A Game of Dice

Session 17
Explosions both literal and metaphorical

Nev and Alara reach the tower on the east coast of Aelaria, to find that the local townspeople and refugees have pragmatically dealt with it and are using the tower as storage space, kind of like a demonic Big Yellow. Deciding that this seems fine, and that one tower is unlikely to pose much of a threat, they turn their attentions to getting something worthwhile out of the trip. They learn that some rare books were discovered in the tower, which they decide to take with them. The rarest is a Manual of Swiftness of Action, which they agree to read together. Having achieved… something, they decide to return to the group.
En route, they see a plume of black smoke billowing up from Northall. Worried that the rest of the party may have had something to do with it, they set down to find Shandra and Rhandi arguing over whether it was their fault. Before a straight answer can be wrangled out of them, Terek’s direwolf appears with a message for the wizards, and Nev follows it back towards the smouldering wreck of the fortifications.

Meanwhile, the party pick themselves up and put themselves out, to find fire everywhere. Vesuvion summons the tentacle-y void to extinguish the flames, which works surprisingly well. Within the ruins of the tower, the party finds a firey portal, which burns Vallyn when he sticks his hand into it. As Nia invokes the fury of the heavens and goes to town on the portal with her warhammer, the rest of the party manage to piece together a map of the invasion plan from the fragments of documents in the room. Nev arrives, and has this explained to him, not long before Nia finally (with a little magical assistance from Vallyn) smashes the portal. The party decides, based on the map, to attempt a strike at the fortress over the River Enjay, with the help of their remaining animated armours and the bandits Alara had set to harrassing the demonic supply lines. During the night, Nia dreams that she is visited by Armok, who praises her work against the demons, and grants her a divine necklace to aid her in her quest. Meanwhile, Vallyn is visited by the god of chaos, who wants to call in her favour – she would like him to retrieve an artefact from the demonic realm to which the portals lead. Having met up with Alara’s bandits (with the help of various woodland creatures), the party plans to go down the river, with the armoured folks in barrels, with the armours and bandits providing a distraction to allow the party to get inside the tower and find a way to destroy the fort. Unfortunately, in summoning the barrels, Vesuvion summons one made entirely of screaming rat heads, with makes Nia and Terek a little upset. Nia grabs Vesuvion, but is paralyzed by Terek’s magic, and agrees to deal with the fort before dealing with Vesuvion. The plan goes off mostly without a hitch, though requiring some application of magic from Terek to prevent discovery. The distraction attack is launched, and the party storms into the tower. Terek, Nev, and Alara go upstairs and find a store of alchemist’s fire that explains the explosion from the last fort. Downstairs, the rest of the party find a winged demon, dispatching it with relative ease once Terek, Demonslayer, comes downstairs and hits it with his hammer. The demon dispatched, Nia attempts to smash the portal, much to Vallyn’s dismay.

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Session 16 (possibly?)

(Going by Tom’s week-count in the overview)

Having recovered from the attack by the demon scouting group, the party proceed to teleport to the Terek townhouse in Aelaris as planned. They then go to the palace and barge into a formal war meeting to point out that Lina and Alara are here so everybody should stop paying any attention to Jorg (or probably Petey) now. Everybody eventually agrees to let Lina run things for now (effectively queen, but without a formal coronation until little things like demon armies are dealt with).

Firstly, though, the party collect the 2000gp (+3000sp) reward for bringing the princesses back, and promptly go on a shopping spree.

Some discussion is then held about what the most effective way to counter the demon threat might be. The book that controls the suits of armour in Scorax City is handed over to magically-minded nobles who wish to play with it. Lina stays with the War Council to advise their next moves, and Terek and Nia also think they may be of most use being diplomatic in the capital. Vallyn, Thea, Vesuvion and Nev decide to return to Fellwalk to see if they can convince their friendly dragon to help fight the demon army. However, before they can leave the city, a funeral procession arrives from Easthall, carrying the body of [insert appropriate noble here], apparently slain in a surprise demon attack that came from nowhere. This strengthens the resolve of the party to further investigate the portal system, as it seems likely that’s where the demons appeared from.

Vallyn, Vesuvion, Thea and Nev attempt to teleport directly to Fellwalk, but unfortunately end up a day or so’s walk to the west, in the mountains, where they are eventually spotted by a very large ice dragon. It is not the one they befriended before. However, it is the mate of the one they befriended before, which it grudgingly agrees to fetch so long as the party promise not to approach Fellwalk (now the dragons’ home) any more closely. The party, of course, duly promise. Dragon the ice dragon from Scorax City arrives, is shocked to hear of Hesiah’s death, and flies off to fight the demon army near Woodpig. The party promptly revise their promise downwards and decide to attempt to get into the cave system under Fellwalk which Nev remembers and which might well contain a portal somewhere. Unfortunately, in attempting to get within the walls of Fellwalk, they alert the remaining dragon, who after being made quite angry by all the promise-breaking eventually agrees to allow the party into the tunnels if they leave one member behind. Thea remains and is immediately encased in an ice prison.

Vallyn, Nev and Vesuvion follow a tunnel that Nev and Terek never went down as kids due to it being dark and scary, and discover three wolves guarding a portal. Having dispatched the wolves, they discover the somewhat decayed remains of Egros’s hand beside the portal, still clutching a hammer decorated with Artell crests, as well as wearing lots of Artell-y rings. Vallyn takes the hammer, Vesuvion the decayed hand. Passing through the portal into the portal room, the reduced party start to investigate where various portals lead. (They do also note suits of armour outside the tower being haphazardly dragged around and occasionally crashing into walls/abysses.) The Caston portal is chosen first, as it might potentially lead directly to Aelaris; however, it seems to lead to an underground cave with a large lake cutting anyone (without a boat) off from getting to the surface. Vesuvion’s familiar is sent on reconnaissance and the party eventually determine that they are in fact on an island in the sea to the west of Parrot Bay. [I think there’s another one here we investigated and I’ve forgotten.] The party then decide to go through the penguin-themed portal which, presumably, leads to House Herreby’s lands.

This portal opens in a broom closet. Outside the broom closet is a glass dome with a viewing terrace over a beach full of penguins. Vesuvion talks to the penguins a bit, who don’t say anything particularly interesting except that people used to come and feed them fish, but then they were told no more people would be coming. Faced with a locked door, the party attempt to batter it down and soon draw the attention of a bright blue shaft of light which wants to know what they’re doing there and eventually sends a golem to accompany them to the main entrance – which turns out to be through several more domes full of penguins. The entrance is full of penguin-related banners, statues etc and a sign that says ‘Welcome to the Herreby Penguins.’ Inside, a bright blue crystal accuses them of having a bit of its brain (the blue crystal that Vesuvion has been carrying around which was constantly issuing a ‘warning’ signal), threatens to kill them a few times over, but eventually lets slip that it lost its friends – other crystals like it – when it fell into this plane. The party suggests that one of those might be the giant red crystal encountered in Scorax City, and mentions that there’s a portal to there, whereupon the blue crystal suddenly decides they might be useful after all. Streaking through the portal (leaving a trail of blue crystals in its wake), it has a chat with its old red friends. Nev wanders off to investigate the rest of the complex and discovers a) more domes of penguins, b) a gift shop and c) a village that seems to have been deserted since about the time the blue crystal took over running the placeā€¦

Eventually, the party venture back through the portal into the portal room, where the red and blue crystals are deep in conversation. Finally daring to interrupt, Vesuvion asks a few questions and discovers the following: the portals were created by the red crystal in an attempt to find his friends. Prior to the party, only one person had been going back and forth through the portals beforehand. No demon armies or wolf packs have been brought through the portal room directly.

With all this information in hand, Vesuvion, Vallyn and Nev decide it’s time to get back to Aelaris. They head back through the Fellwalk portal, collect Thea, forcibly dissuade Nev from attempting to suicidally prove to the dragon that this was his home, head out into the hills for one night and then teleport back to Aelaris.

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Session 12

The party let go any of the resucees who wished to remain in the city, and set out for the South gate. Failing to bluff their way past the guards, they were forced to attack and kill them all. Morthos and Ardik used this opportunity to flee, taking the Emperor’s sister with them, to Vesuvian’s fury.
Escaping from the city, the party resolved to march for the border to the South-west, across the desert. Leaving the road, Terek led the civilians ahead, as the others fell back as a rearguard.
The demonic spiky guard spotted them and attacked. Felling two, the party attempted to retreat, leaving Vallyn and Hesiah to hold off the next wave. Hesiah sent Vallyn to flee, and fought courageously, bringing down many of the attackers, before being knocked to the ground. When he awoke, the demons attempted to discover from him where the party had gone, but he fought on, and has not been seen since…
The survivors made it a week across the desert, and arrived in a small town (Linx?) from which they intend to cross the border into Dunmar.

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Session 11

After talking down the Emperor’s guards by hinting at a greater threat that had killed both kings, the party traveled to the next town, where the corpse was preserved. After a quick bit of shopping, they traveled on to capital.
After being presented to the new Emperor, Drax, and explaining the circumstances of his father’s death, the party were conducted to Princess Lena. It quickly became clear that all was not well.
Drax had been infusing himself with demon’s blood, using the palace’s women as sacrifices. The party eventually resolved to break them all out, using a secret passage revealed to them by one of the prisoners, a young girl, the daughter of the Emperor of Scoraxia, with a predilection for pyrotechnics. Knocking out the guards and escorting the prisoners out of the cells and down to the palace library. Entering a secret passage behind the bookshelf, they covered their escape by setting fire to the library, much to Vesuvian’s disgust.
Finding themselves in a totownhouse in the suburbs owned by ‘the man with the funny head’, the party began to make plans to escape the city.
Nev went to contact the criminal underworld and arranged for a set of empty water wagons to be found by the east gate, in exchange for arranging a meeting between two ‘friends’ of his contact and the group of Aelarians that had just arrived in the city.
Hesiah obtained a a bag of Scoraxian clothes for the escapees.
Terek talked to the princess, explaining the succession crisis, and the other two potential candidates. Although in Scoraxian eyes, she and Drax were married, Terek believes that he would not be able to apply a claim on Aelaris. He pledged House Artell’s support if she claimed the throne. She then explained that the great King Aelar was still alive, and in the library…

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Session 10

The party arrived in B’rx to find a mob of villagers preparing to lynch Ardik and Morthos after they caused a fire and burnt down a tavern. The party quickly discovered that they had trapped the bridge to attempt to assassinate the Scoraxian Emperor.
Rushing to cross the bridge, they caused the Emperor to turn back. He sent his guards to disable the trap, but they tripped it, destroying the bridge. Agreeing to travel to the capital with the Emperor, they set out across the desert.
A few nights into the journey, the party was awakened by the shout of ‘the Emperor’s dead’. It appeared that he had been poisoned in the night.

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Session 9.5
Vallyn's Wild Ride

Vallyn quickly discovered from Lina that this was not the world he had left. He was apparently king of Aelaria, and at war with Scoraxia and an army of demons. Scoraxians had conquered much of the Westfold, as well as Aelaris, while an army from Eastfold had breached the wall and taken control of much of the eastern part of Scoraxia, laying seige to Br’X.

Suspecting that this was more of the chaos god’s bullshittery, he decided not to do as she suggested and Wish his way out, and broke out of jail with Derek and Lina with an ease that suggested that this was indeed divine bluffing. While escaping, the group discovered that Morthos was also imprisoned in the dungeon, and with him created a huge prison break to cover their escape. Vallyn, however, wanted to try and recover the Cli Lyre before escaping. He snuck across the courtyard as escaping prisoners were gruesomely dispatched by fireballs, and made his way to the theatre, where he discovered the lyre in the centre of the stage, being played by the little god of chaos. Once again, she tried to entice him to Wish for the lyre, but he refused, and was suddenly confronted by the Emperor of Scoraxia, who, as it happened, was a pit fiend.

Vallyn fled the pit-Emperor-fiend back to the others, dodging fireballs as he went, and in order to escape Morthos cast fly on the group. Unfortunately, they were not fast enough to escape the pit fiend, and so landed in the city to try and escape. Despite their best efforts, the four found themselves trapped between a rock (pit fiend) and a hard place (the Scoraxian army). At this point, the small girl appeared once more. Vallyn, seeing no other option, gave in and asked to return to the temple, and his choice.

Smiling, the little girl returned Vallyn to the temple. She gave him the choice once again of the cards he had drawn, but refused him the choice of the Moon. Vallyn, unable to choose just one, struck a deal with the god – in return for a favour at a later date, he could choose two cards. As he was about to make his decision, the little girl told him that not everything he had seen in the vision was false – some of it represented events that may come to pass in the near future. Considering this, Vallyn took the Star and Knight, and left the temple, finding himself standing with the rest of the party, as well as a new friend – Thia Nightflower. (It seems that Derek had simply been an illusion conjured by the god, rather than a true knight summoned by the Deck.)

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Session 9

Having recovered from their encounter with the Beholder, the party sets out to escape through another tunnel. While travelling through the tunnel, Vallyn is grabbed by an earth elemental! After fighting it for a short while, the party realises the elemental is not actually trying to attack them, merely attempting a friendly hug, and manage to communicate with the elemental (and its friend) via Vesuvion’s telepathy. The elementals lead the party to an exit into the desert, and tell them that a temple in the mountains may hold the power to restore Vesuvion.

The party progresses into the foothills of the mountains, where they see a campfire up ahead. Vallyn and Nev sneak up to see what is happening, and see that the camp is about to be attacked by wolves! Vallyn runs forward to help the travellers fight the wolves, while Nev runs back to get the others. Unfortunately, despite Vallyn’s heroic efforts, four of the five travellers were killed by wolves before they could organise themselves. Vallyn was able to hold off the wolves from the last traveller until Nev and Terek arrived, and between them they turned the tide of battle against the wolves. (In a sad turn of events, Terek has still clearly not dealt with the traumatic issues surrounding his family’s death, and failed to successfully attack a single wolf.) However, the wolves turned out to have frost powers, and it was not until Hesiah and Vesuvion finally arrived that the last wolf was finished off. Helping the remaining traveller to bury his friends, the party learn that they have already travelled through a temple ahead which forms an easy route to the north and Br’X, and that this is part of some god’s mind game. Undeterred, after resting for the night, the party continues onwards to the temple (with Vesuvion now perched awkwardly on a spare horse from the travellers’ camp), where they must enter one at a time.

Inside the entrance to the temple, Hesiah finds four doors; Tunnel to Br’X, Tunnel to the North, Answers, and Power. He chose answers, and was met by a small girl in a very large room, who gave him some rather unsatisfactory answers to his question regarding Terek’s ultimate fate. Not falling for the trap of asking more questions, Hesiah left through a bright white exit door and found himself on the other side of the temple/tunnel.

Terek entered next, and saw the doors Tunnel to Br’X, Tunnel to Aelaris, Power, and Father. His fate is as yet unknown.

Vesuvion found the Tunnel to Br’X, the Arcane Library, Answers, and Restoration. He chose Restoration, and passed through to find a small tree with a single green fruit on it. As he approached the tree, a voice of a young girl declared that the tree was the Tree of Life and that the green fruit would completely heal and restore him. Finding no reason to disbelieve the voice Vesuvion ate the fruit, causing a golden light to envelop him, gradually morphing his stone limbs back to flesh and blood, and healing all of his wounds and scars bar the numbers carved into his upper arm. At this point a bright, white exit door, approximately 7 feet tall appears and the same female voice says that he can either leave now or taste some of the other fruits of the tree- the blue fruit of knowledge or the red fruit of power. As this is said the tree grows and the two aforementioned fruits appear. Vesuvion chooses the blue fruit and as he plucks it from the tree the exit disappears. He bites into it and feels his mind expand. At the same time the exit reappears, but is now a foot shorter and a foot narrower, and the side of the tree with the blue fruit grows, revealing more fruit higher up; larger and more succulent than those below. The voice points out the larger the fruit the more illuminating the knowledge contained. Vesuvion climbed higher and higher into the tree eating the fruit and ignoring the swiftly shrinking exits that appeared and disappeared as he climbed. The tree grew evermore difficult to climb and Vesuvion fell several times, suffering grievous injury the first time he fell but using Feather Fall upon the following mishaps to avoid the damage. Eventually reached the top of the tree and was faced with a two foot by one foot door and a fruit which the voice promised would allow him to really understand what was going on. Trusting the voice and confident that he could use his magic to escape through any sized portal Vesuvion ate the last fruit and saw a vision of four giant crystals, the one already seen in Scoraxia and three others, giving him an understanding of their basic nature. The initial seven foot by five foot exit reappeared and not wishing to push his luck any further and still overwhelmed by what he had learnt Vesuvion steps through the portal, finding himself standing alongside Hesiah.

The traveller entered, and passed straight through to Br’X (or says he did, anyway).

Vallyn entered, finding four doors: Tunnel to Br’X, Deck of Many Things, Answers, and Vengeance. He passed through the door to the Deck, and found exactly what he expected. He drew seven cards; Key, which gave him the Cli Lyre, Jester, The Fates, Star, Knight, and Donjon – which he returned to the deck using the power of The Fates. He then drew Gem, followed by Ruin, and Moon. He then declared to draw one more card, which was Comet. He dared to draw again, and received the Throne, which caused what appeared to be the crown of Aelaria to appear on his head. At this point, the small girl appeared, and offered to allow Vallyn to leave with one of the cards. Despite her threats, Vallyn chose to use a Wish to escape with all of the cards, and appeared in the throne room of the Emperor of Scorax, along with the various benefits he had gained, including Derek Bartell, his knight. The two were immediately thrown into prison, opposite… Lina Caston. The small girl reappeared in Lina Caston’s cell, declared that Vallyn had cheated, and threatened to kill Lina.

Nevan found the Tunnel to Br’X, Riches, The Road to Mastery, and Terek’s Safety. He picked the Road to Mastery, and found himself in a crowded city bar with three figures in cloaks walking away from him – a black cloak, a blue cloak and a red cloak. He chose to follow the blue-cloaked figure and soon found himself chasing it over rooftops, scaling high towers and jumping off them, and eventually making an improbable leap over a huge canyon (ignoring bright white exit doors which kept appearing beside him and growing worryingly smaller every time he ignored them). He eventually chose to leave when the door had shrunk to 3′×2′ in size, whereupon the cloaked figure turned back and asked if he didn’t truly want mastery? If he followed the figure, it offered perfection. When questioned as to what type of perfection, it said ‘trust.’ Nevan decided that this sounded far, far too good to be true, and crawled through the tiny door to find Hesiah and Vesuvion awaiting him on the other side.

At the point in time at which Vallyn’s wish was made, the party standing outside the temple feel a strange ripple going through reality, and looking down at Br’X are sure it wasn’t on fire before…

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Session 8

The party begins their descent of the tower(which is not as easy as it looks), but quickly find another sealed room, containing a huge iron-bound book. However, as Alara is about to descend, she reveals that she has faerie wings, and flutters down without any trouble. The party succeeds in retrieving the book from its stand by rigging a rope across the room, and having Alara tightrope walk across with the book, with the help of Vesuvion’s Mage Hand. Removing the book caused most of the floor to disappear, revealing a huge, spiky, pulsating red crystal beneath them. Nev was the first to continue the climb down but lost his grip and fell away from the tower. Thinking quickly Vesuvion jumped out of the window after him, casting Featherfall on Nev and himself so they both floated safely down. Dragging the book with them, the rest of the party climbed down the rest of the tower , onto the roof of the palace of old Scorax City. Hesiah leapt from the roof into a building opposite, leaving the others to descend into the palace through the roof, where they found a hoard of treasure.

Below the building, Hesiah discovered a white dragon and its companion, who had been living beneath Scorax City since its destruction a century earlier. Despite the presence of animated armours, the rest of the party were able to join Hesiah eventually, where they learned of the true history of Aelaria and Scorax from the dragon and his companion, one of King Aelar’s party who had effected this destruction. Terek offered the dragon safe passage to the hills near Fellwalk, and Alara left with the dragon and his companion to ensure that the country would not be too disrupted.

The party was forced to drop down to the catacombs below the city to escape the animated armours drawn by the dragon’s dramatic exit, whereupon Vesuvion and Vallyn went off alone, exploring an abandoned tunnel. In this tunnel they encountered Norg, a spectator who through a stroke of luck managed to incapacitate the two, dragging them off to his lord, the Beholder Norlem. The rest of the party attempted to rescue Team Elf, but were unable to prevent Vesuvion from launching an attack on the Beholder, who subsequently partially petrified the warlock, and demanded a tribute of 1000 souls and 1000 demonic bouncy balls. The number ‘1000’ appeared twice on Vesuvion’s petrified arm…

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Session 7

While Hesiah and Vesuvion were off fighting in the goblin caves, Terek and Vallyn had a discussion with Alara Greatwood about how possible it would be for her to return to Aelaris. Vallyn, having seen her before when she was younger, can confirm that she probably wouldn’t be recognised unless she met someone who knew her – however, if Petey Whitecastle is running the country as regent, she probably won’t be able to e.g. enter the palace to discuss things with him without running the risk of being unmasked. Shortly after this discussion, Nevan returned to the bandit camp, having managed to lose the goblins chasing him. He told the others that Hesiah and Vesuvion were inside the caves, but considering how hard it would be to follow them without attracting attention, everybody stayed in camp until the other two returned, grievously injured and carrying an owlbear egg.

The following day, after the nymph Eudora has been rescued from the ice demon who attacked her, she tells the party that they saved her life and she will therefore come with them to translate any discussion with the goblins. On the way to the goblin camp, however, four large wolves surround the group in a clearing, and a fight breaks out. The wolves are initially not totally visible, hidden within the trees as they are, but Vallyn uses faerie fire to outline one of them in violet flames and then Terek charges into the trees, heedless of personal safety, swearing vengeance on the species that destroyed his home and killed everyone he’s ever known who aren’t the people with him in this clearing. The wolves attack him as a pack, but are mostly defeated by his very crunchy plate armour – at least long enough for Vallyn and Hesiah to join him in the trees and start being violent. Vesuvion, Nevan and Eudora remain in the clearing, casting spells and shooting arrows variously. Over time, the wolves are blinded, confused, have a lot of holes poked in them, and eventually die after managing to bite Terek and Hesiah a couple of times and knocking Vallyn over twice. After Terek chops one into tiny pieces in the force of his vengeful rage, the final wolf is dispatched with a knife across its throat following a short debate about what one can really do with an unconscious wolf anyway. It’s at around this time that Vallyn notices that these wolves seem rather unusual – they behave more like plains wolves than forest wolves, and in fact they seem somewhat similar to the wolves that attacked Fellwalk, although a bit smaller.

Rather than standing around pondering these mysteries, the party moves on quickly to the goblin caves to escape any other wolves coming after them. Once there, Eudora helps to open negotiations with the Goblin King, who refuses to consider the idea of the goblins leaving their caves. Or ceasing to rob the bandits. He also somewhat dismisses the idea that any group of adventurers could get rid of the owlbears which forced his goblins from their previous home. He suggests that the bandits leave instead, but since that’s not at all what Alara proposed, another solution has to be found. Hesiah suggests that trial by combat might result in one of the party becoming the new goblin king and thus being able to order them to leave. He offers the honour of this fight to Terek, naturally. The Goblin King complains that Terek is much taller than him, and it wouldn’t be fair. However, a thumping from within the goblin caves soon turns out to be an ogre, who emerges, and who conveniently is equipped with a saddle to allow the goblin king to ride on him. This, the goblin king says, will make them equal combatants. Preparations for the fight go ahead while everybody except Terek hastily works out whether they can possibly help him in this fight without it appearing to be cheating. (Terek, of course, is sure that any assistance he gains will be his right, and is not cheating. Nobody tells him otherwise.)

Goblins and non-goblins take up position outside the cave entrance. Vesuvion establishes a mental link with Terek and skims the thoughts of the goblin king, relaying his plans to Terek to allow him to dodge many a blow. Vallyn, meanwhile, casts what spells he can to distract and hurt the ogre by mocking it, or to deflect its blows and keep Terek from harm. Hesiah shouts occasional helpful advice from the sidelines such as ’don’t get forced into the cave’, while Nev hovers nervously nearby being of very little use. Eudora watches, interested to see how the natural order pans out. At first, neither Terek nor the goblin/ogre combo can seem to get the advantage on each other, but the balance of the battle changes the second time Terek attempts to cut the goblin king’s harness off the ogre’s back. With the goblin on the ground, he is easily killed – particularly as the ogre has just been sufficiently distracted by Vallyn’s tactics to go after him instead. However, just as it looks like it might be a relatively simple job to finish off the ogre, a new threat appears – another owlbear, even larger than the one that Hesiah and Vesuvion encountered in the cave. It has been watching the fight until it makes a noise and is noticed. Nev shoots it with an arrow, which it doesn’t seem to like, then hides to avoid retribution. Goblins panic. Terek tries to shepherd them into following his orders, even going so far as to kill one of them for disobeying him, but it just seems to make things worse. He gives up and attempts to throw the goblin king’s crown to Nevan, but accidentally crowns one of the other goblins instead. However, this glorious reign is short-lived, as the owlbear hops down from the hillock and crushes multiple goblins under its claws, including the crowned one. Hesiah and Terek converge on the wounded, blinded ogre, planning to finish it off before turning their attentions to the owlbear, and manage to push it into the owlbear’s path. However, Vesuvion targets a spell directly at the owlbear, drawing its attention. Luckily, with everyone’s combined efforts, both the ogre and the owlbear are dispatched relatively easily, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

…that is, until they remember all the loot in the caves that the goblins stole from the bandits, which they could even now be removing and running off with. The front entrance was blocked by goblins fleeing into the caves away from the owlbear, so the party runs round to the owlbear lair entrance. Hesiah and Vesuvion mention that there was another passage which might have come out somewhere nearby, but nobody can see anything. Vesuvion and Vallyn sense something magical, but as it doesn’t respond to being prodded with a quarterstaff – and as wolves are still howling in the forest around – everyone heads in through the known owlbear entrance. From the owlbear cave – still a destroyed mess, now with a partially-buried owlbear corpse – Vallyn, Vesuvion and Terek go to investigate the other passageway. Nevan and Hesiah stay behind until they are called to follow, because a room with a very strange swirly orange-blue portal has been discovered. Everyone goes through the portal (after careful peeking through first) to find themselves in a strange nonagonal room with a giant green crystal embedded in its centre. From the crystal, lines of crushed red crystal lead to each of the walls, and in each wall there is yet another swirly orange-blue portal. Above each portal is carved the sigil of one of the Great Houses – with the portal leading back to the goblin caves surmounted with the tree sigil of House Greatwood. Everybody finds this rather concerning. Discussions are had about how dangerous this room is, who could possibly control it, whether anyone has heard of such a thing before, and where that trapdoor twenty feet up in the air might lead. The trapdoor that, now that they look at it closely, looks like it made be made from wood from a tree from somewhere well north of Aelaria. Discussions immediately turn to whether the crystal can or should be destroyed (probably yes, probably no unless some other escape route could be discovered), whether disrupting it would do any good (probably not as someone could just come back in the room and put things back the way they were), and whether anyone wants to go see what’s on the other side of the trapdoor before they’ve had a chance to recover from all the fighting (no). It’s decided to leave this problem for later and go deal with the goblin loot for now.

Back in the goblin caves, a helpful pair of goblins point the way down the loot tunnel before being sent off by Terek in the direction of the portal room. Everyone else attempts to interrupt Eudora’s translation of this before it gets underway, but the goblins leave anyway. Lots of shiny loot in a chest is discovered, and divided up equally between the party, who agree to return to the bandit camp to recover before revisiting the portal room. Back at the camp, Alara is eager to know everything that has happened, unsure about Eudora as a forest neighbour, and unconvinced by Vallyn’s story that they only recovered one gem from the goblin hoard. Everyone turns over all of the loot, except for one pocketful that Vallyn holds back, and 5 gems which Vesuvion has identified as magical (and deduces may be related to types of skills, and may be beneficial if used to boost them). Everyone rests and recovers. Hesiah checks on his owlbear egg – still making scritching noises – and packs it up to take with him. Nevan trades a pickpocketed amulet from Aelaris for some hard cash, and everyone gets a fifteenth of the recovered loot as a finder’s fee. In the morning, however, when the party come to return to the goblin caves, Alara insists on coming with them – possibly because she heard Vesuvion say something about portals, possibly because she just really doesn’t want to go to Aelaris with Petey Whitecastle.

Back at the caves, the portal is as it was left, as is the portal room on the other side. Alara demands that the trapdoor be opened, which Vesuvion does for her, and a rope ladder descends. She immediately scales it and climbs out of sight, heedless of warnings that this may not be anywhere in Aelaria. Everyone hastily follows her. From the tower top on which they emerge, the ruins of Scorax city can be seen all around. And within the ruins, there is movement…

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Session 6

Following the fight with the Bandits and the discovery that the leader of the bandits was Alara Greatwood the party headed to the bandit camp. Alara had previously agreed to return to the capital but needed time to pack and set her affairs in order before leaving. She also mentioned that the bandits had been experiencing a lot of trouble with the goblins in a nearby cave system, who often raided the bandit camp and stole their jewels. She reveals that she would be far more comfortable returning to the capital if the goblins were dealt with. Hesiah and Vesuvion agree to scout out the goblin lair for her and possibly recover the jewels. At the mention of jewels Nev’s ears prick up and he decides to come with them. Hesiah thinks that Terek will not be pleased with a plan to steal goods stolen by the Goblins from bandits who had also stolen them so the trio leave without informing him where they are going.

Heading towards the cave system Vesuvion and Hesiah moved very slowly and carefully to avoid making any noise, as they had heard that there are Owlbears and other dangerous creatures in this part of the forest and so do not want to alert them. Nev however was not so stealthy, frequently stepping on dry twigs and leaves. As no Owlbears appeared however and Nev is an experienced poacher Vesuvion and Hesiah reason that Nev probably knows what he is doing and that there was no need to be stealthy in the first place.

After about an hour of walking the group come across an area of the forest that seems to have been recently cleared, with a cave in a hill on the far side. Hesiah notices a pair of goblin guards sitting by a fallen tree near the entrance to the cave. The group decide to sneak past them and Vesuvion uses an illusion spell to create the sound of a branch breaking 30 feet away. After repeating the noise a couple of times the goblins go to investigate and Hesiah and Vesuvion manage to dash across the clearing into the cave while the goblins are distracted. Nev however is spotted by the goblins and after a brief telepathic conversation leads them off into the forest while Hesiah and Vesuvion head into the cave system. Before heading deeper they notice several crates containing strange fruits that are not natural to the area.

The caves are quite dark so Vesuvion cast Light on his arcane focus crystal so that Hesiah can see. After walking down the corridor for a while Heisah notices a cunningly hidden trip wire and stops Vesuvion from walking into it. Stepping carefully over the wire the pair find themselves in a large cavern which appears to have been enlarged by magic. Vesuvion notices that the ceiling seems to be magically and the pair decide that it would be a good idea for Hesiah to poke at it with his quarter staff. He does so and the ceiling instantly disappears and Hesiah is covered in a writhing mass of Ilarian Forest snakes, which are both highly poisonous and highly venomous. Vesuvion fires a blast of eldritch energy at the mass of snakes at Hesiah’s feet while Hesiah grabs a torch off the wall and uses it to frighten off most of the snakes covering him, which instantly slither over to Vesuvion, slithering up his robes and biting him. A look of complete disgust passes over his face as he points his finger at the snakes at his feet, utters a strange word and is surrounded by fire, which burns most of the snakes to a crisp. Hesiah then kills the remaining snakes that had climbed up inside Vesuivon’s robes.

The pair then continue deeper into the cave until the reach a three way fork in the path. Hearing noises down the right hand path and seeing strange large footprints heading down the left hand path they decide to follow the tracks. They soon reach a room filled with little goblin beds and more crates of the strange fruit. Continuing down they hear a large crowd of goblins cheering and the sound of metal on metal. They deduce that some sort of pit fight is going on, possibly involving the large creature whose’s tracks they followed. Reasoning that the pair of them could not fight that many goblins they retrace their steps, deftly evading a young goblin guard.

Returning to the three way fork they head down the centre path, which appears to be used much less frequently than any of the other paths. It leads to a large, dark, natural cavern filled with several large piles of leaves. Vesuvion is just able to see two tunnels leading out of the cavern on the opposite side. The pair carefully make their way across the cavern and when they reach the other side they hear what sounds like a large creature coming down the right hand tunnel. Vesuvion and Hesiah prepare themselves to attack whatever it is that is coming down the tunnel and soon see an enormous Owlbear carrying an armful of leaves. Upon seeing the light in Vesuvion’s hand the Owlbear drops the leaves and starts shrieking. The pair start to attack the creature but after being hit by a couple of spells it seems to recognise the warlock as the greater threat and after knocking Hesiah to one side it bites down on Vesuvion’s shoulder, causing him to pass out from bloodloss. Hesiah manages to draw the Owlbear away from the body of his friend, who is slowly bleeding to death, and retreats to the far side of the cave, where in the darkness he steps on an egg. After a long, drawn out fight a heavily wounded Hesiah just manages to finish off the Owlbear and rushes over to try and treat his friend. The first aid seems to not be working but when all seems to be lost Vesuvion starts coughing and spluttering and opens his eyes. The pair then realise that the sounds of the fight may have attracted the attention of the goblins and that they were in no shape for another fight. Before leaving the cave Hesiah retrieved the remaining egg as he figured that it would be unlikely to survive the death of it’s mother (yes they did check) as Owlbears mate for life and divide duties between them, with one responsible for hunting and one for caring for their young. They decide to head down the tunnel that the Owlbear came from , on the assumption that it leads to the outside. This turns out to be the case, and the pair make sure to make note of the location of the entrance as it now provides an easy way to enter the goblin caves without alerting the guards or setting off the traps in the first corridor. The journey back to the bandit camp is thankfully uneventful.

When they reach the camp they find that Nev returned several hours before they did and seems to be fine, although is somewhat annoyed at being abandoned with the pair of goblin guards. The pair are rushed to the camp’s healers, where they recount what they have learned to Alara and Terek. Hesiah asks if the bandits have tried negotiating with the goblins and Alara mentions that they haven’t because they lack a common language. She does mention an old legend about a being who lives in the lake to the south who can speak almost any language spoken within the forest. Hesiah, Vallyn and Vesuvion decide to go out and search for this being first thing in the morning. At first Hesiah fears that it may be a Black Dragon but then he remembers stories that he used to tell Terek about a beautiful woman who lived in the lake and realises that the stories may be connected.

It takes several hours to reach the lake and when they get there all seems calm. Vallyn and Vesuvion search the area while Hesiah meditates at the water’s edge, making patterns on the surface with his fingers. Suddenly an arm reaches out of the water and seizing hold of Hesiah’s arm it drags him into the lake. As Hesiah is dragged down into the depth Vesuvion attempt to telepathically communicate with the creature but all he gets is the sound of giggling before it disappears down into the Stygian depths of the lake. Reasoning that there is little chance of him catching up with the creature and no point in two people getting wet Vesuvion sits down at the edge of the lake to wait.

Meanwhile Hesiah is being dragged deeper and deeper into the lake until eventually he reaches an underwater castle. At this point they stop and Hesiah is able to get a good look at his assailant, a beautiful, elf-like, woman. She starts to talk to him and he manages to convey to her that he is unable to breathe, so she hands him a herb that enables him to breathe underwater. She reveals that she brought him down here because she liked the patterns he was making and this leads on to an extensive conversation about the web of life.

About half an hour later the water nymph, who has revealed her name to be Eudora, asks Hesiah about his friend waiting at the surface and the pair realise that he could be quite worried. Eudora therefore returns to the surface to fetch Vesuvion, who she also grabs and drags into the water. The warlock and the monk then explain the situation in the forest and that they could really use someone who is able to act as an interpretor during negotiations between the goblins and the bandits. Eudora explains that she is reluctant to interfere with the surface world but will think it over. She tells the pair to return to the surface and that she would give her answer some point that evening. They agree that this sounds reasonable and so return the surface, where Vallyn makes a fire for them to dry themselves and they wait until the evening when Eudora would give her answer.

As evening approaches the group see a large flying creature approach just as Eudora is surfacing. The temperature suddenly drops and it soon becomes clear that the creature is some kind of ice demon. Just as Eudora reaches the surface the demon fires a bolt of ice which freezes the water around her, trapping her. Vesuvion returns fire with a blast of eldritch energy while Vallyn and Hesiah try to help Eudora. The demon then changes focus and begins attacking Vesuvion before being drawn off by Hesiah. The monk and the demon start to fight while Vallyn manages to free Eudora from the ice. Vesuvion then unleashes an enormous stream of lightening that hits the demon straight in the middle of its chest, leaving a massive hole and instantly killing it. Hesiah and Vallyn turn to look at the warlock incredulously and he flatly says “I hate demons”.

With the demon dead, Eudora swims back to the shore and gratefully thanks the group for saving her life and agrees to help them deal with the goblins.

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