Author Archives: Dennis

A New Course of Action

Previously, our heroes liberated the third piece of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye from the intruders into Dr. Arkenward’s sanctum. They also found and dealt with some of the strange creatures that the royal abjurer had kept prisoner.

Tenth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

After Luca had sent Enyalius back to his home by performing a banishment on it, the young girl asked for an opportunity to persuade the heroes to help her, too. She introduced herself as lady Maya Ironwood and explained that she was taken from her family and wanted to be returned to her family.

The heroes are not overly divided; they do not trust the young girl and decide not to free her. The only one that was not wholly convinced was Quentin, who saw in her a young, highborn girl that had trouble fitting into a world that was unforgiving to free-spirited people. The young girl asked whether the heroes would send a raven with an explanation to Woodbury, addressed to her dame Felicia Ironwood, her mother, which Quentin promised to do.

When the heroes retreated back into the seating room behind the portcullises they did they all felt a strange and unpleasant tingle run down their spine. James turned and sternly looked to all the prisoners, believing that one of them was responsible for trying to influence them. Ludwig, struggling against the weight of his chains as he fluttered in the air on his leathery wings, claimed that it was not responsible!

It was time for the first person to be sent back. Quentin volunteered and Luca confronted him with the devious nature of the Tooth of Thalasis, the daggers that Xamael, in the guise of Melchior had spread among his followers to commit seemingly wanton murder in the name of the Dark Queen. By the time Luca got to the end of his ritual Quentin disappeared with a plop, repulsed by the dagger.

Once Quentin had disappeared, James loudly wondered whether the young knight should get laid at the Silver Cross. Perhaps the women of The Lace would be able to relax him somewhat.

When Maya started pleading for help again, directing her story at Emrys in the hopes of convincing him that she was innocent and that she had been accused of dark deeds only because she was misunderstood, James opened another bottle of wine which he shared with Emrys while Luca rested. The heroes also used the wool inside one of the fancy chairs to plug their ears in the hopes of being less susceptible to the girl’s words.

Eventually Luca asked James whether he could get a bottle of wine as well, which James was happy to oblige. Luca was given a nice bottle of Mettina rosé, which he uncorked and poured out all over the ground. James, repulsed by Luca wasting the wine, jumped up and started to protest, but before he could blink found himself standing in the darkness of Dr. Arkenward’s study in Old Town, Quentin sitting at the desk, patiently waiting for someone to arrive.

James decided to skulk through the residence looking for food and drink. He found food in the kitchen and some wine in a small cellar. He couldn’t help himself and filled his bag up with as many bottles as it would fit. He lost count around twenty-five bottles. He made sure to take the food, as well as a small cask of Dun Argath beer up to Quentin and together they ate.

Luca asked Emrys to take place in the summoning circle that was painted on the floor of the room they were in, asking him to explain what repulsed him in the world, meanwhile eyeing the lute that the half-elf had strapped to his back. Before Emrys could fully form a thought, Luca hand had erupted in fire and he had lunged at the lute, igniting it. Shocked, Emrys whirled around in order to prevent Luca from causing any more damage, but found that he was standing in Arkenward’s study, looking at James and Quentin sitting together, having breakfast.

It was Luca’s turn to banish himself back to the material plane, which turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. He had intended to set fire to part of Arkenward’s library; he could not imagine anything more repulsive than the loss of great works of literature or research. He quickly scanned the bookcase which he intended to burn down, to see if he could rescue a tome, and his eye fell on a book with primordial script on its wooden spine. The wooden covers were carved into a turbulent pattern; like that of choppy waters. The pages were made of thin velum, but he found that he could not open the book. He concluded that the book was special and he put it among the rest of his possessions before trying to set fire to the bookcase. Trying, but failing. He simply could not bring himself to do it.

Changing his approach, Luca cast a translocation spell that put him frighteningly close to the cage of the rat ogre. He had been confronted by one of these beasts in battle several months ago and he still had an uneasy time coming to grips with the terrifying creatures. As the shock of the proximity to the rat ogre turned his bowels to water, he found it adequately repulsive to succeed in banishing himself back to Dr. Arkenward’s study, leaving the sanctum behind.

Soon after the heroes had regrouped, Vydia found them in the study. She had woken up and come to investigate. Relieved that it was the heroes she asked if the intruders had been dealt with. She also asked whether the intruders managed to take anything, destroy anything or harm anything inside the sanctum. This made some of the heroes wonder just how much she had been aware of what Arkenward kept in that sanctum.

Vydia offered the heroes a place to rest, but they declined and decided to return to the Careless Wanderer, where they found that Durham was opening up. After being told that they should really inform the staff when they were planning to occupy a room without being present, and Magda bringing up warm cups of mulled wine the heroes were all ready for some sleep, despite the sun slowly rising over the eastern horizon.

Emrys had found that Astrid had been using his luxurious room to sleep, but also to invite company to help keep the bed warm with her, Lauryn came up with some clean sheets and helped Emrys make the bed.

After several hours of sleep, the heroes woke up in the mid-afternoon. Quentin had been tossing and turning, despite his fatigue and had decided to get up earlier and head out. The rest gathered in the tavern room for food, and they found that Astrid was entertaining people by arm wrestling anyone who would accept her challenge. When Luca asked if Astrid was doing okay, she decided to beat the opponent she had been toying with and pull Luca in to plant a kiss on his mouth, which repulsed him.

Talking to Astrid she seemed reluctant and a bit aimless, saying that she felt she had no purpose since the heroes pulled her from the halls of Odin. Emrys said that they needed her in order to have more adventures together, which made her smile. Luca gave her the gift of the Protection of the Cherubim, promising her that it would help to keep her resilient and fighting, and Emrys claimed that they would have an even better gift at a later time, hinting at the sword they had commissioned for her with Dagran Forgewright. In the meantime she could use the two mundane swords that they had gotten from the smith, and James pulled them from his bag.

Astrid mentioned that the previous evening she had been plagued by a foreboding dream where she saw a ship made from fingernails that sailed across a sea of green waves. On the prow of the ship stood a dark figure holding an axe in each hand, each with a an eye on the blade. She felt that she should seek out that figure and defeat him.

The heroes were not sure what to do with the description of Astrid’s dream and decided to let it sink in and not address it. Instead they had a conversation on what direction to take now that they had recovered a third tablet. One idea was to confide in grand archmage of the circle, the mysterious Réonan, but not everyone seemed convinced that this was the course of action.

Escape from Arkenward’s Sanctum

Previously, the heroes managed to defeat two unsettling, tentacle-faced humanoids who had infiltrated Arkenward’s sanctum. In doing so they recovered another Tablet of the Elemental Eye. The heroes also defeated Venoxxis, the spider creature that was held captive alongside Arkenward’s other prisoners. Now it was up to them to find a way out of the sanctum.

Tenth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

While Luca took rest, the others tried to make themselves useful; Quentin by standing vigil between Luca and Grok, and James and Emrys by investigating the room they were in.

Emrys had found an interesting, high level conjuration spell in one of the books that the tentacle-faced creatures were looking in, but he could not explain to Luca very well why he thought it was significant and decided to let the matter rest. Instead, James asked him to look for information on the Seal of Divine Animus, the Conjunction of the Planes, or on the Blood War. He reasoned that the more context they would have around these large cosmic events would help them navigate the time to come.

In the meantime, James searched the room for valuables. He found many books, tomes, folios and librams that would likely fetch a pretty penny, as well satisfy the butcher’s hunger for esoteric books, but he came to the conclusion that riches just were not as important to him as they once were.

One of the things that caught the heroes’ eyes was a carved map painted on a large sphere that sat in an elaborate cradle which allowed you to turn the sphere and see more of the map. The heroes recognised the Verdant Kingdoms, but quickly realised that there were other such clusters of land, some of which the heroes had heard mentioned in the rare tales of merchants and explorers.

Emrys found notes that Dr. Arkenward had made on the tides of magic and how the waxing and waning of the Seal of Divine Animus influenced it. According to the calculations that Arkenward did a full cycle took about five thousand years and that it was probably another 1250 years until the Seal was at its weakest and magic stood at high sanction. It dawned on Emrys just how old some of the oldest beings in the Verdant Kingdoms must be, and how long ago the cursed crusaders got trapped in Atilesceon’s realm. The realisation made him nauseous and dizzy.

Soon after Luca had regained enough of his strength to go ahead with his plan; he would banish one of the heroes and then drop his concentration before the spell could become permanent. If they were on the material plane, the subject would go to a harmless dimension for a bit, but if they were not, then the subject would go back to the material plane. It would determine where they were, and how they should move forward accordingly.

Luca used Grok, a creature that Quentin had instantly loathed, as a repellent to banish Quentin with a “plop”. Quentin immediately found himself in a dark room, with rain beating against a window pane. He did not immediately recognise where he was, but when a flash of lightning temporarily lit up the room, he saw that he was in Arkenward’s study again. Even before the peal of thunder followed the lightning he found himself back in Arkenward’s sanctum with the rest of his companions.

With the remaining strength that Luca had regained he turned to Grok and banished him too, lying to the strange creature that he would indeed go back to Blue Harbour, where he wanted to go. With another “plop”, Grok was gone, teleported back to Pazunia.

While Luca rested to regain strength again, James heard one of the prisoners call out. It was the bull-headed brute that was caged near the portcullis to the room they were in. James turned to Quentin and got him to open the portcullis, and James entered the room and engaged the minotaur in conversation. His name was Enyalius, a warrior from the Bleak Eternity of Gehenna, and he offered information on a chance to be banished and returned to where he came from.

“I never worry about you, my friend. I never do.”
– James White

It was clear that Quentin did not trust Enyalius and that it would likely be a mistake to go along with what it was suggesting. James asked whether Enyalius was prepared to serve the heroes for one year in exchange for its return to Gehenna, and it said it was prepared to make that deal, with certain limitations; he would not betray his legion, for instance. Quentin questioned the minotaur’s honour and could not be convinced that the minotaur was trustworthy.

While waiting for Luca to recover enough strength, the heroes read through all of the notes they could find on the prisoners;

Ludwig

The lowest ranked of the lesser infernal outsiders, though it will claim it still outranks the Lemure. There is quite a bit of writing which has survived the Age of Fear on imps; impervious to fire and all poisons, and incredibly resistant against attacks from non-silver weapons. Like all infernal outsiders, very resistant against cold-based attacks.

Quite a significant number of them survived through the Great Waning as they got stuck on the material plane. Through my interrogations I have concluded that this imp is not old and wise enough to have survived on this side of the seal since the Age of Fear. It is possible that it managed to be sent through the seal due to its limited strength.

It claims its name is “Ludwig”, but that name has not granted me the control over the imp that I had expected and I have therefore concluded that the name is false.

Grok

The dretch is the first form that abyssal animus congeals into, and while it hardly poses more threat to a trained mage than a goblin or a vodnik, leave it for long enough and it will grow to evolve into a far more loathsome and powerful demon as its animus hardens and matures. Immune to poison, able to emit a noxious vapour and very resistant to elemental attacks, and it has a remarkable aptitude for telepathy. Unlike its more evolved brethren, it has a normal susceptibility to attacks with mundane weapons.

I pulled this one from an abandoned house just outside of Blue Harbour. There were several others but this is the only one that managed to survive long enough to heal from the burn wounds it sustained. The others dissolved into black slag. I would have been worried about someone noticing a pack of missing dretches and coming to look for them had they been infernals, but no such loyalty can be expected from the tanar’ri.

Through the “experiments” I conducted on the dretch I have learned that it calls itself “Grok”, it hails from Pazunia, where it was fighting alongside manes and rutterkins for a demon lord named Baltazo. It does not quite understand how it came to be in Blue Harbour, but from the bits I have been able to compile, it seems that Baltazo has been experimenting with sending over low ranking demons and psuedo-demons.

Vetch

Vetch, as the skaven likes to call itself, is a sly one. It speaks the common tongue, albeit in a broken way. Duplicity, stealth and subterfuge seem to be its tools and trade. As a result, I’ve been having a very hard time getting information out of him that I can trust. I will have to independently verify each bit that Vetch shares.

It seems to have no great love for the rat ogre and considers its brutishness antithetical. It claims to be part of clan Eshin, which is a clan I’ve heard of, but not much is written about. I’ve got to be cautious with this one.

Vetch has shown some interest in my dissection of the tentacle-faced mind flayer and it has remarked that certain organs I’ve extracted can be used to create poisonous substances.

Rat Ogre

The skaven refer to this creature as a rat ogre, but it does not seem to have a particularly strong sense of self-awareness, beyond the primal rage what we see in some of the more monstrous humanoids. It does not have an ability to speak and does not seem to recognise words, names or a reference to it species.

My working theory is that the rat ogre is an engineered subspecies of the skaven, so for the purposes of categorisation I will consider it one of the servitor races.

Interestingly, not all of the skaven clans have turned to creating these abominations. There is a clan, clan Moulder, which specialises in creating not just these abominations, but others as well. The rat ogres are, however, the pinnacle of their achievement.

Buras

Smuggled to Kingsport from Farcorner, this khazra warrior is named Buras Blighthorn and he’s been given to me in order to interrogate him. The usual threats did not seem to appear, and applying force elicited a resigned response. To my surprise Buras was perfectly capable of speaking the common tongue and has turned out to be a rather pleasant conversationalist, intelligent and eloquent.

He’s explained to me many things, including his mission in Farcorner. I’ve reached a point with him that I think I’ll try a different approach and see if I can simply continue my conversations in order to understand the tensions and conflicts between the servitor races better, since there seems to be some animosity towards Enyalius from Buras and Vetch, and vice versa.

It has confirmed what the Circle already suspected, which is that the khazra hail from the Grey Waste of Hades.

Enyalius

What a strange creature the minotaur turns out to be. I have to be careful not to generalise, but from what I’ve learned by speaking to Enyalius, as it calls itself, is that it is a prideful and stoic creature whose only interest is duty. Not surprisingly, I have learned that its rank is that of “legionnaire”, a type of high ranking infantry and reports to Preclo, his “centurion.”

For all the effort I had to make in order to smuggle Enyalius out of the empire, he’s proven to be a bad source of information. It speaks both the abyssal and infernal tongue, but prefers infernal. This one will require more time.

Rogash

Retrieved from among some of the most northern orc, demon worshipping tribes, we have a strange, transformed orc. Blessed, the shamans would say, with the strength of their demonic overlords. They call them “tanarukks”, which seems to be an abyssal bastardisation of the orc word for “fury.”

It is completely useless to me. I have had to keep it unfed in order to deplete it of its destructive tendencies. I know its highly resistant to fire and poison as well as most magics, but its too aggressive to learn anything from as it has no interest in negotiations.

I have one or two more experiments to run on it, and then Rogash, as it calls itself, is bound for the incinerator.

Autopsy

When it became clear to me that some of the threats moved around the ancient waterways I charged some colleagues to investigate the rumours. They found a fair many problematic elements in those tunnels, none were more baffling than this tentacle-faced humanoids. When I went down myself I was eventually confronted by this one. It was tough; taunting me throughout with telepathy and flaying my mind with strange attacks. The source of its “magic”, if I can call it that, was alien to me.

I have yet to be able to dedicate time to understanding the nature of this creature, and a cursory scan of Tobin’s Planar Guide has yielded little of use, except that it vaguely resembled the aberrant denizens of the far realm. If true, it is completely unclear to me whether there are more of them, what they are doing here, what their designs are, and whether they make the waterways their home.

My investigation must continue and I must come up with a proper defence against their psychic attacks. If this creature is an example of the time to come, then we must expand our arsenal of attacks and defences.

After reading each of the notes, Emrys wondered whether Dr. Arkenward sent people to Blue Harbour to investigate the demons, and whether they returned Grok to him. The conversation quickly turned to what to do with the prisoners and whether or not Arkenward had not crossed a line and whether he could continued to be trusted. Quentin believed that while Arkenward had certainly shown a fascination with the creatures there was no indication that he had been corrupted or seduced by them yet.

When Luca finally spoke to Enyalius he offered the banishment to it under the condition that if their paths were ever to cross again it would offer them parlay. Enyalius agreed and said that it would do everything in its power to return to the material plane, where it would rejoin its legion in the Daerlan empire and march on Adelheim.

Luca started the process of banishing Enyalius and needed something that would repel the minotaur and decided on including Emrys in the procedure. With a few well-chosen words, aided by James’ approval in the assessment, Luca described how Emrys was the embodiment of disorder, with his magic being as unpredictable a force as chaos itself. The heroes were very convincing and the expression on Enyalius’ face turned from one of caution to one of utter disgust. And with a “plop”, he was gone.

The heroes concluded that they would leave the rest of the prisoners to the Circle to deal with and it was at that point that the young girl said that her name was lady Maya Ironwood and that she wanted to have an opportunity to convince the heroes to free her too. Both Luca and Emrys were struck by the mention of House Ironwood, the ancestral house of Ser Florianus.

Venoxxis

Previously, the Heroes of the White Eye had penetrated deep into Dr. Arkenward’s inner sanctum in search of the Tablet of the Elemental Eye that he had hidden there. Having uncovered a prison of strange creatures, as well as a personal study which held two strange, tentacle-faced creatures and a loathsome, ape-like creature named Grok. It came to blows with the tentacle-faced creature, but the heroes defeated them, and found that they had found Arkenward’s tablet. Before defeat, one of them hissed that “the Upright Man would not be opposed.”

Tenth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

The heroes had managed to make their way past the prisoners and into Arkenward’s study where they defeated the tentacle-faced creatures. And while they retrieved the third tablet, they had not found a way out yet. James was keeping an eye on the prisoners through the bars of the portcullis; in particular on a spider creature that Grok had told them was called Venoxxis. He was concerned that the spider would eventually turn its sights on the young girl which was locked up with the rest of the prisoners.

Venoxxis, in turn, had moved out of sight in order to prevent James from taking shots at it. This had given the heroes the opportunity to inspect the room with the prisoners better and they noticed that near each of the cages or shackles were parchments with collected notes. This gave Luca the idea to use a conjured, spectral hand to retrieve the notes which hung on the wall above the young girl. Venoxxis could not prevent Luca from retrieving the notes without revealing itself to James’ barrage of arrows, but it did not mind putting the spiderlings it had birthed from the body of the man it had mounted in danger. It became a quick trigger game of Luca moving the hand towards the notes while James shot the spiderlings before they could attack the hand. In the end, the spiderlings lay dead while Luca had the notes in hand.

In the meantime, Emrys had turned to Grok, the unusual simian with the slobbering maw filled with teeth and the big bat ears. Emrys had come to the conclusion that Grok was not any creature hailing from anywhere in the Verdant Kingdoms, and speculated that it was likely that Grok did not even hail from anywhere on the material plane. There was just something disturbing and unnatural about him. It was around that time that Venoxxis showed up at the bottom of the corridor separated by the two portcullises.

A fight ensued, which lead down the corridor and into the room with the fluttering imps, further into the wine storage room and back to the throne room. It was clear that Venoxxis had no place to hide but was still dangerous and the heroes decided to pursue until they had defeated the spider. The killing blow was landed by Emrys, who had been hovering in the throne room in an attempt to get a good angle at the spider, which was hanging upside down from the balcony. Emrys had release Toruviel, who was hovering dangerously into the air. Once the blade struck, it repeatedly stabbed the spider in its hundreds of eyes until the could no longer cling to the balcony and fell to the ground, dead. After a moment, the body began to bubble and dissipate, just like it did with Xamael the Defiler.

When the heroes finally came back to Arkenward’s sanctum, Emrys had brought a bottle of wine with him, which he immediately had to hand off to Quentin in order to get him to back off of Grok. Quentin had been advancing on Grok in a threatening manner and the creature was starting to get agitated.

Once Grok had calmed down they asked it about the girl, and Grok explained that Arkenward would sometimes come to interrogate the girl. He would deprive all of the prisoners of food and it meant that the prisoners ended up feeding on one of the skaven prisoners. Luca decided to read Arkenward’s notes on the girl;

Through my connections at court I was asked to travel to Wulferton to investigate a strange occurrence surrounding Maya, this young girl. She had been displaying odd behaviour that required some attention. Who she is and what family she belongs to is unimportant for now. What is important is that I quickly came to the conclusion that this girl has been possessed by a demonic spirit.

The girl is violent, untameable and occasionally resorts to speaking in the abyssal tongue while she attacks her family and staff. I have come to make contact with what I believe to be the spirit which is mounting her. It doesn’t want to relinquish its name, but I believe that through deprivation I will be able to coerce it into revealing more, perhaps even its identity.

Maya’s family has a long history of occult sensitivity and I have a working hypothesis that this, in combination with a young mind, makes her especially susceptible to being a conduit for demonic possession. I also believe that this might be cross-planar – cross seal! As it would be most unlikely for the demon to keep itself hidden from my magic as well as translocation to my sanctum.

The one thing that is antithetical to that hypothesis is that I have never come across a reference of this kind of cross-planar possession being possible. Either this was rare (or unnecessary) during the Age of Fear, leaving the scholars to not mention it, or it is a new weapon the demonic forces have brought to bear.

James wondered aloud why Arkenward had attempted an exorcism with a priest before heading down to the wine room to refill his bag of thievery with as many wine bottles as he could carry. He could not find any food, which tracked with what Grok had said about Arkenward depriving the prisoners of any food.

Further conversations with Grok revealed that the tentacle-faced creatures had come together with several men, all of which ended up dead. Emrys observed Grok for a long time and concluded that while he was stupid, there was an animal cunning in him that made Emrys uneasy. There was enough of a predator in this creature that it would be dangerous for the heroes to let their guard down.

It was at that time that Luca had been experimenting with Atilesceon’s robes to find out whether or not Arkenward’s location was extra-planar. He knew that the robes would allow for him to shift into the astral sea, but that had never worked because of the Seal of Divine Animus. He found that it still did not work, and so his conclusion was that wherever this sanctum was, was somewhere in the ethereal mist.

Investigating their surroundings further, Luca noticed that the book that one of the tentacle-faced creatures was perusing was a book on translocation magic and pocket dimensions. He came up with another idea; he could try to use his magic to banish someone. If Luca chose a subject that was originally from the material plane he would be able to ascertain where they were by attempting to banish them. If they were on the material plane, the banishment could be made permanent, given enough time. If they were not, then the banishment would always be temporary.

Quentin briefly tried to convince Luca to banish Grok since he saw the creatures presence as an evil affliction, but Luca refused. Instead, Luca asked for the others to go through the books to find spells or rituals while he took the time to rest. He would need to gather strength in order to perform the magic he was intending. James did not feel like he could be of service, while Quentin tried but did not get very far. Luckily Emrys was more successful and found a powerful conjuration spell which allowed the caster to conjure up an enormous extradimensional dwelling, which could be a clue to their whereabouts.

The Third Tablet of the Elemental Eye

Previously, the Heroes of the White Eye had made their way through the sanctum of Dr. Arkenward, looking for a way to retrieve one of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye they knew to have hidden there, they quickly found that sanctum was littered with guardians and traps. They also found the bodies of several rogues that preceded them. It all eventually lead them to a strange room which had several dangerous looking creatures chained up in it.

Tenth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

As the companions gathered at the entrance to the next room in Arkenward’s strange sanctum which seemed to hold a bizarre collection of prisoners, mostly ghastly or savage. Among them were some of the creatures they had known to have been sighted throughout the Verdant Kingdoms over the last couple of months, including the loathsome skaven which the heroes had encountered several times.

Another creature which was seemingly roaming free, was a strange spider which had mounted the body of a man, which had had pumped full of its brood, which were bursting forth from large, bulbous blisters along its torso. It was a creature the heroes were keen to avoid running into.

Emrys knew that beyond the room with the prisoners lay a room which looked like a study. In that room was a strange humanoid with a bulbous head and tentacles where its face should be. It was scanning some of the books in the library. The heroes felt like they should get inside that room without confronting the spider and its offspring.

It was decided that while Emrys and James were still invisible, they would return to the corridor they had found in the previous room. Emrys had found that the corridor connected the previous room with the imps in it to the study directly, but it was barred by two portcullises on each end of the corridor. Emrys would once again use his ability of polymorphy and turn both himself and James into mice so that they could sneak through the bars of the portcullis and make it into the room beyond. In the meantime, Luca would once again use his power of translocation to portal himself and Quentin into the room beyond.

Before doing so, Luca turned to Blackstar and negotiated for more magical power. Predictably, the spirit in the staff barked at Luca to feed it another soul but Luca maintained control of the staff. As the magical power transferred from the staff into Luca it was converted from a dark into a radiant one, and Aurion’s words of warning returned to him; Luca’s master would only allow him to use the staff as long as he could maintain control of it.

The plan worked well and the heroes found themselves inside the room beyond the room with the prisoners. It appeared that there was not one, but two strange humanoids with the bulbous heads and tentacled faces. Each was levitating in front of a bookshelf, perusing the books. They had not noticed the heroes stealthily gaining entrance to the room and for long moments the heroes did not know how to proceed. Until…

Suddenly, a telepathic voice called out. Emrys and Luca rejected the intrusion, but Quentin and James couldn’t manage. The voice spoke out in a crude way, calling itself Grok and telling the heroes that it was captured and forced to carry things for the two humanoids.

Eventually, the heroes decided to engage the two humanoids. Quentin stepped forward and challenged the nearest humanoid. It turned around and without hesitation engaged the heroes. The second did as well, and it was at that moment that Grok made itself known; it sprang from its hiding place and darted to the other side of the room, away from the combat that was about to take place. It looked like a four foot creature with the body of a simian and the ears of a bat, with large claws and a slobbering mouth filled with sharp teeth.

The first thing the nearest levitating humanoid did was attempt to overwhelm the heroes with a psychic wave of excruciating pain. Emrys was so stunned by the blast that he was unable to gather his senses. The rest shrugged it off and tried to engage the two humanoids.

Ultimately the fight was short and the heroes were victorious. When the first of the humanoids went down it swore that the “Upright Man would not be opposed,” which caught the attention of some of the heroes who had heard that name before.

While James used the portcullis, which still separated the room the heroes were in from the room with the prisoners, to take an easy aim at the spider, the spider retaliated by spreading webbing which made it more difficult to be taken aim at. Eventually it moved out of line of sight. James continued to keep an eye on the room because he had noticed that one of the prisoners was a young girl that he instinctively wanted to protect from the spider.

Luca and Quentin spent some time looking for a mechanism which would allow them to open the portcullis leading back into the corridor, which they found, cleverly hidden in an alcove in the wall covered with a cloth which was dyed to look like stone. They did so while Grok had found the courage to emerge from his hiding place.

Eventually, the heroes found a large metal-rimmed, stone tablet with primordial script on it. They had found what they had come for, but how were they going to return back to Kingsport with it?

A Ghastly Menagerie

Previously, the heroes managed to find their way into Dr. Arkenward’s sanctum and were confronted by a guardian which reminded them of the statue guarding the portal at the top of Atilesceon’s tower. They managed to pass by the guardian, but not without picking up some bumps and bruises, only to find a large throne room, as well as a storage room filled with large barrels of wine.

Tenth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

The heroes had made their way through the throne room, finding little of interest, and up to the balcony looking down upon it. At the back of the balcony they found a doorway leading to a new room which held a dozens of enormous barrels, each of them seemingly filled with wine. Mallets, spigots and bottles could be found here and there, all meant to facilitate the tapping of kegs and barrels, and the sampling and bottling of wines.

In the south-western corner of the room was another doorway, and close to it, some people had set up a makeshift camp around the chopped up remains of a small barrel, which served as fuel for a rather impressive bonfire. Two bedrolls and a few personal items could be found there. The southern end of the room had a high wall, which opened up to the next room beyond.

While Luca and Quentin inspected the quality of the wine that was stored in the room, deeming it “average”, James scouted ahead to the next room through the corridor in the south-west of the room. He reported back that the room beyond was dotted with strange pillars with green, glowing crystals on it, while a group of a dozen imps were fluttering among the pillars. It was decided that it would be for the best to try and bypass that room, if possible.

The northern part of the room gave way to the wine room, while in the north-east there was a portcullis which lead to a corridor. The eastern wall was high, but opened up to another room running along-side; due to the angle it was difficult to see what the next room held.

The heroes remembered that Sadwick, Atilesceon’s imp familiar, had not been a particularly power opponent, but was a sufficient nuisance in combat that it was unwise to confront the imps directly. James and Emrys, cloaked in invisibility, would move ahead and establish a safe spot, and Luca would then communicate the location of that spot with James, using the earrings of whispers.

As James and Emrys moved up and turned invisible, Emrys felt that he lost control of the magic that welled up in side of him. He felt the urge of his body to move, to jump, to shift through time and space, and he found that he could make short jumps of translocation. In his enthusiasm he forgot about James and jumped into the corridor beyond the portcullis. James, unsure of what happened, relayed his shock back to Luca and stayed put.

The corridor behind the portcullis sloped upwards and lead to the room behind the room that ran parallel to the room with the imps. In that room Emrys noticed that several creatures were chained up against the wall, or locked away in cages if they were bigger. The room he entered in and the other room were also locked from one another by a portcullis, and just inside the room with the imprisoned creatures Emrys saw a gruesome sight; a spider-like creature had mounted a man, had two of its front legs burrowed deep into its torso, and seemed to be pumping it full of… something. The body was bloated and distended as a result of it.

Horrified, Emrys thought of retreating, comforted only by the fact that a heavy portcullis stood between him and the abomination. He turned around and inspected the room he was standing in, only to find that it was filled with objects, art and books. A strange figure wearing a long, collared robes, who had not noticed Emrys, floated in front of one of Arkenward’s bookcases. A tome was hovering in front of it, with pages slowly turning as the figure was absorbing the contents. It didn’t take long before the tome closed and was gently placed back in its place on the shelf. The levitating figure moved to a different bookcase and it was then that Emrys got a look at its face; a mauve coloured, bulbous head with a mass of tentacles running down its face where its mouth should have been.

This was more than Emrys had bargained for. He felt the surge of magic that allowed him to translocate ebbing away, and he knew that it would dissipate soon. Not wanting to get separated from his companions, he decided to return back to the room with the imps. The last few jumps left in the surge allowed him to jump past the pillars without disturbing the imps. He did come to realise that the pillars emanated an aura which slowed the body and befuddled the mind. Getting stuck inside of the aura while the imps were disturbed would be dangerous.

In the meantime, Luca and James discussed how to proceed without Emrys. It was decided that Luca and Quentin would move up to the entrance of the room with the pillars and imps, while James would attempt to sneak past the imps while he still had the benefit of invisibility. Once James could confirm that the corridor in the south-east of the imp’s room was safe, Luca would portal Quentin and himself there.

Luca used the earring to talk to James who said he didn’t know where Emrys was, but when he arrived at the doorway managed to re-establish contact with Emrys, despite them both being invisible. James confirmed that he had found another body of an intruder, which looked to have been savaged by the imps.

Luca and Quentin tried to get into place as stealthily as they could managed, which was not saying much. Luca could not seem to manage to stay quiet, even though Quentin managed quite well, despite feeling frustrated by always being out of his element; either by not being able to see in the dark, or by having to skulk about while wearing his armour. Despite all of the trouble and frustration they managed not to disturb the imps, and portalled to the end of the room to meet up with Emrys and James again.

Emrys shared what he had seen in the room beyond and when people took a glimpse inside the room, they saw that several creatures were chained to the wall. Most notably, a khazra, a skaven, an imp as well as a young, human girl and a creature that looked a bit like an ape with sharp claws and a hideous face. There were also several cages, one held a rat ogre, moving restlessly back and forth, while another held what looked to be an enormous man with the head of a bull. A third cage held another ghastly creature which looked somewhat like an orc, but with ghastly horns and spikes protruding from its back and arms. A fourth cage seemed broken and empty. Then there was the bloated body of the man who had a wicked spider mounted atop it. Some of the bulbous swelling that Emrys had spotted had burst open and spiders had crawled out, three in total.

And in the middle of the room was an examination table, which had a strange humanoid creature on it, with its body cut open with great precision, displaying its insides. It was another one of the tentacle-faced creatures that Emrys had noticed in the room beyond.