Servants of the Shard

Guardians of Arete: Session Twenty Something
The Final Ritual

Leto Schreyer: It has been my experience, that there are 2 different fields of magic all around us. There is the arcane arts, magic that stems from either the raw talent of a sorcerer who finds that they have the gift inside there blood, powering there spells; or from the wizard side ½ of this equation from which constant study is the key for mastering the arcane. For sorcerers, they can feel the blood flow with every ounce of energy they can muster. The raw talent is almost apparent to the naked eye. There drive comes from there heritage ends up being the driving force behind everything. Wizards are more study and rote. A new spell book is a most incredible find when dungeon crawling. For them, the power comes from practice and being able to use what they have learned to harness. The arcane path for someone who is a novice is a long and hard one. Practice consumes every part of there day to day life. Without it, they can never become all they are meant to be.

Then there are the divine casters who, more often than not need to pray from the raw and pure magic form there particular God. A cleric or a paladin almost seems to glow with the radiant power of there God. They are the divine walking among us. The very word of there God made manifest. Being powered by the magical essence of there God is heartwarming to say the least. It can be said by some that every time a divine spell caster is casting, they almost glow from the inside out. There very ability coming forth to do what ever bidding they may desire.

Druids on the other hand, get there power from the very nature itself. We have the very essence of flowing purity that comes from every form of matter and form. It is a most pleasing feeling to behold a druid in spell casting form. Very few get to experience it. It’s as if nature itself becomes alive in the very space you are standing even though there are no trees and bushes around to be seen.

When any caster loses there ability to use either the arcane or divine paths through whatever means can be traumatic at best. Most of the caster in the world, and I dare say 99.8% of them, only walk one path of magic. Then there is me; Treading both the arcane and divine paths. Skirting both worlds of power, never favoring one over the other. The Valas moon came to pass over the dark and dank skies of Ptolus today. The very moment that it came into view, it was as if the some snuffed out all the magic that Praemal had to offer. The very tides that ebb and flow where no longer there to enlighten us. For the first time I can remember, my magic was not there for me. I felt the connection to all that I have worked for gone. But only for an instant.

There was something that we did not expect to happen. The moment the Valas Moon came around, the shard shot a huge bolt of light out from the castle. I, as well as my compatriots, were surrounded with purple light stemming from the shard itself. The shard seemed to send its energy to us and power our weapons, our magic items as well as anything that requires magic that we called ours. We attempted to see if purchasing more items would help us more but it did not.

This had a great deal of other side effects as it were as well. The inverted pyramid was now visible floating over Ptolus. The flying apartment towers the were over the Nobles Quarter came crashing down killing all who were inside it as well as anyone unable to get away from the ensuing wreckage when it came plummeting down.

We sent a few notes to Kyra and Jevicca letting them know what we knew about the phenomenon. Since Orion had seen this all in a different timeline, he was able to let us know a few things that would be forthcoming. This apparently was one of them.

We received a note from Folketan, the Harrow Elf that we had helped from the chaos cults. He informed us about what he knew about the final ritual. He told us about how Wuntod kidnapped 3 arcanists from the insane asylum for magic users. He informed us about the 4 runechildren that were to be sacrificed during the ritual as well as a King of the Wild enslaved and sacrificed.

Without delay, we headed over to the Temple of the 53 Gods of Chance. Entered and found what looked like some clergy gathering up the belongings of the church before the barbarians stormed the gates of the city. One of them came over and we informed him that we here for a ritual that was being held here. He said he had no clue what we were talking about. Then the High Priestess came over and the same thing happened. She had no idea what we were talking about. The clergy man that originally came over walked away and watched us intently. Nadiera being who she is, said he was not telling the truth. He then pulled out a Rod that was able to signal the other below the temple. He then starting to die from magical asphyxiation. There was nothing we could do. After trying to answer the questions of the Priestess of what was going on here, she finally was willing to help us look for a secret passage that no one knew she had.

Nadiera was walking along one of the walls when she found a illusory wall. It mimicked the one we had found previously in the machine building. We told her to get out of the temple so if anyone escaped, she or her priests would not be hurt. She obliged and we went into the depths of temple to try to find Wuntod and his band of chaos cultists.

As we descend, we find our first obstacle that we must face. A Vrock. An evil demon that is damn tough. We almost had an experience with one when we were delving. It was a statue, and almost due to my incompetence caused it to come to life. It took a little bit but we were able to defeat it.

As we traverse further and deeper inside the lair, we see the stone has changed slightly here. It is gray with what appears to be pink crystal flocked all through it. A closer examination reveals it to be abyssal stone. Able to channel energies for the ritual is our thinking.

Through the rest of the lair, we find empty room after empty room. Since they were able to alert everyone to our presence, this comes as no shock to us. Though they have to be here somewhere. And they were at that.

We enter what ends up being the ritual room. Wuntod is standing on a black hand at the top of the dais. There are so many combatants in here it is unbelievable. There is a litorian, a shadow form and cat woman all on the top of the dais with Wuntod. Not far off there also is an ogre. At the altar, there are 4 priestess’s that are chanting, writhing around and cutting themselves with what will reveal to be ritual blades. Among the various other levels of the room, are about 24 other meager combatants. Some of them large and beefy. We fight hard and fast. But it does take a while for us to get through. Nadiera ends up putting herself right in the fray. Now, given her ability to dodge attacks, I still had my doubts. As there was no way for me to get to her. Otto fights bravely and true. Orion does what he does best. Spell after spell.

We discover in the process that there are vessels that hold 3 wizards in stasis. There energy is being funneled out. We also discover that the alter has 4 rune bearer children inside of it. We break the alter and they begin to float upwards.

Wuntod ends up getting down towards us and does a great deal of damage. Ysobel was able to break the last breath of a god crystal which was able to kill everyone in the room. Or at least most everyone. We were able to get the rest.

Upon reaching the top of the dais, we find cells behind the main wall. Inside we find none other than the King if the barbarians. Which would explain why they were sacking Ptolus. After explaining what had happened, we were able to get him back to his army thanks to some teleport scrolls that we had found. Once back at his camp, he thanks us for saving his life. He also agrees that there will be no further hostilities towards the city. He five our entire party Scimitars of the barbarian. An elegant looking sword.

As they begin to leave, we head back to the city and the Commissar meets us just outside the gate. We are escorted back inside where we are questioned fully. The other part of the party tool the rune bearers to Brother Fabitor as well as the wizards from the asylum. We also learn that one of the children is the son of the head of the Balacazar Crime Syndicate. So that should prove interesting to see what happens there. Once the questioning is over, we are invited to dine with the Holy Emperor as well as the Commissar himself.

After being released, we head back to Pythoness house and begin party preparations. We decide to invite all of our friends. Bryan the fate weaver, Kyra, Jevicca, Brother Fabitor and a few others. Food and drink will be had by all. We sent an invitation for Andach, The Hierophant on the Clasthimus Isle to join as well, but he never showed. Instead, a missive from his assistant Hennam showed. It was short. Andach had been slain by the demon in the dark reliquary. There was no hope of reincarnation. I have been asked to go at my earliest connivance.

He was gone. The sadness began to fill my soul and every part of my being. The only other one like me that I knew of, and he was gone. I can only assume that when the Valas moon appeared, it suppressed the warding stone as well as the protections of the isle. I had to leave the party. I was not able to control emotions at that point.

I went upstairs to the garden balcony. I found a spot in the center. I prayed and sat for about an hour before returning back down. At first light, I will go and find out what happened. I am becoming very angry. Everything that I hold dear seems to be threatened at every turn. The Dark Reliquary and all who live there shall pay for this deed. I promise that. The harnesses of the naturist and arcane bonds shall come loose and all my fury shall be realized for all who get in my way. Andach, shall be avenged.

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Guardians of Arete: Session Twenty-four
A Rescue is Mounted

Ysobel Shadowcaster:

Where am I? Why is this happening to me?

No! Don’t think about the Hand of Danar! They’ll know where I hid it…

You lost your faith when? Ah. Your wife died. I understand now. I am truly sorry for your loss, but your pain does not excuse your actions. You may choose to die now or later. Why are you laughing at me?

I loved those trees. I loved them even while they burned to cinders. Every life given to allow me to escape is precious to me. Every life.

Am I dreaming? Why is Brother Heth in my dreams? I would never dream about someone so unfeeling. This must be reality. When did everything change to be so ugly?

I think they have it now. I might as well try to die and end this pain. Why must there always be pain…

Why must I relive that Longest Night again? It hurt so much the first time. You already saw it once, Heth.

Don’t think about what that tube is attached to.

Wait – they intend to trick my friends! I must try to deceive them. But how?

So many tubes.

What is that light?

Leto!

Rain 19

I know now that Brother Heth was a pawn, a tool used by the Pact Lords to entrap my friends and allow an opportunity for us to be killed. They searched my mind using a machine called the Probe of Dreams. They took the Hand of Danar from me.

Brother Heth carried a dagger named Yaeshala, The Blessed One. Heth never knew it, but the dagger is intelligent. It is the first part of the sealing rod we seek. Yaeshala was a child, and the dagger maintains that air of innocence even after so many centuries.

Brother Heth and his shape shifting accomplice left behind a portal to the Quaan, which we used to access that place. I know form my reading that the Quaan was once the demiplane of Ardaen and is saturated with his essence. I hope that will aid our quest to regain the Hand of Danar. I also hope that we may return there one future day and restore Ardaen to his rightful place of power.

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Guardians of Arete: Session Twenty-three
Navana Vladaam Falls and a Character is Captured

Ysobel Shadowcaster:

Rain 18

In which we may have made a mistake. Or not.

Much as we would have liked to avoid confronting Navana as we left the Banewarrens after such strenuous undertakings, it was not possible for us to ignore the challenge she presented. Her companions, werewolves of impressive size, were kept busy by Otto’s flaming flail and the silver bullets in my pistols. Leto and Nadeira were left to deal with Navana for the most part. It was difficult, but we prevailed in the end. Unfortunately, one of the werewolves escaped to tell of our victory. I am certain we will hear more from Navana’s family later. At least we recovered the hand of Danar from her body.

As we exited the Banewarrens, we found the body of Calreisent. I had half expected it, but it was a gut-wrenching blow nonetheless. We put his body onto his shield so that we could take him back to Brother Fabitor. We burned the other bodies. As we walked back into the city, we passed one of the Commissar’s guns being pulled to the walls by an owlbear. The barbarians were rumored to be only days away.

We told Joan to prepare for a siege.

Brother Fabitor was greatly upset to receive his friend’s body instead of better news. He did have some news about the city’s planned defenses, but we did not want to keep him from his work for long.

We decided to speak to Lord Zavere about our encounter with Navana, but there was no answer when we knocked at the door. Nadiera opened it before I had a chance to stop her, but for once I was glad. Both Lord Zavere and Lady Rrill were entranced – staring into the crystal shard in the center of the castle. There was a being of purple energy standing between them, also entranced. We tried to speak to them, but what replied was certainly not anyone we knew. All three spoke as one, and they said that the Vallez Moon was returning.

Bad news seems to stalk us in this city.

Upon our return to the Banewarrens, Nadeira discovered a very large ape hiding to ambush us. It is too bad she did not also discover the gnoll that shot her in the back. We subdued the two and questioned them closely, but found little to enlighten us. They were guards for the Pact Lord of the Quaan on his excursion to find a specific Bane.

We tossed the two out of the Banewarrens, trusting that their ingenuity would either save them from death at the hands of their masters or not and caring little what happened to them. We followed the sounds of fighting into the maze and found an unwelcome surprise: a mind flayer. He was fighting with and against several other creatures from legend including a sphinx, an ogre mage, and a spider creature with minions. The chaos was too great to see exactly what happened or who fought who. Otto added to the uproar by throwing a grenade or two and Leto tossed in a fireball for good measure. In the end we prevailed, but I could not say how. I was poisoned at some point during the fight though I don’t remember being struck. Everything seemed to slow down terribly – Otto was a bright blur next to me. I am certain that his actions saved my life that day, but he will not admit it and so I cannot properly thank him.

As we waited for the flames to die down, we examined some nearby doors with broken wards. One of the rooms contained the remains of a purple glass sphere floating in the center of the room. The sphere was just large enough to hold a dagger like the one we recovered from the dead mind flayer. We replaced the dagger and sealed it inside the sphere in hopes that we could later seal the room as well.

Several rooms, one secret passage and a ladder later, we were confronted by a dwarven woman on a green and white spider. She appeared as if from nowhere, though I suspect now that the spider was the one transporting her hither and yon. She attacked me at once. As soon as she touched me I felt myself jerked from the world into the ethereal plane.

We exchanged some words. She said that Brother Heth wanted to see me. She assured me that my friends would not find me and offered me the choice of being taken to Brother Heth alive or dead.

I chose to live. Then she knocked me unconscious.

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Guardians of Arete: Session Twenty-two
The Banewarrens Continued

Ysobel Shadowcaster:

Rain 17

In which we meet new friends and new enemies.

After locking ourselves in the Banewarrens using the most powerful magics Leto knows, we decided to study the artwork on the walls. It seemed appropriate that we should savor our time in this most dangerous of places. Frescoes adorned the walls in the entryway, though they were cracked with age and had obviously been damaged by earthquakes at some point. A haloed man in robes with a beatific expression faced a winged horse. The man wore a holy symbol of the Elder Gods on a chain around his neck; we decided that the man was a depiction of Danar himself, though it seems incongruous for a supposedly humble holy man to surround these objects with self-portraits. Perhaps he put them here after he began to be twisted.

The fresco was quite well made. Its eyes seemed to follow us about the chamber though, which was unsettling. And for just a moment – almost no time at all – I swear the Pegasus was a Nightmare. If Nadeira had not seen it as well, I would have assumed I needed a nap. We decided not to look at Danar out of the corner of our eyes – none of us had any desire to see his other face. The sighing of the hallways was bad enough with out evil beings staring at our backs.

A room filled with a blue mosaic had several sets of stairs and a hallway leading off of it. One room contained a non-functioning pit trap – something had apparently rigged it to fail. Anotehr room contained a fresco of a pastoral scene, complete with another Pegasus, though no other depiction of Danar. A third room was very large and circular, and contained an iron pillar in the center. The pillar contained a mechanism with four switched that controlled a platform holding a spiral stair. The stair lead to a chamber with another lever in it. Otto decided that the room was some sort of giant combination lock, and Leto assured me that it was both magical and dangerous.

We curbed our impatience and continued through the circular chamber toward another door. We followed a sickening smell down a corridor to find a flesh golem stumbling around in his own ichor. Though I know these creatures to be fearsome opponents, I cannot help wondering if we should have fought him to put him out of what seems a miserable existence.

The other doorway in the circular chamber led to a short hallway of iron doors. The entire hallway was a trap just waiting for us – when we opened one door, the other opened as well and we fought metallic scorpions both before and behind. The larger scorpion turned Otto to stone by spraying him with a gray gas. The smaller scorpions were tough, but no match for us. The larger, however, was fearsome indeed. We could not stop it without doing enormous damage, and there is no possibility of repairing it. This is a shame, for it was lovely in its deadly way.

After encountering a wide variety of traps, from which perils Nadeira competently saved us, we found a greater threat than any we had expected. A warding generator at the end of a long hall was winding down, losing its power to protect the Banewarrens. It was not yet fully depleted, and we had then some hope of restoring its function, but it was a blow nonetheless. Leto assured us that the wards would remain in place for some time after the generator was fully depleted, but insisted that we should increase our efforts to find the sealing rod and close the place.

After many attempts, Nadeira was able to expertly dismantle a particularly nasty frost trap we had encountered but not passed. It took her quite some time. At the top of that carefully guarded stair we found three small men made entirely of brass and clockwork. They would not speak to us, but their careful attention to our surroundings warned us of approaching danger. We were attacked by the hag who had earlier escaped our wrath. Just as we were about to slay her, she used the last remaining wish on her ring to return to her masters in the Quaan. Unfortunately two of the brass men were destroyed by fire in the battle.

We found one more brass clockwork figure in this place. His name was Castramanos, and he told us that he had been placed there as a caretaker by Danar himself. Castramanos had been damaged by some falling crates and was not able to see until we restored his gemstone eyes to their rightful places. We managed to patch together a makeshift crutch for him, but his leg was damaged beyond our ability to repair it.

Castramanos told us many things about Danar and the Banewarrens. From him we learned that Danar kept the rod to seal the warrens with him at all times, but on those rare occasions when he put it aside it was kept in the Baneheart. We found, too, that the Black Grail was kept there as well. We assisted the brass man to examine the warding generator. He thought he could make some repairs, but was genuinely concerned for the integrity of the entire prison if power should not be restored soon. He agreed to help us to achieve our goal of finding the sealing rod as much as he could; he gave us the combination required to get past the barriers to the inner vaults and told us what we could expect on the next segment of our journey.

We left Castramanos after assuring him that we simply needed some rest outside the gloom of this place. Unfortunately our handsome little plan of catching the Vlada’am party with the key to the Banewarrens triggered itself as we were leaving. We found ourselves at the very entrance facing Navana, whose blade dripped with fresh blood, and her two werewolf henchmen.

We never saw Castramanos alive again.

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Guardians of Arete: Session Twenty-One
The Banewarrens

Ysobel Shadowcaster:

Rain 16

In which we had some adventures and found ourselves in a sticky situation.

Before we returned to the city with Calreisent, we attempted to round up the escaped creatures in this antechamber to the Banewarrens. A large metal statue attacked Nadeira when she was foolish enough to open a door unaided. Leto suggested that it had malfunctioned. He seemed to think that it was not intended to run into the door and fall to pieces. I tend to agree, though the magical fluid spraying around the room due to Otto’s fidgeting was better than any planned trap could have been. Both Otto and Calreisent were injured by the blast.

In the next room, an angry troll climbed out of a pit and attacked us at once. It was very difficult to fight – it seemed impervious to all but the strongest of blows. After Leto, Otto and Calreisent were swept up by a magical cyclone, Nadeira seemed to be considering escape. Then, to our surprise, the troll faded away to nothing. A door closed on the other side of the pit and the men were released from the wind storm. Leto found some glass shards and decided that the wind had been a magical effect.

As we crossed the pit, we heard screaming in the far room. A dying female half lion lay in a pool of her own blood, seemingly alone until something appeared and attacked Nadeira. The creature must have fled immediately, for we did not land any blows try though we might. (Fighting an invisible creature is difficult – try it sometime and find out.)

The hallway leading from this room was lined with runed doors, all ajar. Only two appeared to have activated wards, but nothing was in them any longer. One was possibly the prison of the dark elf we slew in the streets above – we took the amethysts from the useless prison to fund our further expeditions.

Down the circular stair we found an enormous chamber with a large iron vat in one corner. The vat was full of worms and other vermin, but unlike true vermin this mass of filth worked together. A humanoid form made up of insects and every creepy-crawly known oozed out of the pit and attacked us. It did not have very good aim, having no true eyes, but it was a difficult fight nonetheless.

As we finished each challenge, another presented itself. We heard voices coming from the room of the warding generator. There we found a group of beings trying to gain entry to the Banewarrens proper. Four goblins were easily dispatched once Leto remembered that his fire spells would not do me too much harm. The lion man fought off three of us bravely for quite some time. Calreisent fell while protecting me from the troll – I may never manage to look at him without wincing again. We managed to save Calreisent’s life this time – I fear what will happen in the days to come. His utter lack of any instinct for self preservation will surely be his undoing.

We left the Banewarrens for Saint Gustav’s immediately, taking Calreisent and his companion Rasnir’s body with us. Brother Fabitor received his friend Calreisent with obvious relief, and begged us to accompany him to the Cathedral of Saint Balian, where he was to meet with the church fathers. They did not like hearing our news. A division among the elders of the church of Lothien became apparent at once – one group was in favor of resealing the Banewarrens with all speed, while the other wished to use the items in the Banewarrens to protect the city against a coming evil.

It was decided that we would attempt to understand the spell of warding used through application of a scroll of Legend Lore. Naturally we consulted with Zavere before undertaking this quest. He asked us to speak with Jevvica Nor or the Inverted Pyramid. She suggested that the grail mentioned by those we fight against is the Black Grail, an artifact that contains the secrets of death. She begs us to stop the incursions into the Banewarrens before the Lothienites begin another arcane purge – this time in Ptolus.

After casting the spell, we took the knowledge granted to us to Brother Heth of the church of Lothien and to Lord Zavere. Brother Heth was interested in the key, but not the chance of resealing the doors. Lord Zavere suggested that the Vlada’ams might have the key, as they had the withered hand of Danar among their treasures.

Lord Zavere suggested that we might set a trap to catch the key. He felt that the Vlada’ams were not going to sit idly by while the Banewarrens were ransacked, pilfered, or otherwise disturbed. He suggested that we might gain the key after their contingent was inside and sent us off with the all-Key to do just that. His attitude suggested that if we accidentally locked somebody powerful in the place when we were done it would be beneficial to the city.

Lord Zavere is a ruthless man.

We decided to stop putting off the inevitable and head into the Banewarrens immediately. Wandering around with the All-Key does not improve our mood any, after all. Calreisent was still on duty, though not immediately in sight when we arrived. He said that more creatures were snooping around while we were away. We were put on our guard against a mind flayer and his entourage.

As Nadeira approached the door, it spoke in a language so old none of us recognized it. The doors opened, and we all grew pale as shadows poured out. I asked Calreisent to pray for us, and we closed the door behind us. It settled into place with an ominous boom, which echoed down the corridors of this place like the crash of a closing sarcophagus in an ancient tomb.

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Guardians of Arete: Session Twenty
Illtumar is in Danger

Leto Schreyer:

I awake and find myself very comfortably in our bed at our small home. Raelic is in the corner looking like a lump of earth. I have never really expressed my feelings for him before I do not think. I guess that there is no one in the world, mine or Praemal, that I would be able to call a true companion. I love my friends and I would die for them in an instant if it would save there life. But with Raelic, this goes so much deeper. He has been there for me in every way possible. He awoke and rolled over and sat back down by my bed. We shared a few thoughts and then got up for the day.

We head over the Bull and Bear Armory to look at items for Otto’s credit that he has there.

While there, the owners begin telling us about Illtumar, there apprentice. They tell us that they are concerned that he is falling in with the wrong crowd. We find out that Illtumar has been running around with the Broken Square. They are a chaos cult. His girlfriend Anika gave him the ring. The 2 of them do not seem to know what it means. Though through conversations with the 2 of them, we found that they seem to be trying to recruit Illtumar specifically.

We discover that the ring gets them into the Brotherhood of Ptolus.

We also discover that there is a secret meeting being held tonight. We think that this is a great opportunity to see what the Brotherhood of Ptolus is about and why they want Illtumar. Illtumar tells us that he will let us see what the group is all about. He really likes Otto and trusts us. So he will let us have the ring to see what the group is about.

We take the ring and go down the street as Illtumar was instructed to do as well. We see some signs from a person on the roof. We follow the signs of the person and a few others. We finally get to the place that we were supposed to go. We find that there are Balacazar guards we guarding the doors when we arrive. We were given hoods and told to head downstairs. We get down there and there are hoods on everyone.

We begin to mingle and after a little bit, and then one of them begins to talk. The usual chaos prattle about the chaos gods and everything else. The joining which turns out to be a sexual reference. We also find out that one of the men here has a sexual disease. WOOT.

Another cultist comes down the stairs with friends. He begins to scan the room saying that there are imposters among us. We are discovered and then the bloodshed ensues. We have to fight our way out of the building. After we kill almost everyone, we discover that the leader of the one who gave us up was a Sebuccai. Looking at everyone, there are a couple of different chaos cults that were represented at the meeting. Physicians, merchants and peasants were all there.

We take the Sebuccai to brother Fabitors and he suggests that we take him over to the Knights of the Golden Cross. We meet Kyra at the Golden Citadel. She takes the Sebuccai in and tries to heal him. He is immune to magical healing for some odd reason. They inform us that he will be out for a bit if we wanted to get freshened up and meet back there for the interrogation. We agree and Kyra’s father escorts us out. He is not a very pleasant man. Before leaving, Kyra offers us a formal invitation to join the Golden Cross. Friendship bands and all.

This is turning out to be a very dangerous game that we have gotten ourselves into. They have a real hate for us right now. Probably because we have been thwarting there plans since we got here. I guess it was only a matter of time.

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Guardians of Arete: Session Nineteen
A New Discovery

Nadiera Bin Mustafa:Whew! We got the girl to safety. She’s going to be okay, although perhaps a little traumatized. Then we went back down to the Tombs.

We find a secret passage, there seem to be several of these down here. This one is locked and there is a magic word to open it. We try a bunch of things and finally, get this, I say “Orcas” in Abyssal and the walls melt away. I think I have some explaining to do to my team.

Well, right away we hear movement. So we go to check it out. Zombies – 4 of them. But I’ve learned a new trick. I flipped up over the table and jumped up on the walls in the corner. I was able to hit the zombies from there, but they couldn’t reach me. It was pretty cool, if I do say so myself. Again, a secret door. I can’t find any traps, so we open it. Oops! Trap, big trap – 3 runes blast us. Ysobel is unconscious and we’re all hurting pretty badly. My bad! Sorry guys! I’ll pay more attention from now on!

Inside, we find a beautiful 4 poster bed, a feather bed, nice tapestries, the works! I ran and jumped on the bed and snuggled down into it. Ysobel’s eyes widen at me and she looked disgusting. Whatever! Then we found a chest, teak and silver, gorgeous! I did find a trap this time, thank you very much and disabled it. So I went to open it. The next thing I remember was Leto looking over me, shaking his head, laughing and grimacing at me all at the same time. What’s wrong with me today? Well I must have found them all, right? Wrong! Gas trap! I’m not going to live this day down!

Anyway, inside the chest were all sorts of goodies! Scrolls and a book, stones and gems and lots of GOLD! Whoo-Hoo! We can afford our new house that needs so much work now!! The book is kind of scary though. It really unsettles even me. It is locked and has a silver face on it. Red gems are set in the cover.

Ysobel picks up the book and immediately looks hurt. She drops the book. Leto realizes it is a book of Vile Darkness an artifact. I’m not sure what all that means, but it sure scares the falafel out of me.

We went back down thru the caverns and came across a pen of sorts, with dead people heaped all over. Ick! Then we come to a fork and we were torn between two paths. We started down one and come across 2 Dwarven statues. Oh, this looks promising! There was a wall and a door we can’t open, but I was able to climb up over it and open it from inside. Not terribly secure, I mean, why bother having a lock if anyone can just scale the wall and get in?

We found neat stuff in that room, though! Weapons marked with a seal. I vaguely remembered that seal. Something about a great city beneath Ptolus, Dwarvenharth. It was sealed up a long time ago. Cool!

Anyway, we kept going and we saw “Exiled! Don not pass!” scribbled on a wall. So of course, we passed! As we kept exploring, the cavern opened up into a huge chamber, with a huge door that looked like a big gear. I snuck down a little and saw 2 dark elves guarding the door. We ended up getting one but the other must have run thru the door back inside. We followed him in. What a sight we saw! A dried up moat and on the other side, it looked like a castle wall. I climbed down into the moat and up the wall to window. Ysobel followed me and helped me look for a way to put the bridge down so that they others could cross over.

We saw beautiful compound bows hanging and dragon rifles. Really nice equipment!

I climbed up to the balcony and we managed to get the bridge down. Ultimately though, we decided to go the opposite way though. There was a passage going away from the moat that we think the other dark elf must have gone down. We need to take care of him first!

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Guardians of Arete: Session Eighteen
Back to the Tomb Temple of Kelvin

Nadiera Bin Mustafa:

I am not the most patient person. Have you learned this yet? But I went with the group to see the Shuul, because Otto wanted to. He’s very interested in the things they make. He really is quite the inventor. And the Shuul are trying to bring back the old science that has been lost. Now I like inventions, don’t get me wrong, and I like to have all the newest technology, but I don’t really care how it is made.

It was a bunch of construction, and dirty. Otto showed his designs to one of the Shuul and they say they are pretty good. We are told to go see Savane. So we do. He tells Otto that he’s pretty good and could come and study with them. He gives Otto some reading material…blah, blah, blah. But to do this, Otto must become a member and swear an oath to the empire. He’s not ready for that, and I’m not ready for him to leave us yet. I think this may be in his path though someday.

Then we go to get inducted into the Knights of the Golden Cross. Kyra wants to do this at her house, without the rest of the members. It was surprisingly informal, which I found quite pleasant.

Then, it’s back down to the Tombs of Kelvin! I’ve been waiting of this!! This time we ran past the skeleton fountain and had no problem offing the 2 that came out. At the top of a hallway was a red flashing rune. We decided to send Otto thru and see what happened. Nothing seemed to happen.

We found a spiral staircase, down a hidden passage, and or course, there were the zombies! We worked on them for a while and more enemies started to show up. Not Otto started acting weird, he went behind a tapestry instead of fighting, not his style at all. Right as we finished them off, we heard a scream down the hall. We found a girl, she looked pretty bad. We decided to take her up to the surface and come back later.

But Otto was off on his own again. What’s up with him? He just went ahead opening doors and not waiting for anybody! We called after him and tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen. So we locked the unconscious girl in a safe room and went running after Otto. By the time we got to him, he had opened a door to a large hall where stood: an ogre, a high priest and several other mean-looking guys. We were unprepared, to say the least! But then we hear one guy say to another that Otto was on their side!! Not good!

Now Otto is tough, I wouldn’t want to go up against him. So I thought maybe tripping him up in my bolas might keep him from killing us, if what the guy said was true. Damn runes!! But it didn’t work and now Otto was just pissed…at ME! So Leto and Isobel set to fighting the bad guys while Otto and I sparred for a while. He’s tough, but luckily, I’m nimble, and we didn’t really hurt each other after all was said and done.

Well, we ending up victorious, but it was NOT an easy fight. Leto was able to cast a spell or something on Otto and instantly he was back to being reliable old Otto! We found a key on the high priest, I think and we pulled some rubies out of the archway so it wouldn’t work for teleportation anymore. We got a bunch of magical armor and stuff. Not a bad take for just starting out down here. But we REALLY have to get this girl to safety. So we’ll come back soon!

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Guardians of Arete: Session Seventeen
An Assassination Attempt

Ysobel Shadowcaster:Rain10

Flying high on life.

Our little family decided to take a ride with the Barbarian Balloonists we have seen advertised throughout the city. I must admit to some trepidation when I first saw the balloon, but I was quickly reassured by the confident manner of the proprietors of the establishment. Fallix was most businesslike when getting us settled in the office, and Earnest was a font of useful information as we took our flight.

One unusual thing occurred during the flight. We were joined by a blonde man named Taran. Nadeira acted a little funny about him as we took off, but I thought she was just feeling airsick. As it turned out, she was watching Taran watching us. As we were flying over the middens of the city, Taran drew a wand from beneath his cloak and aimed it at Earnest.

We all reacted at once. Earnest was astonished when Otto stepped forward to prevent any attacks. Nadeira jumped in to grab the wand. As she took it from Taran a cord attached to the wand was ripped apart, stunning Taran in the process. Leto put him to sleep to prevent any further trouble. Earnest was understandably upset, and flew up back to the office immediately. Fallix offered us credit for a future balloon ride and gratefully accepted our offer to remove the unconscious saboteur from his presence.

We searched Taran thoroughly, but only came up with more questions. His eyes had multiple pupils, and there was a cord emerging from the back of his head. His skin also seemed to have been changed – possibly to make it tougher. We took him to Pythoness House to question him.

Upon awakening, Taran got his bearings quickly. He was able to answer some of our questions, though he chose not to answer all. He had intended to use the wand, a paralysis ray emitter, to stop Earnest from flying the balloon. He would make his escape in the resulting crash while interested parties apprehended us. The whole ruse was intended solely to capture us. It boggles the mind.

He spoke to us of chaosiotech. He spoke of his partner Kaylin, a woman who has been changes so utterly by the implants that she can only communicate through a direct link with others who have been modified with chaosiotech. He mentioned the Surgeon in the Shadows, calling him an artist. He explained what his various enhancements do: his eyes allow him to see in the dark and to see invisible creatures; the plug in his head allows him to control certain items; the fibers in his skin provide a type of armor; the heartbeat in his stomach if from an organ that allows him to increase his strength.

We sent a messenger to Kaira Swanwing, asking for assistance with the prisoner. We were somewhat surprised when her father appeared. We were even more surprised when he expressed his opinion of Taran. Much to my surprise, Naevin Swanwing is a fanatic in the strongest possible sense of that word. His dedication to upholding the law has become an obsession; in this case his obvious hatred of all thing dealing with chaosiotech made us fear that his intentions toward Taran were not entirely honorable. We were forced into an uncomfortable position: acquiesce to what might be considered murder by some, or stand up to one of the most powerful and important people of our acquaintance to defend a known adherent of chaos.

We made a decision as a group, and we intend to stand by that decision even though it may cause us trouble in the future. WE sent a message directly to Kaira asking for her help. Kaira was not surprised to hear of her father’s statements or of his excitement over the destruction of chaosiotech and those who use it. I hope that we have not earned his enmity this day, but I could not in conscience stand by while he judged and executed Taran with no attempt at redemption.

As it turns out, Kaira’s father does not share her approach to justice. He described her as soft, even weak. We think there is some tension between them over this issue. Kaira seemed anxious to have us inducted into the Knights of the Golden Cross as quickly as possible. We decided on the twelfth day of Rain, just two days hence.

Another matter of redemption has been settled to our satisfaction. The Cobbled Man was pleased to see us, bnut he was more pleased to be offered the chance to become more human with the Brotherhood of Redemption. We do not anticipate that he will ever be fully what he was, or that he will regain what memories he might have had. We hope that he can be given some semblance of a normal life.

We also spent some time walking over our new home, deciding on room assignments and making lists of things to buy or mend. Leto expects that we can fix many of the problems caused by neglect with a little judicious application of magic. I hope he is right – it would be frustrating to fix a balcony only to have it come crashing down again.

For now we will spend our energy preparing our home and ourselves for the next part of our life in this city.

Nadiera Bin Mustafa:

What a wonderful day for a balloon ride! We’ve been working hard on our new house and we need a break. We’ve been putting this off for far too long. We went to see the Barbarian Balloonists. So the ride is a full circuit of Ptolus, starting in Rivergate. It was all of us, except Raelic and another guy, Terran. He seemed pleasant enough at first.

It was very relaxing and entertaining. A truly beautiful and well-designed city, I think. Flying over Necropolis was eerie though. I don’t want to go there soon.

So, we’re all getting along swimmingly, when all of the sudden, I thought I saw Terran pull something that looked like a weapon or a wand out. I waited to see what would happen. Sure enough, he pulled his wand on the halfling flying the balloon. It wasn’t a tough fight. I mean, who in their right mind, would attempt to attack the four of us together? Come on! Well, apparently, he didn’t have a “right mind”, we found out. When I grabbed the wand from him, something like a cord snapped. It was attached to him – Chaosiotech! As we look more closely at him, he IS a pretty creepy guy!

So our nice balloon ride is cut short, story of our lives, and we take Terran back home to question him. So the plan was to paralyze the driver so the balloon would crash over enemy territory. I guess they were waiting to capture us. Is EVERYBODY after us?? His partner, Kaelyn, was scrying him. It would seem there is a tasty bounty on our heads. We sent for Kyra Swanwing.

But while we were waiting for her, here’s the weird part, Terran started talking about the Night of Dissolution, but in a way I’ve never thought about. See, we’ve been in with the higher-ups in the government and these guys are fighting for a revolution of sorts. Which I can totally sympathize with. He says tyranny abounds here and new rulership would be a good thing. Anyway, not that I was swayed, but I was surprised how torn I was suddenly feeling.

That’s just about when Kyra’s father showed up. He was just disgusted with Terran and “his kind”. First of all, I don’t like that kind of talk, no matter who they are. Second, he was just going off on this guy. He wants to remove the chaosiotech first, painfully, it sounded and then “judge him” and sentence him. So, basically, they are going to kill him, why torture the guy first? It just didn’t sit right with me.

And I said something! I haven’t quite learned to bite my tongue yet. I think I surprised (and worried) the rest of the group, speaking up this way. I mean, we’re supposed to really respect this guy. But, they supported me anyway. We ended up telling Kyra’s father that we would wait for Kyra instead of turning Terran over to him right now. He was NOT happy! Have I made an enemy? Do I care?

I am suddenly wrought with mixed emotions over so many things. I’m not as certain as I was before. I envy Otto. He knows what he knows and he is sure he knows it. I would like that kind of certainty. What if I’m fighting the wrong fight? How can I be sure? Is it possible that stopping the Night of Dissolution may be a mistake? My head is throbbing. I need a bath.

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Guardians of Arete: Session Sixteen
The Night Circus

Ysobel Shadowcaster:Rain 8

In which we surprise ourselves.

After our recent adventures with the cults, we decided it was time to clear up some business threads. We also did not wish to keep a gentleman waiting. We therefore determined that it was time to visit Navaen Blueflight and speak to him about his home. Accordingly, we made our way to Emerald Hill.

I think he was surprised at us, though reading his emotions is not an easy task. He took some refreshment with us and we spoke of Pythoness House. He was not eager to give it up – he offered us instead a handsome prize of 8,000 gold pieces each. I think in the end that would have been that, but he then made us another offer. He said that we could take the gold, or we could play him a game of copper dragonscales. If we lost, we lost nothing and still gained our reward. If we won, we would get the house instead of the gold. After some discussion, we accepted his challenge and set a date for the game. We purchased to practice boards so that we could learn the game.

In the meantime we decided to visit the Night Circus, as it will only be near the city for a few days. The wagons of the circus folk reminded me strongly of home – their gay colors and big wheels made me long for the open road again. Fortunately their silence was a bit wearing, or I would have left the city in a heartbeat.

We noticed that many of the circus folk did not speak – all those wearing black and white face paint did not utter one word while we were there. Others had booming voices and loudly advertised the interesting things we were to see inside the circus. It was a very strange juxtaposition.

The acts were arranged in a circle around the outside of the fair with booths selling souvenirs and food in the center. The first act we saw was the Dancing Rose – a woman who undulated with surprising grace. Otto thought she was quite good, and managed to catch her eye in return. She gave him one of her scarves. A man with no face was able to mold his visage to mimic those in the crowd. He frightened a number of gently-reared ladies with that trick. Other acts seemed more dire: the Vampiress was an amazing creature that could transform to look like a vampire in broad daylight. There were too many to list them all.

One wagon in particular caught our fancy. Madame Fortuna was telling fortunes and scaring youngsters. We thought it would be fun to see what she had to say, but the situation turned serious very quickly. It seems her powers, though different, are no less strong than Bryan’s. Nadeira’s fortune was thus: not of this world but brought by the emperor, a king who sleeps, to judge the forces of evil. She will face a great evil on the moon of magic, beings who sleep beneath the earth.

Madame Fortuna offered to let us join the circus and leave Ptolus behind. We could travel with the circus until we found our homes, then leave of our own free will. The members of the circus are exiles from their home and travel across worlds through the mists. She does warn us that to join the circus means to accept the Twisting, a transformation that makes you into something the circus can use. While the thought of traveling home in such comfort is tempting, I do not wish to lose some part of me that cannot be replaced.

Madame Fortuna asks for our help in the end. She said that Isilday, the circus manager, is experiencing trouble with one of the acts and suspects that he will try to take control of the circus to dark purposes. We agree to keep our eyes open and to take action if we think it is necessary.

Professor Pacali cannot have earned that title at any reputable institution of learning. He keeps his charges in the Hall of Horrors in filth and abject humiliation. It is all we can do not to gag as we walk through. The smell was almost overpowering and the displays were diabolically horrifying. As we exited the tent I warned a young lady who looked rather frail not to go through it. She thanked me for the warning. I hope she enjoyed the rest of her evening – I do not think she would have slept soundly for many nights had she entered.

After subjecting ourselves to the Hall of Horrors, we approached the only dark caravan in the circus. Nadeira allowed her curiosity to overcome her sense of decorum, slight as it is, and peered into the window. The curtains were suddenly parted by a blonde woman who then came out to speak to us. Leto greeted her by name, which took her aback somewhat. She brought us into her wagon so that we could speak. We explained that Madame Fortuna had asked us to keep an eye on Professor Pacali, and that we were not averse to acting should the situation warrant. She accepted our pledge thoughtfully and told us what she knew. She suspected that the Professor would sneak into the city to meet Luth, the surgeon in the shadows, after the circus closed for the night. We suggested that we should follow him and see what happens.

As we whiled away the evening watching the rest of the acts, we worked our way into hiding. Otto left to wait at the city gates. Not long after dark, on of the Blade Brothers met Professor Pacali and his squid woman at the big tent. They left the fair followed by the most horrifying sight I have ever seen: thirty Pickled Punks walking as if alive. As we snuck out to follow, Isilday made the three of us invisible. Nadeira managed to pass a potion of invisibility to Otto a little later, but not without startling him.

We followed Pacali and his minions into the city and to an alley. He spoke with a man of strange visage with surgical implements fused into his hands. We did not hear their conversation, being too far away, but we managed to coordinate our attack efforts. I tried to cast a spell on the man, but he shook it off at once. Leto cast his fireball into the alley, surprising Pacali mightily and terrifying him no end. We understood why a moment later, when the necklace of fireballs he was wearing suddenly exploded, leaving him a charred crisp. Otto called the surgeon out to do battle, but was paralyzed by a spell as the surgeon left.

The only thing I could think to do was yell for help, citing arson as the cause of the fire. I ran into the alley to check that Pacali was truly dead, then we all left the city as quickly as possible. We went straight to Isilday to tell her what had happened, and she immediately began to pack the circus up. Leto was confused until I reminded him that the city would look for a scapegoat for the fire.

Isilday asked us to help her if she ever needed it again, and we agreed. I think we would have agreed in any case, but our actions did cause her some trouble this day. Our sense of fair play seems to rule us in all things. She also told us the answer to a riddle; she is a Ghaele. Leto was stunned.

After such excitement, it was relaxing to torture our minds with game strategies. We had determined that Leto would be our champion and we would all assist him at the game. Navaen was happy with this prospect. I think he found playing a team of four to be a challenge. Imagine the surprise of everyone present when we beat him by several points! Navaen was shocked, but pleased as well. His only request was that we leave the portraits of the original family hanging in the gallery. We naturally agreed – we had felt they belonged there when we first saw them.

Navaen was please to hear that Taunell. The priest of Lothien, had moved on to the next world. He said they had enjoyed many conversations together over the years. After some more polite chatter, we left him and began to plan our renovations.

Nadiera Bin Mustafa:

So we go to see Navan Blueflight, the owner of Pythonus house. He is a REALLY old elf! So he must be someone of great importance, I guess. He was grateful that we cleared out the house and offered us 8000 gold each as reward. But he’s no dummy, he knows we really want the house. So he challenges us to a game of Copper Dragonscales. I’ve never heard of this game, so we ask if we can go practice a little and come back in a few days. He agrees and is kind enough to say we can still get the gold even if we lose the game. What a gentleman! We went and bought the game. It is fun, but hard. Ptolus is so rich in culture and entertainment.

Speaking of entertainment!!! We decided to go to the Night Circus. What a treat! It is deliciously creepy-sounding. When we get there, almost everybody has their face painted really strangely and they don’t speak. They seem pleasant enough, but it’s very disconcerting. So there is an outer ring of wagons and an inner ring, and a large tent at the back. So we just decided to start at the first.

“Rose” is in the first to the left. She is beautiful, dancing seductively but elegantly. She has the same painted face, but it does not seem as creepy on her. Even Otto seems taken with her.

The next has 2 brothers, “The Blade Brothers” juggling knives and things. They weren’t smiling, they seemed intent on what they were doing. But they were doing it very well, changing up things without seeming to communicate at all.

The 3rd was “Mr. ?” He held up mask up and when he pulled it away, he had no hair and no face! Ick! He could change his face to look like anything or anyone he wanted. Weird! But kind of a cool and useful skill! But I did get the feeling his “real” face was just a blank canvas…yuck. I bought a demented face mask there though…hee hee.

The next was “The Vampiress”. She had blue eyes and a white dressing gown and was behind bars. Then all at once she showed wings and fangs and her eyes turned bright red. Creepy as it was, it kind of seemed to me like she was just trying to creep people out. She was good at it though, no doubt!

Then we came to a wagon with a leopard-spotted man. He was growling and shaking the bars and basically scaring people. It just made me hungry. I bought a kabob!

Then something very interesting happened. We approached Madame Fortuna’s wagon. She had no eyes – gross. She claimed to be able to tell our futures. Sure, we thought, we’ll give it a try. But when we got in there, she seemed kind of taken aback. She told us we are not of this world – how true! Then she said we were brought here and our purpose was judgment. Hhmmmm….. And we have this big evil to fight, beings that live beneath the earth – surprise, surprise.

She asked where we came from and gave us an interesting option. Even though we are trapped here, she says, we could join them and travel to different worlds. But to do that, we have become one of the acts. And we have no say in how we’re transformed. It seems to me, a person would have to be pretty desperate to make that kind of sacrifice, but to each her own. She told us about the carnival mistress, Isolday and Professor Pacali, who runs the Hall of Horrors, the big tent at the end of the row.

Apparently, Pacali thinks he should be running the Circus. He’s up to no good, but Isolday can’t kick him out. He has to leave of his own accord. So we hit the Hall of Horrors next.

Yeah, gross, twisted, disturbing. This guy is sick, I mean really sick. I don’t want to get into too many gross details, but he had some really messed up “acts”. He had “Pacali’s Pickled Punks” – a bunch of deformed fetus-looking creatures, a squid woman, a blobby, dirty deformed man. Oh, and a feral kid who ate birds and stuff. We made a hasty retreat. I mean, YUCK!

On our way back to the front, we noticed an unmarked wagon in the middle and I decided to peek in. A beautiful blonde woman came out and basically told us to mind our business. We decided to tell her that we knew about the trouble with Pacali and wanted to help. So, it seems Pacali has a contact in Ptolus and was meeting with him later. So we decided to hide out and follow him to see what he was up to.

In the meantime, we explored the rest of the Circus. A wooden headed guy who hammered nails into his head – weird, but you can’t really look away! A snake mistress – she dances with the snakes and then new snakes seem to come right out from her body. Oddly alluring, but don’t tell anyone I said so. “The Brute”, who looked like a big orc lifted Ysobel and me up on either shoulder. That was kind of fun.

We got some stew and drank some ale. There was a dancing monkey (I’ve always wanted a monkey) but this one had horns and spikes. And we basically killed time until the Circus closed.

Then we followed Pacali into an alley in town, his creepy little creatures, following him – Ew! He met with the Surgeon. Guess the Surgeon was going to implant Chaosiotech into his little creature thingies. Double Ew! Anyway, it all happened so fast. I climbed up on the roof to surprise the bad guys. Leto sent fireballs in, I think, and the next thing I knew everything was on fire. I got out of there and apparently we managed to kill Pacali, but not the Surgeon. Well, live to fight another day, I guess. When we told Isolday what happened, she immediately started packing up the Circus. She tells us she is a “Ghaele”. I’m not terribly familiar with that, but apparently, it’s really cool.

Now, to the way cool part of the story. We went and played Navan at Copper Dragonscales. We won!!!! Can you even believe it? YAY!!! We have a house, a big house, a big cool house, with twists and turns and mysteries! And a really cool bathtub!! I‘m so excited! I need a bath right now! Good night!

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