rising in stature and volume without trying or moving, Lengara announced a simple fact. “I am going to catch that ship and recover the Heart of Io, and if not nothing will stop me from turning you to ash. If we retrieve the Heart, you will safely release Tin and we will abandon you on this remote plane and you can get back to the natural world if you can.”

The party heard an Oathbreaker crewmember yelling about proximity to the Malarite vessel and headed up to the deck, but McWands despite being blindfolded turned to where Tin was as Tin walked past. “Don’t ever think that I have forgotten what you are responsible for Woodsfellow.” He hissed. “Mark my words, it might not be today but I promise that someday I will destroy you.”

Closing slowly on the rival ship, the Oathbreaker crew sought cover while the adventurers moved to the bow. Drengy took a familiar post atop the crows nest to spot targets and rain arrows down on the same. Feral with Tin’s help began using one of the ship’s energy ballistas to blast the enemy ship’s sails to slow it down. Legara drew his arms to his chest and closed his eyes for just a moment before jumping into the action. Time to go hunting.

Drengy was already firing at the deck of the enemy ship. Apparently invisibility had become less of a liability to him. Something was struck by an arrow and seemed to bleed onto the far deck.

Lengara could feel the thrill rise in him, the power already surging. Somehow everything felt right, felt in sync.

The Oathbreaker’s Captain shouted orders and her sailors fought to bring their ship abreast the Malarite boat. Sails flapped in the strange winds of the Astral Sea as the battle was joined. Feral, rushed onto the deck as Tin took up station with a small barrel and something that looked like a sling in his hand. As the battle began it appeared that Tin had improvised a means of marking the invisible hunters with common flour from the galley. As his improvised missiles struck the deck of the closing ship, the billow of white powder briefly betrayed the location of the hidden Hunters.

But the Hunters were not idle. Their captain was giving orders and firing a Malarite staff weapon into the prow of the Oathbreaker. The blasts struck hard and scorching flames burst upon the deck where Feral, Tin and Lengara stood ready to board the enemy vessel.

As soon as he had a chance, Lengara struck. And the anger he’d been feeling was let loose in a torrent of black rain that fell on the aft deck near the enemy helm. The whisper gave him encouragement and if words could smile, these did.

Low and guttural he spoke words of power, ending with " … and now feel the black rain of Mutuz-Vot". The last syllable uttered made the hairs on Tin and Feral’s necks stand on end, and aboard the enemy ship strange black vapors … or worms … began to writhe up from the puddles that the rain had created. The vapors entered the enemies’ eyes, even those that could not be seen. Those that were not affected still had their sight hampered by the rising “fog”.

“THAT’S NOT USEFUL!” Feral shouted at Lengara. He’d seemed poised to leap the great distance between the ships and now seemed deflated. Lengara glanced him and shrugged. In his anger he simply said, “It will be to ME when I get over there.”

As if on cue, the enemy Huntsmen opened fire, but through the fog and their own blindness none of the shots struck home. Lengara smiled wickedly and then vanished. He reappeared in a small shower of leaves and grass upon the deck of the other ship. However, rather than blinding him, the strange black fog seemed almost to caress him as he arrived. He didn’t appear to have nearly the same problems with it as the others did. Then he transformed into a humanoid ooze and vanished through the fog.

“Bastard.” Feral growled. Glancing at Tin, he realized that Tin seemed to be shrugging and admiring the manner in which Lengara had neutralized the threat of the Malar staves.

“Well, screw this, I’m getting over there if I have to jump all the way to the moon.” He gathered himself in and then erupted like a massive spring. Werewolf? Wererabbit might have been a more apt and likely merger. But the leap got the job done. He crossed over the shrouded area, which was now even more dark as a result of an attack one of the Huntsmen had made against Lengara and which he had escaped through more black smoke and some sort of teleportation effect. Lengara was controlling the battlefield this day and the Huntsmen didn’t appear to know how to deal with it.

“No time like the present.” Tin dropped his flour bombs and made the leap across the now shortened space between ships and landed on a railing and then with near supernatural grace, flipped over the edge and began moving hand over hand along the side of the vessel while hanging suspended over the astral clouds.

Things went south for the Malarites quickly after that. Lengara’s teleportation seemed to tear at the life forces of those nearby and then he teleported the Sarenclaws Captain behind one of her Hunstmen, several of whom were now asleep, thanks to a Sleep Arrow of some sort that Drengy had landed in their midst, and she stabbed down and tried to kill one of her own. Her last strike fell and then she exploded in a flash of light and flame as she herself fell to the eladrin’s illusions.

Lengara was exploiting powers of a terrible and dark nature, but the dark rain faded and the black smoke of his recent escape lifted. Once the path was clear, Tin rushed at one of the remaining sleeping Huntsman. The party’s previous experience with the Hunters meant that when Tin cut the throat of the great beast, he was prepared for the ensuing explosion. Throwing himself back and flat, flipping onto his belly and then off the side of the boat, he was able to avoid the fires completely. He hung there until the explosion was clear, and then scrambled nimbly back onto the deck to help dispatch the last of the Huntsman.

Lengara watched as Feral finished another of the Huntsmen, nearly ripping him in half. But the large wolf-man actually seemed to cringe when Lengara turned to the last of the Huntsmen and with rapid flicks of his wand and sword seemed to cut the big brute a thousand times across his body. Lengara licked his lips and seemed to savor something as the Huntsman fell to his knees and the cuts turned to bright light and fire. The resulting explosion ripped at Feral and the last of the invisible hunters. Lengara was no longer anywhere to be seen.

Feral gritted his teeth and moved to finish the last Malar hunter on the enemy ship, but a new problem existed. One of the Malar huntsman had slipped onto the Oathbreaker deck and was moving to the hold where he could do immense damage to the ship or… The hold where McWands was. The Huntsman was confident his invisibility would let him go undetected, but before he could execute whatever mischief he imagined Drengy leaned over the crow’s nest rail, an arrow already notched. The magic arrow that hit the Huntsman was devastating and explosive, blasting the undead Malarite off of the ship and into the turbulent astral wake. Drengy half smiled while he peppered the spinning helpless Huntman with arrows until the creature exploded in a muffled pop 200 yards behind the moving ship.

A whisper took shape as Lengara rematerialized and the whisper rose to full voice. “There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Lengara glanced about as if half expecting that someone else would have heard. But of course, they hadn’t.

Although the enemy ship had been rammed by the Oathbreaker and nearly scuttled, the crew brought the two ships back under control and lash them together.

Lengara brushed off his hands, his wands and sword put away. He strode toward a hatch which he’d already approached once during the battle. As if already knowing what was within, he knocked on the hatch soundly.

“Bring us the Heart, or we’re coming in there and getting it. Your choice. Knock twice if you understand and surrender.” This time there was no anger, just a bright glee in his voice.

A dozen halfling blackjaw members, each cursing the name Reggie and regretting ever having gotten involved with the Blackjaw gang emerged with their hands up. Drengy covered them with his bow as Feral and Tin searched each halfling to remove weapons or contraband. The first out sheepishly presented the Heart of Io to Lengara. As Legara touched the artifact he could feel heat, immense perhaps undefinable power, and a wave of implanted memories or images of the ancient Dawn War. The sensation to Lengara was simultaneously exhilarating and narcotic. Already fearing for their lives, the Blackjaw members nervously backed away from the ecstatic warlock.

Feral yelled to the Oathbreaker Captain to take the Halflings prisoners on board, provide them with food and water and treat them humanely. Drengy and Lengara supervised the movement of the Blackjaws aboard the Oathbreaker while Feral and Tin, weapons at the ready, headed below decks of the Malarite ship to make sure there were no more stowaways.

Light often diffuses generally in the Astral Plane providing a general glow without shadows, so when the entire space around both ships suddenly dimmed all aboard froze in alarm. Confused, Drengy leaned over the side of the ship to look down and see something that defied his senses. An astral leviathan the size of a small moon, it’s gaping jaw still opening but already large enough to swallow a hundred ships the size of the Oathbreaker was breaching up to devour both ships. The edges of the astronomically large beast’s jaws were already passing when Drengy yelled out his alarm and grabbed hold of the stoutest fixture he could find. With a terrible continuing boom of splintering wood, screaming crewmen, and the low sounding of the leviathan the ships were consumed, swallowed whole and shattered by the tongues and rear teeth of the impossible beast.

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Episode 30 -

Work in progress…

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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