The Scales of War

The Aventure Log
Tales of the war within...
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The story so far

Danger approaches the city of Bridol in the Elsir Vale. A group of adventurers meets for the first time at a small tavern to speak of the future. A daring raid launched at the very heart of the city, and an epic journey begins.

The newfound companions, bound by ties forged in battle, are tasked with recovering the citizens and stolen treasures of Brindol. Their search leads them to the ancient burial chamber of the Rivenroar family. Many were the perils that awaited them…and many were the perils they overcame. Sadly, two of the prisoners died before they were rescued. Kartenix, the guard captain, was killed by ettercaps in the employ of the Red Hand. Adronsius, the dwarven alchemist, was tortured to death only minutes before the companions could reach him. However, in the end, the Hand and its leader, a hobgoblin known as Sinruth, were defeated by the adventurers.

Soon, however, the clarion call of war carried the adventurers, now known as Sideon’s Army, off to the dwarven city of Overlook in the west. An orcish invasion threatened the city’s western mountain pass outpost of Bordrin’s Watch, an invasion far more organized than had been seen in centuries. Led by a warlord known as Tusk, the orcs marched on Bordrin’s Watch, and every able-bodied fighting man or woman was called to the city’s aid. Sideon’s Army was tasked with sealing the underground mountain passages through which Tusk and his orcs sought to take the city from behind. Despite the arrival of Tusk and the vanguard of his forces, the Army was able to defeat the orcs and seal the passages. Bereft of a leader, the orcish army melted back into the badlands beyond the mountains.

With the defeat of Tusk, Sideon’s Army was able to piece together links between Sinruth, the Red Hand and the orcish invasion. The puzzle led them to hunt down a dark creeper called Modra, who they were soon to discover was connected to even darker interests beyond the Elsir Vale and the mortal realm itself…

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Through the portal
Recap to Nov 1 '09

After learning of the involvement of a dark creeper named Modra in the orc assault on the citadel of Bodrin’s Watch and the caverns beneath the Stonehome Mountains, Sideon’s Army investigated leads hinting at Modra’s involvement with the Lost Ones, Overlook’s thieves guild. Following a lead on Modra to a series of caverns beneath the city, the adventureres discovered a crackling dimensional portal guarded by strange shadow creatures. The party fought the creeper in a pitched battle before the strange portal as it grew more and more unstable. A tendril of shadowy darkness emanated from the portal and struck Modra, who disappeared from the room. Shortly thereafter, a burst of darkness emanating from the portal swept Sideon’s Army through the arcane doorway…

The unconscious party members first awoke to a familiar sight – the hall of the Court of Dreams. After a brief inquiry, the Court sent the party back to their bodies through the Dream, yielding more disturbing visions of horrors to come. The Army awoke to a strangely familiar, yet oddly reversed and gloomy portal chamber. Nearly identical yet reversed from the room the party just left, those of the companions with an arcane bent immediately recognized their surroundings – the Shadowfell.

Following signs of a struggle leading out of the portal chamber to the outdoors, the group found the vast expanse of shadowy plain, dominated by a huge volcano spewing reddish-black lava into a great rift and an immense tower atop a rocky crag. A short 1/4 mile to the north, situated between the mountain and the tower on the barren plains below, an immense army camp lay sprawled before the party. Glimpses from afar revealed that the camp was not uniform, but rather a collection of mercenaries of all races, and the party set out to see if they could blend in. Along the way, they were hailed by two dark creeper guards, who threatened them if they wandered too far from the camp.

Emboldened, the Army explored the camp and gathered what information it could. It learned that the master of Umbraforge tower (so named by the shadar-kai and mercenaries), Sarshan, was collecting mercenaries from both the mortal world and the Shadowfell for a war that would be waged in the mortal world. Sarshan seemed to be using a network of portals in the Shadowfell to move his armies into position, unseen. The party also discovered that their old nemesis, Modra, was at work with a clandestine plan to sabotage a magical foundry Sarshan was using to create beasts of war, mutated from their natural forms with shadow magic derived from the volcanic rift of Umbraforge. A shadar-kai witch associate of Sarshan approached the group with the details of Modra’s plot; she explained that while she had once worked side by side with Modra, she turned her back on him when he betrayed Sarshan and supplied a group of orcs with weapons to assault Overlook without the mercenary’s approval. However, she hoped the PCs would deal swiftly with the renegade creeper, as she did not wish to see her once-companion suffer the fate Sarshan would visit upon him. Leena drew a map of the dark foundry, indicating the location of a broken wall through which the companions could gain entry, as well as the secret tunnel used by Sarshan to move between the tower and the foundry. Modra’s assault on the foundry was to coincide with the departure of a large mercenary force, which would leave the foundry guards distracted and unprepared for an attack.

Shortly after arriving in the Shadowfell, the party also discovered that the camp and its environs was shaken by intermittent, violent tremors. As the friends explored the area surrounding the foundry, a particularly violent tremor knocked them from their feet, as a massive rent appeared before them. Beasts from the Elemental Chaos emerged from the rift and engaged the group in a brutal fight, extracting a heavy toll before falling. After defeating the creatures, horns alerted the companions to the departure of the mercenaries and the beginning of Modra’s assault. Arriving at the foundry, Sideon’s Army attempted to parley with the creeper and his forces, but the creeper had no love for the party and attacked on sight. After a brutal battle, Modra was defeated, but the party was also bloodied. Hearing a pounding at the foundry doors, the companions decided to flee to the tower through Sarshan’s secret tunnel, which very few knew of, where they might learn more of Sarshan’s plans for war in the mortal world…

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Visions of the future

Déjà vu washes over you as you look around at the cavernous chamber in which you find yourself. Your footsteps are muffled by the plush, red carpet beneath your feet, leading you through long rows of marble columns that stretch to the ceiling far above. Polished braziers shed bright light that dims just a few short feet away, leaving much of the room in shadow. Before you stand a set of massive double doors, flanked by two wavering, indistinct figures. As you draw closer, you are unable to distinguish one figure from another, or even put a race or even gender to them. However, you can discern that their overall appearance seems martial in nature.

Without a word, the figure to your right raises a hand to one of the huge doors and pulls it aside for you, beckoning you to enter. Your feeling of déjà vu strengthens as you pass the doors; beyond, the red carpet continues to a raised dais that occupies the center of the room. Light from immense windows pours into the circular chamber, crossing each other on the carpet before the steps up to the room’s central platform. Atop the dais sits a semicircular table at which seven more shifting figures are seated. By contrast to those before, however, these seven are easily distinguishable. In fact, no two are alike; each looks like the reflection of a unique rainbow reflected in a rippling pond. Waves of arcane power wash over you as you approach, filling you with awe and trepidation in equal measure. Your memory clicks, and you recognize that you are before the Court of Dreams.

You ascend the two steps to the dais to stand before the council. A whisper sounds deep in the recess of your mind.

“Welcome back, world walker. It seems your travels have taken you far from home. Tell us what you know of this Modra, and the arms dealer who hunts him.”

After listening while Orpheus tells of the Army’s exploits, the whisper comes again.

“Your path is true. Your journey to the Shadowfell will lend you insight into what is to come. Look to the Dream; it will tell you more. Farewell…planes walker.”

You feel something take hold of your consciousness, followed by the sensation of acceleration. Thousands of images flash before you, slowly at first and then more rapidly. You see men and women of all races, some of which you have no name for. Dreams and nightmares pass before you. A number of images stand out in your mind:

-A vampire approaches threateningly, fangs bared. As it draws nearer, you notice one of its fangs appears lit from within, and tiny figures move inside. The other fang oozes burning hot red blood, shot through with streaks of black;

-Creatures – humans, orcs, goblinoids, giantkin, animals, are twisted by dark experiments into horrific mockeries of their former selves, looking like nothing less than killing machines;

-A broken fortress atop a fiery ravine, from which a massive serpent arises to wrap its slick coils around the crumbling battlements;

-A shining longsword sitting in a glass case catches and reflects the light. Suddenly, a woman’s scream echoes out from the sword, shattering the sword and its glass case;

-A demon faces off against a angel on an ancient altar atop a raised dais. The altar alternates between giving off a bright white light and a smoky, reddish glow, seemingly with the tide of battle between the angel and the demon. A pack of howling jackals slowly circle the pair at the foot of the dais as they battle;

-A dessicated humanoid rides a dragon of bone that belches clouds of poison gas onto a group of refugees fleeing a collapsing, burning building. Taking wing, the bone dragon and its rider fly up to circle a city you quickly identify as Overlook, but an Overlook aflame, with mobs of soldiers burning and looting as desperate refugees flee the city for their lives…

Your eyes snap open, the dream already fading. You feel a wrenching sensation as your eyes open to darkness. The light returns, but dimmer than before. As you become accustomed to the low light, you take in your surroundings. The chamber in which you find yourself is a strange inversion of that you just left. Walls once white are now jet black; the chamber’s entrance and the portal on the wall are now reversed. The collapsed wall, previously in the northeast corner of the chamber, is gone. Instead, the floor in the southwest corner is collapsed. Gray glass globes lining the walls give off the dim light illuminating the chamber.

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Dark plots and dirty deeds (done dirt cheap)

Sideon’s Army successfully escaped into the secret passageway linking the foundry and Umbraforge tower. As the tremors and aftershocks from the combat in the foundry subsided, the party explored the narrow, dimly lit corridor that gradually changed from a smooth, man-made tunnel to a natural cavern. After a dozen yards or so, it turned back again, suggesting that the tunnel predated Sarshan’s operations. Respite and reward awaited in a small hidden chamber off the main passage, apparently undiscovered by the shadar-kai. Within, crumbling frescos to various deities adorned the walls and a large, black shrine, covered with a thick layer of dust, dominated the chamber. Laric blew away the dust and examined the shrine, only to discover the three wavy lines of Avandra and a cryptic message inscribed in the stone, “Devotion is its own reward.”

Immediately whispering a prayer to Avandra before the shrine, Laric blinked as a holy symbol appeared on the shrine, radiating a powerful enchantment. Sideon stepped over to the shrine to investigate both it and the newly appeared symbol. He was momentarily taken aback when the graven symbol of Avandra changed before his eyes to a symbol of Ioun. Quickly catching on, Sideon studied his spellbook before the shrine, and a magical lens appeared, which Sid discovered could be used to read any language. Orpheus at first was dubious of the shrine, but when the symbol of the Court of Dreams appeared, he followed suit (in his own unique fashion), and soon snatched up the magical rod that appeared. Muhlic knelt briefly before the symbol of Grumbar that appeared on the shrine and received a massive axe, and Stump knelt as the shrine returned to the three wavy lines of Avandra and yielded a heavy shield. As Stump stood with his new prize, the engravings faded, and the shrine became a bare, obsidian block dominating the room. Closing the door to the chamber, the group took its well-earned rest.

Departing the chamber and hiding its existence against the shadar-kai, the companions set forth into the tower. The first room they discovered held three of Sarshan’s elite guard, and one of his spellcasters. After a brutal fight, the Army was victorious, and began to explore the chamber. They confirmed the extent of Sarshan’s research into the manipulation of creatures with shadow magic into twisted war machines that was taking place in the foundry. They also discovered extensive research into teleportation portals, both inter- and intra-planar, and the locations of some of those portals in both the Shadowfell and the mortal plane. They also discovered research into methods to attune portals to specific individuals, races and keyed items.

Moving through the door to the northeast, the friends discover an alchemical lab, apparently used for experiments blending shadow magic and living creatures. Bottles of bubbling, viscous fluids, alchmical apparatus and jars with malformed horrors line the tables and cabinets in the room. Searching through the lab, the party uncovers some valuable alchemical and ritual components, but no further information of value. Led by Stump up the flight of stairs in the room, the Army finds another unoccupied lab, this time with no valuable components. However, a pile of scrolls in the bookcase did hide a substantial purse of gold.

Moving into the center of the Tower, a strange sight awaited – a seemingly healthy, lush garden, complete with trees, shrubs and a small pond sprung up out of the stone of the tower. On closer inspection, however, the tree limbs, foliage and grasses were shades of sickly gray and blue, and the pond was a black and viscous sludge. In the center of the room was a strange opening to the lower floor that pulsed with magic that Sideon and Orpheus were able to identify as a levitation spell, ostensibly for moving between levels of the tower. A 15-foot teleportation portal, attuned to an unknown individual, dominated the south wall of the room.

Swarms of smaller beetles and one giant beetle assaulted Sideon’s Army, who eliminated the bugs handily, led by Sideon’s bursts of shadow and force daggers. The friends had no time to enjoy their victory, however, as the shouts of guards from below signaled that their luck had run out. From each of the four corners of the garden, a squad of shadow soldiers appeared. A grizzled shadar-kai veteran came up the levitation lift from the first floor, accompanied by six other warriors wielding wicked-looking spiked chains and a pair of umbral panthers. “Stand down, or your lives are forfeit!” he shouted.

At that instant, the portal on the south wall glowed brightly, and the party could see the blackened chamber into which they arrived from the mortal realm, and the interplanar gate they took to arrive here. As the friends looked on, another shadar-kai stepped through. Stump immediately recognized the veteran from the Happy Beggar, and the others recognized the man who staggered out of the Beggar after Stump had made his way in. However, he was no longer stooped, and the scars faded away to reveal the gray skin of a shadar-kai. “I am Sarshan”, he announced, “Would someone care to explain what is going on?”

The grizzled shadar-kai accompanied by the panthers began to detail the damage done by the party, only to be interrupted by Sarshan, who questioned the group about their involvement with the death of Modra, and the assault on the foundry. Orpheus, speaking for the group, took credit for the death of the dark creeper, and Sarshan nodded appreciatively. Acknowledging the mutual debt for the killings of Modra and Sarshan’s personal guards in the library, the shadar-kai made a surprising offer – “Join me.” Alluding to calamity about to befall the mortal realm, Sarshan instead offered Sideon’s Army the chance to become Sarshan’s Army, instead. Seeing no other option, the group accepted, with the hope of bluffing the cunning shadar-kai. Orpheus’ silvered tongue did its work, and the mercenary nodded in acceptance and instructed Thannu to see to the provisions.

The party was escorted to the guard quarters by the guard captain and his panthers, who Sarshan called Thannu. With gruff instructions to rest and wait for orders, Thannu turned to leave. Suddenly, Umbraforge tower was rocked by a massive tremor, and a distant explosion shook the walls. Through the levitation lift, the friends could see a guard rush over to Sarshan, reporting an explosion in the foundry. All around the Army, shadar-kai rushed about, grabbing armor and weapons as Sarshan and Thannu barked orders. After Sarshan departed through the first floor levitation lift, Thannu looked directly at the companions with a dark glare, telling them to stay where they were. Turning, he descended the levitation lift and disappeared through the south portal with his panther compantions. Quickly, Sideon’s Army took advantage of the distraction, reattuned the gateway behind Thannu, and made good their escape from the tower. Unfortunately, one unhappy guard and two big cats stood between Sideon’s Army and the doorway back to Overlook…

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Heroes, Villans, and Big Blue Worms

As a tremor shook the floor beneath them, Sideon’s Army stepped through the portal in Umbraforge tower to the cavern in which they arrived into the Shadowfell. Thannu, Sarshan’s lieutenant, turned from his contemplation of the planar portal and considered the group, his eyes narrowing. Distrustful of the party, Thannu attacked, certain he would be rewarded by Sarshan for eliminating the threat. However, Thannu underestimated the prowess of Sideon’s Army, and paid for the mistake with his life. Searching the body, Laric discovered a bit of gold and a note instructing Thannu to deal with someone named ‘Quinlan’ and to secure the Overlook portal permanently.

Suddenly, a massive tremor rocked the small cave. Through the entrance, the party could see Sarshan’s foundry and Umbraforge tower begin to crumble as the nearby volcano erupted. The shadow rift consumed both structures as the mercenaries in Sarshan’s camps fled and the slaves revolted against their captors and escaped the cataclysm. A burst of shadow energy erupted from the portal to Umbraforge tower, striking the Shadowfell portal and creating a half dozen howling wraiths, who hungrily chased the party through the portal and into the material world.

Once back on the Prime Material, the friends were surprised to find the tunnels occupied by dwarven guards, who joined the fray as the specters crossed over and drained the magic of the Shadowfell portal. The specters were numerous and fierce, but proved no match for Laric’s divine power as reinforcements poured into the room. Reniss, Captain Thofire and the ex-paladin owners of the Happy Beggar ran to challenge the specters, lending the Army their aid.

Once the specters were defeated, the party shared its tale of the events beyond the portal, and the dire warnings of impending war. Captain Thofire filled them in on the events that transpired in Overlook during their absence. Reniss, after watching the Army disappear into the Happy Beggar without returning, spoke with the ex-paladins Prashant & Asuma and began a search of the establishment, eventually locating the secret passage and the caverns below. Upon discovering the Shadowfell portal, Reniss promptly informed the Ministry of Defense, who studied the portal and began to prepare an expedition to investigate what lay beyond. However, the portal began to manifest instabilities, even throwing off other shadow creatures, and the expedition was scrapped and the portal let alone, albeit under constant guard.

A nondescript Halfling stepped forward and introduced himself as Belben Shortcloak, who acted as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Ministry of the Interior amongst the folk of Overlook. He advised the party that the other portals in the caves beneath the Beggar led to warehouses scattered throughout the city. Belben had been able to learn that the warehouses were being brokered by a tiefling named Quinlan, an unsavory sort who operated out of Tradetown and had known links to the Lost Ones. Belben’s information led him to conclude that Quinlan was a middleman, acting as a go-between for Sarshan and some affluent individual or group of individuals in Overlook. Those individuals, he noted, must have been well connected enough to obtain the warehouse space, set up the portals, and keep the entire operation off of the Ministry’s radar. Belben’s list of possible suspects was short, and none of the options boded well for Overlook. On exiting the Happy Beggar with Belben and Captain Thofire, the companions were greeted with cheers and accolades for their actions in saving the City. While the exact details were kept quiet, the Captain acknowledged the efforts of Sideon’s Army in halting a grave threat to the city.

Retiring to Sideon’s inn, the Mountain’s Hearth, the friends were heartily welcomed back by Binwin. The Army was gladly situated in their suites, although the month’s accounting was not yet complete, and Binwin had no word from Drogan, Sideon’s tutor. Before retiring, a dwarf messenger clad in the colors of the Ministry of the Interior delivered a request from Zanfire Warstout to meet him on the morrow, as he had a task in mind for Overlook’s newest heroes. The friends decided to seek out the tiefling Quinlan first, as they discerned he was in danger and may prove to be their best lead to Sarshan’s co-conspirators in the city.

Unfortunately, the Army was too late; upon their arrival in Tradetown at Quinlan’s favorite haunt, they discovered his overlarge body swinging from a rope tied to the roof of the tavern. The party’s investigation turned up little; no trace of the assailants remained, and even questions asked of the corpse yielded the only clue to Quinlan’s assailants – the initials ‘E.C.’.

The companion’s meeting at the Ministry of the Interior turned out to be more profitable. Warstout had been approached by a dwarf named Bram Ironfell, a wealthy citizen of Overlook and member of the Elsir Consortium. Ironfell had a clue to a lost mine, that could prove to be a valuable resource both to his clan, his business, and the City’s preparations for the coming war. Ironfell himself awaited the friends at the Ministry, and the party agreed to speak with him.

Ironfell greeted the heroes warmly, thanking them for their efforts on behalf of Overlook Wasting little time the dwarf launched into a lengthy history of a mine he called the Karak Lode. The Lode, located far to the south across a burning desert, was lost when the dwarven kingdom’s borders contracted against the press of orcs, giants and other monstrous races. However, clues as to the location of Karak were found amongst the papers left behind in Sarshan’s warehouse. Ironfell, sought out by the Ministry because of his clan’s ties to the mine, researched his family’s records and confirmed the veracity of the information. The clue appeared to be a map of landmarks leading across the desert to the mine.

The Army, after some tough negotiations, agreed to seek out the Lode, and made preparations for its long journey. The first leg would take them to the Thornwaste, a barren scrubland with vegetation bearing razor-sharp thorns. Beyond the Thornwaste lay Dunesend, a small village believed to be constructed on the remains of the supply depot that served the Lode long ago. From there, a two-day journey through the desert would end at the Karak Lode’s location, according to Bram’s information.

The beginning of the journey passed uneventfully, and the Army met up with a ranger named Mag Blackthorn. After some initial misgivings, the ranger agreed to lend his knowledge of the Thornwaste to the party’s aid. After another day, the party was set upon by a group of dwarves, bearing the mark of a clan rival to the Ironfells. The party also discovered a journal that hinted at the possibility that the Lode had already been found, but not who found it. Continuing on, Sideon’s Army bypassed a poisoned thornbush and healed a gravely injured dire tiger lying in the middle of the path to Dunesend, noting three parallel wounds, resembling nothing so much as giant claw marks. Feeling a growing sensation of being watched, the friends kept a close watch on the sky and ground alike. However, other than brief glimpses of a face with goat horns and bearded faces, the Army saw nothing.

The party arrived a day later in Dunesend to discover a bestial gnoll torturing one of the villagers, with a massive, many-legged blue worm eyeing the other denizens of the town hungrily. Wasting little time, Sideon’s Army attacked the gnoll and his behir. They were joined shortly by a group of satyrs, who harried the group from afar. In the end, they proved no match for the friends, and fell to their blades.

The companions learned that the gnoll called itself the Warden, and had been demanding tribute from the village lest he turn the behir loose on its citizens, who were helpless to stop him. The village leader, Lotho, said that the Warden demanded tribute on behalf of someone called Queen Shephatiah. He had never heard of the so-called queen before, but villagers were killed whenever they were not quick enough with their tribute, or could not meet the Warden’s demands for more.

As to the Queen’s location, all Lotho could tell the party was that the Warden arrived with only a few day’s rations for traveling in the desert, and always came from the south. Once, a lackey of the Warden had mentioned a place called ‘Karak’ and was soundly beaten for his slip. Satisfied, the party gathered supplies, and set out across the desert for the Karak Lode.

Somewhere in the middle of the desert, the party discovered ominous tracks in the sand, left by something large. Finding no obvious source of the marks, the party continued on, redoubling their watching of the sky. Halfway into the journey, a strange figure appeared in the haze of the desert ahead. Appearing to be an aged human female, the crone beckoned the party to turn back from their intended destination, and begged their aid. Laric, easily seeing through her lie called out a warning. Seeing her ruse was up, the crone shed her human form, and retreated over the dune. A number of bestial shifters arose from the sand to challenge the friends. However, the party made quick work of them, and continued on through the desert.

Later that day, the party arrived at the location of the Lode on the map. A mass of dwarven ruins greeted them, and the party camped a safe distance away to recouperate and prepare to assault the Karak Lode…

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The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!

After a tense night in the rocky flats surrounding the Lode, Sideon’s Army again approached the dwarven citadel. Orpheus was gripped by another vision, this time recognizing the Karak Lode as the fortress ensnared in the coils of a large serpent, and seeing a humanoid face on the serpent. Wasting little time, the companions began their assault.

The friends found the fortress well defended by the minions of Queen Shephatiah. Troglodytes attacked from behind arrow slits and murder holes; human lackeys, elite shifters and even guardian golems attempted to halt the invaders. The Army gave a wide berth to a mysterious sand pile in the central courtyard that consumed one of their enemies who was taken prisoner after a fight. A berbalang, a horrific creature feeding off of the dead in the basement below, attacked viciously but ended up fleeing the might of Sideon’s Army.

The party also discovered a strange old man surrounded by seven birds, apparently taken prisoner by the forces of Queen Shephatiah. He did not speak, but merely nodded and smiled at any of the companion’s efforts to engage him in conversation. The Army released him, and he followed after them in the keep, often turning up in the strangest places.

Finally, Sideon’s Army descended into what appeared to be a throne room, with odd trees of Underdark origin growing up through the flagstone floor. More lackeys and shifters awaited the friends, along with what two hellish hyenas and what appeared to be an eladrin female. Proclaiming herself Queen of the Drylands, the eladrin revealed herself as a dryad, and ordered death for the intruders.

However, the tables quickly turned, and Sideon’s Army made quick work of the so-called Queen and her minions. An investigation of the area turned up a dead villager from Dunesend, and a cache of gold coins. However, even though the friends had explored most of the fortress, one question remained: where was the mine?

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The Queen is dead, again and messages from Brindol

Sideon’s Army scoured the entirety of the dwarven keep, eliminating the last of its monstrous inhabitants. However, they could not find any entrance to the fabled Mines of Karak. The Birdman abruptly disappeared during the final encounter with a carrion crawler and a few harpies. Only later did the party discover a few telltale canary feathers and the barefoot human tracks leading out into the raging sandstorm.

Retreating into the keep, the friends attempted to rest and wait out the storm, but were interrupted by the shrill calls of canaries warning of an ambush. Handily defeating the ambushers, the party discovered an Ironfell signet ring that could unlock the doors of the keep, and a trail of canary feathers leading down to a (now-open) secret entrance to the mines.

Descending into the mines, Sideon’s Army encountered more monstrous resistance and found another prisoner, a ranger named Atreus, who aided in the defeat of the troglodyte guards. In the mines, the Army discovered innumerable dwarven corpses, who appeared to have slain each other in a massive, maddened battle. The companions also discovered that the rock in the mine was shot through with glowing streaks of planar energy, shedding a lurid reddish glow.

The friends followed the signs of recent tracks and mining activity deeper into the mines, where they encountered and defeated a number of denizens of the lower elemental planes. The rocks shot through with elemental energy also increased in prevalence, until finally the Army entered a massive chamber with a huge glowing rift, a portal for elemental creatures to the Elemental Chaos. Across from it sat a massive naga, naming herself Shephatiah, the true Queen of the Drylands, and her demonic guards.

However, the Queen and her guards proved no match for Sideon’s Army. After their defeat, the party found amongst Shephatiah’s belongings missives in Deep Speech, later translated to detail the naga’s discovery of the mine and her activities in reopening it for a group of unnamed masters. The friends also found a strange enchanted ring, marked with an odd symbol with the following engraved phrase: “With Fang, I am invincible.”

Returning to Overlook, the party claimed their reward from Bram Ironfell and discovered that a messenger from Brindol had been looking for none other than Sideon’s Army. However, the messenger had left shortly before the companions returned, leaving with a strange, cloaked figure out into the city…

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The Price of Fame

Without delay, Sideon’s Army began its investigation into the mystery of the missing messenger. Through a combination of forensic examination, witness interrogation, pilfered notes and jilted informants, the party discovered that the Lost Ones, under the orders of a man named Szagyn, had kidnapped the messenger from Brindol. The trail of evidence led to an abandoned temple of Pelor in the Nine Bells section of Overlook.

On the way to the temple, the companions encountered a heavily armed elf going by the name of Thorn, who warned the party of an ambush, and told the PCs of a hefty price on their head that the Lost Ones were hoping to collect. Ambush or no, the Lost Ones were no match for the friends, who handily dispatched the Lost Ones, captured their leader and rescued the messenger from Brindol.

The messenger turned out to be Alys, the daughter of Brindol’s Guard Captain, Thelin Handsbane. Sertanin, castellan of the Hall of Great Valor and former prisoner of the Red Hand, had a dire need of the friends’ aid. The party wasted little time in responding to the castellan’s need, traveling overland to aid the dwarves in investigating rumors of abductions in the north of the Vale. The Army heard many tales of gnollish attacks and saw the gruesome results, but no raiders crossed their path.

Arriving in Brindol, the party soon learned that the platinum sword recovered from the catacombs of Rivenroar had begun to speak in a woman’s voice. Identifying itself as Amyria, the sword implored the party to carry the sword to a secret githzerai monastery known as Fortress Graystone in the reaches of the Giant’s Shield Mountains. There, a gnollish shaman sought to manipulate planar magic to become an exarch of Yeenoghu. In addition to stopping the shaman she named Fangren and his pack, the Wicked Fang, Amyria needed the party to aid her in a ritual that would use the magic to return her to her true form. If they could not aid her, her voice would grow weaker until her consciousness vanished into nothingness.

The companions had barely accepted her task when a group of unknown assailants attacked, setting fire to the Hall of Great Valor. With the aid of Thorn, who appeared to aid the party amidst the battle, the ragtag band of mercenaries was defeated. The victory came at great cost, however – the Hall and its artifacts burned to the ground. Thorn informed them that their attackers were likely bounty hunters seeking the reward, which had been increased to 3,000 gold each.

Setting off for the Fortress, Sideon’s Army soon became aware of some one or some thing shadowing their steps. Hidden traps and dangers abound; only the party’s skills carried them safely to the entrance of the Fortress. The minions of Fangren were waiting, however, and the party fought their way through the Wicked Fang at the doorstep and into a bizarre series of rooms connected by portals.

Scouting deeper into the Fortress, the party discovered a locked door, a strange room with vicious looking mounted gnolls, and finally a corner room with yet more inhabitants, turning to attack…

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Into Fortress Graystone

Deep in the bowels of Fortress Graystone, Sideon’s Army encountered a group of gnolls in strangely shaped corner of the ancient monastery. After a short, brutal fight, Sideon’s Army explored what appeared to be the former githzerai inhabitant’s sleeping quarters. The gnolls appeared to be using it as a temporary jail, although the cell doors were unlocked and the key found on the gnoll leader did not fit the lock. Inside the three cells were humans who were alive but somewhat the worse for their captivity. They confirmed that they had been taken by the gnolls in a raid on a nearby village named Talar.

One, a sage named Falrinth, knew of the portal at the center of the fortress, and suggested that the monastery had originally been built by the githzerai to protect it. However, the githzerai vanished, and the monastery lay open to opportunistic evil. He also explained that the entire Elsir Vale was pockmarked with portals to other planes, and that such portals were dangerous in that, if discovered, they would be coveted by many powerful forces in the multiverse.

No sooner had the companions become settled in to rest and lick their wounds in the chamber than the elf mercenary, Thorn, unleashed an ambush. Revealing his true colors, he attacked with two each magically animated hounds and falcons. Depleted as the party was, Thorn gave the friends no small trouble until finally, with his minions dispatched, Thorn yielded to Orpheus’ demand for surrender.

In exchange for his life and freedom, he offered, Thorn would give his knowledge of the Fortress and its secret passages. He relinquished his belongings and drew the party a map. Before he could leave, however, Muhlic attacked, fearing another ambush. Bound by his word, Orpheus intervened, and a fight broke out. Thorn rushed to leave, and Stump tackled him with a yell. Stump’s cry alerted the inhabitants of the Fortress, and gnolls began to pour out on the attack. The party managed to escape, but Thorn made good his departure and Sideon’s Army was forced to retreat and regroup for the night.

Arriving back at the former monastery in the morning, the Army discovered that reinforcements had been brought in to replace the slain gnolls. Fighting their way inside again, the companions made the central marshalling point and defeated the gnoll warmaster and a shadar-kai weapons master. Searching the room, the party discovered that the shadar-kai was present at the behest of Sarshan to train the gnolls, who were being paid to raid and disrupt the eastern end of the Elsir Vale. The warmaster had a key and a jagged blade bearing the same insignia as the ring found on the body of Queen Shephatiah in the mines of Karak. Beyond, Fangren, the leader of the Wicked Fang, continued his rituals to channel the power of Yeenoghu that he may become an exarch of the foul demon-god and bring unbridled slaughter to the innocents of the Elsir Vale. Only Sideon’s Army stood in his way.

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