The Final Confrontation
Sessions 65, 66 and 67

Before meeting with the leader of the Followers, the Party remembered their contact from when they last were in Kalrathia: Noxis, a Dragonborn agent. With Antinua’s spells, they sent him a message, informing of their desire to meet him. And soon enough, they did. In the same place where they received the map to Karanox, Noxis, in cult clothing, came to meet them. He had had no contact with Thivaraxia and had spent the time infiltrating the cult. Apparently, Kalrathia was a sort of trade nexus, where supplies were collected, logged and shipped to some other location or locations. Only their leader knew the actual destinations and orders from above, and he was reputed to remember everything without relying on paper. Before departing towards Dusk Coast, Noxis told of caravans heading southward, into the desert.

After night fell, the Party decided to see if the logs from the ship would be a lead worth investigating. Lady Antinua transformed herself into a cloud of mist, silently sidling into the ship captain’s cabin from the lake. Unfortunately, there was a problem: A caged crow, apparently left there to guard the cabin. With her spell diminishing and no time to improvise, Lady Antinua simply transformed back, snatched the book and fled in the same fashion as she appeared. The guardian crow cawed at the intruder, alerting the ship and ultimately the Followers to the theft.

Outside the city, the ship’s logs were of no use; Apparently the ship had met with the cultists in Kurrach and had arrived here, with no clue to its destination. With the town alerted, the Party took to the Sparrow and flew south to spend the rest of the night and recuperate. Unfortunately, their departure was witnessed by sharp-eyed wizards, who were flying around the city, looking for the book. Unable to catch the Sparrow, an orc group was sent to give chase.

Despite the best efforts to disguise their landing spot, the orcs’ scouts found the Sparrow in the middle of the night. Althaea, standing guard, spotted the orcs and managed to use her musics to trick them to stay their attack, purchasing enough time for the rest to rise up and depart. As the Sparrow rose, throwing spears peppered the hull, damaging the flying machine badly. But they made their escape and landed again, this time far away, in a safe spot.

On the next day, 9th of Hearth, the Party decided to resort to trying to find one of the caravans, as returning to Kalrathia would be a difficult prospect. But despite the grave odds, fortune, or more likely the Essence, favored them. Antinua spotted a camp site in the middle of the desert. Clearly a caravan had spent a night here, heading further south-west, where the Party also took off.

With wits, sharp vision, a stick and some sand, the Party managed to decipher the route the caravan was taking. They stopped and changed direction at certain landmarks: Statues, ruins, smaller patches of vegetation. And most importantly, they were not the first ones to traverse this path, as the Party found evidence of previous travel in each of these landmarks. A couple of days later, on the 11th of Hearth, way ahead of the caravan, the Party had finally found their destination: A ruined fortress on the easternmost tip of the Throat Ridge. It was bustling with activity: Tents, livestock and lots of people, all Followers of the Guardian.

So the Party infiltrated the ruins, by Carric’s magical disguise and Antinua’s ways to provide communication. Now seemingly a band of orcs, the Party made their way inside, searching for the significance of this place. Despite the cult being alerted to their presence by the mages on Kalrathia, they managed to deceive the welcoming party, who stated that this was the most important location of the Followers of the Guardian. On the ruins the Cult was building a stable place to live and putting up fortifications, while down below the surface, wizards were congregating.

Antinua managed to use her scrying abilities to explore the underground: Below the partly ruined cellars was a heavily guarded trap door that led to a long, wide underground chasm. On the bottom of the chasm, where an elevator’s lowest access point was, were a collection of tunnels. They contained wizards, arcanists, books and arcane equipment. In the middle of this place was a huge chamber, its floor full of runes of summoning and binding. And one door, a normal door, locked with magic, preventing Antinua’s inquiries.

While Antinua concentrated on exploring, the rest of the Party discovered another entrance to the cellar level, one that potentially bypassed the heavy guard post. Now certain that something big was going on, the Party left discreetly to wait for nightfall, when they would try to use Carric’s invisibility to get to the chamber, and to the door.

Night fell, clear and star-studded. As the Party made their way towards the fortress, they were surprised to hear distant music from the desert: Someone playing a lute. Curious about this, they took the Sparrow to discover the source: A shambling group of walking people, heading straight towards the Followers. Satisfied that this might be a good diversion, they landed and made haste towards the ruins.

As they arrived, the Followers had clearly spotted the newcomers and their nature became apparent: They were undead. This gave the Party a pause: Was this Ixthoth? Should they help the cult take down the lich monster Borel had let loose?

Deciding that whatever was below the fortress was more important, the party continued on as the undead and the Followers engaged in battle; Battle that seemed to be evenly matched. With invisibility weaved by Carric, they faced no difficulty in locating the secondary entrance to the depths: A covered-up and locked well. Using the last magic from Dulkan’s unlocking chime, they broke through and landed in a dried-up reservoir. The reason why the Cult did not consider this route important to defend became unfortunately clear as huge, snakelike carrion monsters, nearly indistinguishable from the rocky walls, attacked them. While just a few months ago this would have been a hard-fought battle, now the Heroes of Dusk Coast did not even flinch as they cut, pierced and blasted the creatures dead in scant moments, never breaking stride as they continued on their way.

Finding the chasm, the Party jumped down, slowed by Althaea’s magical melodies. The last line of defense for the Guardian’s innermost sanctum waited for them, but did not manage to slow them down.

The sounds of battle died down and the Party walked the tunnels in silence. The books, research tables, bedrolls and half-eaten meals painted the area as a living quarters for arcanists, engaged in some feat of magic. Passing these hallways towards their ultimate goal, the Party finally found the summoning chamber. Full of cowering arcane researchers, clearly more interested in staying alive than fighting, the chamber seemed ready to fulfill its task. And sitting on the short set of stairs in front of the locked door was the Guardian, tapping on the floor with the end of her glaive.

So this was it. Thera had hoped for more time, mostly to gather more Essence, but also to prepare herself. The arrival of the so-called ‘heroes’ forced her hand; She would have to perform the summoning as soon as possible. Good thing the circle was as complete as it would get and no-one else would have to do a rush job with the magic.

As she was waiting for the wizards to start summoning Ochrana from… wherever she was, the sounds coming from the entrance told her that she had to deal with the ‘heroes’ first. “Keep safe. This won’t take long”, she told the wizards who looked very concerned. She did not want anything to happen to them. True, she did not want anything to happen to anyone, but that would have to remain a distant wish for now.

Then they emerged. Three of them, but it was likely one of them was skulking around, covered by some magic. No matter.

Thera tried to reason with them, she really did. She was doing basically the same thing as the people of Dusk Coast, just in a bigger scale. She had the opportunity and means to fundamentally change the hierarchy of the whole world. She could even let some of the Divines live just to keep everyone equal. Like Mishra, the people seemed to love her. But the ‘heroes’ did not possess the courage to take this decisive step. And as the half-elf, Carric, stated that they would have to stop her, she readied her glaive, saddened that she would have to use it to shed nondragonic blood.

So Thera attacked. She moved, twirled, thrust, slashed and cast. The bard’s charmed furniture were an inconvenience, standing in her way and dividing her attention. The man, Dulkan, came in with a flaming rapier and managed to disarm her glaive, but it was just a momentary setback as she summoned it back to her hand. The sorcerer pummeled her with elemental blasts and the wizard, some elf woman of apparent importance, managed to hit her with a disintegration spell.

Individually, Thera could have taken each of them down. But together, they were stronger. The wizard’s destructive spell sapped her strength. Dulkan’s oppressive attacks forced her on the defensive. The sorcerer kept gnawing on her stamina with his spells and resolve with his words. And the bard, Althaea, kept countering her spells.

With a mighty shout of determination, Thera called on her second wind and managed to strike the sorcerer down. She turned her attention to Dulkan, ready to duel him to his grave. But then, the sorcerer awakened to the tunes of the bard, pleading Thera to stop, calling her with her name. The fatigue from the fight made a crack in her confidence and for the briefest moment she stopped… But her mission was of too great importance. She readied her glaive, twirling it in the air. And the sorcerer gathered all his power and hurled a fireball so great it even overloaded her protective ring.

Her ears rang. Her mask had fallen off. Thera tried to rise up, but the strength had left her. From the numbness in her body, pain started to grow. The shadow of Dulkan came over her. She tried to speak, but only a bloody cough came out.

She had lost. She was dying.

“All that effort… wasted…” she said as the sorcerer leaned over her. The shadows in the ceiling shifted as the ‘heroes’ came closer. They formed the shape of a dragon… Sithrahk. Waiting for her soul. Waiting for her Essence.

No! Thera grasped the hand of the sorcerer. “This… cannot have gone in vain… It is up to you now…” And with that thought, she admitted defeat. She admitted that these people were stronger than her… Probably more noble than her. She hoped that they would see her reasoning and they would use the power she was giving them… But it was now up to them, not her.

The shadows in the ceiling seemed to grimace in annoyance. While she did not manage to kill the Divines, at least she managed to annoy them.

With that thought, Thera Ser allowed the candle of her life snuff out.

After the Dragonslayer’s life ended, the Party could witness Carric’s might. With Thera’s Essence, he was one of the most significant and powerful individuals in the world. He could feel the potential to rival even the Divines in his soul.

They did not have long to catch their breath. The unearthly music had arrived, heralding the arrival of the attackers. Ready to face another great foe, the Heroes stood. From the door came undead, with Borel’s walking corpse in lead. They did not attack, however. Behind the first wave of undead came a little kobold, playing a golden lute, as surprised to see the Heroes as they were to see him. It became apparent that he was serving Thivaraxia, who had sent the kobold to kill the Dragonslayer.

And yet another entity arrived. The summoning chamber bent into the far distance, accommodating eight newcomers who burst through the veil separating the planes: The Divines arrived. Congratulating the Heroes on their monumental task and Ochrana returning to Carric his memories of Edin, the Divines had one more matter to discuss: The Essence. Now that the Heroes possessed the might to challenge the Divines, they demanded the Heroes give up their Essence to keep up the balance.

None of them did.

Disappointed, the Divines departed, as per their pledge, giving a stern warning that the Heroes would be watched.

And, as there were no conflicts left, the kobold ceased playing, returning Borel to the land of the living, and left to find his master. The Hereos found no reason to harass the kobold, and were left in the sanctum of the Dragonslayer, ready to forge their own future.

Dangerous Skies
64th Session

After shaking off the cultist and resting for the night, the Party took off to the skies, towards Kalrathia. The cold sky, combined with light snowfall, made for a cold flight. But the Sparrow would find itself prey to the many threats of the domain of Dragons.

The Sparrow shook as a gargantuan raptor swept down, grasping its wings in its massive talons. Dulkan, fearlessly as ever, climbed to the wing to attack the beast’s feet. While his flaming rapier agitated the bird, Althaea used her magical rod to frighten the creature, who let go of the pilotless ornithopter, instead grabbing Dulkan and veering away.

Althaea disembarked the Sparrow and, with Carric’s magical help, flew to help his friend. Antinua meanwhile climbed to the controls of the Sparrow and discovered her natural talent in piloting it. Carric paralyzed the bird, allowing Dulkan to escape and Althaea to soften his fall with her magical melodies. Antinua veered closer with the Sparrow, successfully allowing Althaea to get back on board… But Dulkan’s grip slipped, sending him spinning downwards… Just as the bird had cleared itself and returned to snag Dulkan again.

Being pelted by Carric’s and Althaea’s magics, the bird decided to withdraw with its meal. But once again, Dulkan managed to get free of the bird’s hold and fall down, this time landing on the Sparrow with the rest of the Party. Now combined and in control, the Party unleashed everything they had on the bird as it came in for a final assault, eventually sending it crashing downwards. The rest of the day the Party spent feasting on the mighty creature’s flesh and harvesting its feathers and fluff to insulate the Sparrow, which while damaged, was still operable.

On the next day the Party arrived in Kalrathia. The people were noticeably different, regarding the Party with suspicion, prompting Carric and Antinua to hide their appearance with magical means. In the Lucky Pony they were taken for merchants and informed that if they had goods to sell, a halfling in the docks would be the person to contact. While they ate in peace and pondered what had happened, Carric followed the other patron’s conversations and realized that probably all of the patrons were Followers of the Guardian.

Seeking more information, Antinua sent magical eyes to scry the docks for answers. In a guarded warehouse, some cultists were packing and shipping supplies, both mundane tools, foods and materials, but also arcane components, which were loaded into a sailing ship, docked in the pier. But what was more shocking was that some of the mundane supplies were packed in crates that originated from Drusia. Did Ashinka know about this?

But, the Party still did not know where everything was heading. There was apparently a camp full of orcs outside the city limits, orcs which were being ferried to the south. The tavern keeper had asked if any of them were wizards, which were probably also a commodity or priority personnel. They needed more answers, which the leader of the Followers in the city would probably know: Arcturus, a human cultist who they tracked to the most impressive building of the city. While he did not have any documents they could have spied with Antinua’s abilities, the Party would need to find out what he knew… Somehow.

Wrath of Zathare
63rd Session

Outside Zathare’s lair, Althaea had an idea. She used her bardic music to create an illusionary version of herself and used it to talk to the dragon Zathare. It was a good choice, as it appeared that Zathare thought that the intruders that entered her lair were the Dragonslayer. By coming alone, unarmed, with a diplomatic, yet unyielding attitude, Althaea managed to placate the dragon enough for the rest of the Party to arrive safely.

With Carric’s innate skill with talking to Dragons, the Party learned that after her defeat in the fight against the Dragonslayer, Thivaraxia called Zathare and Shahrazhad together to discuss an alliance and warn about the threat. While the two neighbors to Dusk Coast dismissed her talk of a human who could single-handedly slay a Dragon, fear instilled itself into Zathare. She and Shahrazhad did decide to attack Dusk Coast together to overwhelm the defenders and divide the riches between each other. But after their attack, Zathare received a message from the Followers of the Guardian, who stated that she would be the Guardian’s next victim. So Zathare retreated to her lair and commanded her kobolds to create a trap for the Dragonslayer when she would arrive.

The Party, seeing that this was a good opportunity to trap the Guardian, decided to remain close to the Dragon’s lair and help her defend against the Dragonslayer. For two days they waited, with Antinua building a little stone house for cover against winter, cleverly telling the Dragon to pull back her invasion force to meet the Guardian.

Then, on the evening of 6th of Hearth, a couple of orcs arrived on a wagon to bring a message to Zathare. Grom Maga, the orc capital of Steel Plains, had had a supply problem: The Followers of the Guardian had arrived in the city and spread their message of freedom and protection. Their covert messengers had claimed that the Guardian could even instill fear in Zathare herself. And when she retreated to her lair, a large amount of orcs had deserted, taking supplies and even ships with them.

These news enraged Zathare. She turned the poor messenger into ash with a lightning bolt from her maw as she realized that the cultists had probably tricked her into abandoning her attack. The Party slipped quietly to a safe distance, observing how Zathare took off on her wings and flew northwards. Desiring more information, they decided to interrogate the rider of the wagon, who was returning to wherever he came from alone.

The orc revealed two important bits of information: His cousin was one of the people who left, and there was apparently still one imprisoned cultist in the city. They thanked the orc for the information and left him alone. Then the Party scryed on the defected orc, discovering that he was travelling eastward, perhaps somewhere in the edges of the Drylands and Steel Plains. So they had a lead to follow. But first, they decided to see Grom Maga and see if the cultist was still alive.

What they found was that the orc city was partly burning; Zathare had shown her displeasure with her servants. With guile and magic, the Party infiltrated the city in chaos and found their cultist in stocks: An another orc. They freed him and posing as fellow followers, they heard that the orcs they recruited are supposed to gather to Kalrathia.

With this stronger lead, the Party knew their next target: The town in the middle of the Drylands.

Road to Zathare
61st and 62nd Sessions

The days after the rescue at Kolmhaag were relatively uneventful, with the Party providing support to the people. Eventually, after a couple of arcane messages to the dwarves in Weisohl, most of the refugees headed towards an air shaft in the mountains where they could get below. The rest opted to brave the orc raiding parties and cold to head back to Duskport. Lord Uratha, painfully aware of the worrisome power contained in Kolmhaag’s keep’s hidden library, ensured that no-one can use that power ever again by lighting it on fire, thus ending Kolmhaag’s long chapter.

Due to the difficult circumstances, the orc sorcerer did not survive, so the Party decided to interrogate it with magical means. Althaea sang the song of the dead and the orc’s head came to life. From the answer to the handful of questions the Party learned that the Drylands’ orcs assault petered out due to “traitors”. As the invasion force would have been a magnitude greater, a significant portion of orcs was still missing, their location most likely in the swamps to the south of Kolmhaag, or back in the Drylands.

After seeing the folk from Kolmhaag return to safety, the Party returned to Duskport to gather their wits and plan ahead. They acquired resources and put out messages for any arcane students as Antinua planned. Their next move needed to be thought out well. As finding the Dragonslayer proved nearly impossible, luring her out into a trap would be the next best option. And to do that, they would have to either send her a message via Antinua, or find out who she might attack next. Lord Yaris speculated that Murguax would be her next target, a Dragon the Party had already met.

So the Party left northward, to check the damage and situation in the Longwall, before they would turn east and fly to Kurrach, Murguax’s domain. After a few hours of cold flight, the Party discovered that while the wall was heavily damaged and had let thousands of orcs through, the fortress of Longwall was standing proud and unaffected; The invaders were more interested in looting than laying siege to the fort. The defenders were concerned about pushing back and retaking the wall, as Zathare, the dragon who demolished the wall in the first place, was still probably lurking about. If they moved in with force, she could descend and lay waste on them.

But this was a matter the Party could provide assistance for. With a clever application of an arcane spell, the Force Cube and the Sparrow, the Party devised a way to capture an orc for interrogation, to find out where Zathare lurked. The plan worked perfectly; Flying close to a solitary orc hunter, they captured him inside a cage and brought him to a secluded place for questioning.

They found out that Zathare was most likely in the Eye of the Storm, a lonely mountain in the northernmost reaches of the Weeping Mountains, and that Zathare and the orc warchiefs were failing to keep the momentum of the invasion going. Seeing no harm in the hunter, named Pechkin, the Party released him back to his people and flew towards the Eye of the Storm, to see what Zathare was doing.

As evening began to fall, the Party landed to a safe location near the jutting mountain on a hill which they presumed was the Eye. Sneaking closer, they discovered a cave entrance, with a skulk of kobolds apparently mining or constructing something inside. Antinua used her magics to scry inside the cave, discovering Zathare sitting on a pile of treasure, with kobolds digging holes into the floor, walls and ceiling. But Zathare, with her dragonic senses, perceived the invisible eye of Antinua and batted it away.

After a brief discussion on whether they should talk to Zathare or not, the Party agreed, with a slight sense of reluctance and dread, that they probably should. So now they just needed to figure out their approach, in order not to anger the great Dragon…

The Dusk of Kolmhaag
59th and 60th Sessions

The wizards of Assarna aided the Party in their ponderings on how to find the Dragonslayer. While her direct location was hard to find, they did offer their talents in theory and crafting magical items. But soon the discussion headed to Assarna’s future: How the growing safe haven for mages could afford to sustain itself. Due to the deep-seated religious dislike for arcane studies, the only people who would offer to become patrons were unsavory and preferred payment to be rendered in magical mayhem. The Party, acknowledging this conundrum, decided that they would see what they could do.

On the next day, 1st of Hearth, the Party departed for Duskport on the wings of Sparrow. It was a quick flight that led them to the majestic balcony that previously only Khariss had landed. An armed group of guards met them, but after recognising the Heroes of Dusk Coast, they welcomed the Party to the council meeting room. There they met Lord Morgath Kuon, Lady Tuire Winden, Lady Yagasha, Alexha Rivan and Yaris Nailo, everyone pleased to see them again. So with refreshments and fresh food, the exchange of stories began.

Not long after the Party had departed the Realm, the Dragonslayer had come to Duskport to meet the council. Her offers of sympathy and co-operation did not find root, however, since the Temples of the Divines, whose assistance was greatly needed, held her as a heretic. In addition, she told how she had seen the Party sucked into a magical vortex during the fight against Murguax, probably never to be seen again, which was not a message any of the Council wanted to hear.

Soon after her departure into places unknown, the Followers of the Guardian arrived briefly to Duskport. But their presence was fiercely opposed by the Paladins and clergy, forcing the cultists and cult-aligned people out of the city. And, according to popular consensus, this was a good thing, since as soon as word spread that the Dragonslayer had met with the leaders of Duskport, the dragons attacked. Shahrazhad and her northern ally attacked the Long Wall and Kolmhaag, breaching them and scattering the defenders back, allowing the orcish wildlanders to enter Dusk Coast. But, were it the enroaching winter or other reasons, the dire attack did not advance further. The dragons returned to their lands and the orcs were content to raid the villages and take over Kolmhaag. While the defenders appreciated the opportunity to rally, this uncertainty discouraged them from striking back, lest they walked into a trap.

The Party, deciding to trust the Council of Dusk Coast, revealed their knowledge: Without mentioning the existence of the Divine Essence, they explained the Dragonslayer’s plan to destroy the Divines and bring an era of uncertainty to all. Horrified of the possibility, the Council unanimously gave their support to the Party. During this discussion, the Party also offered the services of the Wizards of Assarna to the Council, an offer they accepted, although with less enthusiasm.

Ever since divining revealed the destruction of Kolmhaag’s fabled wall and that a group of people were still trapped in the castle of Kolmhaag, Dulkan ached to save them. So before any larger plans were laid, it was decided that those people would be saved. Althaea, recalling her friend Farpounce, suggested that they summon him and his flock of griffins to carry the defenders to the mountains nearby, where they could be led to safety. So it was decided: The Party, after taking care of errands, headed towards Kolmhaag on the wings of the Sparrow. During those errands, Lady Ashinka, who had been absent for almost half of the meeting, met with Carric. She offered that after the Dragonslayer had been brought to her knees, she could take charge of the Cult itself and mould it into a “useful group”. If the Party facilitated this transfer of power, she could make them very, very wealthy. A bit unnerved by the idea, Carric discussed it later with the Party, who ultimately decided that it was at the moment the best choice.

As darkness fell, the Sparrow took flight. Halfway over Haag river, they landed near the fortification where the operations on the eastern front were organised from. There they met the local commander of the Dragon Knights and a human sorcerer who went by the same name as the cult leader in Nidhi. While remaining cautious around her, the Party discussed strategy with the Knights, arranging a feint to the ‘gates’ of Kolmhaag to draw the Orcs away from the fortress itself and allow the griffins evacuate the people.

Two days further, on the dark, windy night of 3rd of Hearth, the plan was executed. The Party met with King Farpounce and dropped Althaea to fly on his back and coordinate the evacuation. So the rest of the Party flew soundlessly to Kolmhaag on the Sparrow. There they destroyed two siege towers that were erected on the walls of the castle, where people had gathered to the damaged balconies. The bulk of the orcs had amassed to the snowy fields to meet the Knights’ mounted charge. Seeing this as an opportunity, Dulkan swept over them on the Sparrow as Lady Antinua and Carric unleashed their destructive magics on the orcs.

Unfortunately, they were not the only ones wielding magic. From somewhere in the mass of panicking orcs came a fireball that scorched the ornithopter and its riders. The mages responded with magics of their own, but the effort was almost for naught, as their target was shrouded in invisibility. But only almost, since it was perhaps by Ochrana’s guidance that Carric’s hastily flung fiery conflagration managed to scorch the invisible spellcaster. But even after Lady Antinua used her arcane sight to see invisible, the dark mass of orcs made it almost impossible to find their target. After receiving a freezing rain of icicles that further damaged the Sparrow, Dulkan took distance and landed on top of the howling wall, scaring a lone orcish sentinel witless in the process.

Feeling their initiative slipping through their fingers and the evacuation only just begun, the Party figured out their next move. As Zariss would have it, they had just received the crucial part of their puzzle: The Force Cube, the object to trade for late Karanox’s Cubic Gate. Carric would use her magic to fly the Party in a tight formation while Lady Antinua would use the cube to block out the mage’s attack and Dulkan would use his bow to take them out. So they ascended, this time without wings of leather and wood, and found that their gambit worked. As they neared the orcs, another fireball came from the crowd, hitting the cube’s defensive force and dissipating harmlessly behind them. Even the mages’ last-ditch effort to teleport into a safe distance failed, and Dulkan’s arrow flew true, piercing the orc’s back and sending him crashing into the snow.

Not wanting to face the entire orcish army, the trio merely retrieved the body and flew across the Haag river, keeping the invaders’ attention on them while Althaea and Farpounce retrieved the rest of the citizens. As the last of the castles’ holdouts had left, the Party rode and flew to safety, an orcish mage in their custody and the castle Kolmhaag disappearing behind them, now curiously in flames…

The Sparrow
58th Session

The Party boarded the Huntress, greeting the crew in the process and began their return to Dusk Coast. As the land disappeared to the horizon, the crew unwrapped the package on the deck. What lay in front of the Party was a huge wooden birdlike construct with a cage as its face, standing on several legs and wings folded to its side: The flying machine built in Assarna, the Sparrow.

After marveling the vehicle and reading the guide written by the wizards, Dulkan, Antinua and Althaea boarded it and took off. While the takeoff itself was a hazardous process for the relatively narrow deck of the Huntress, all difficulty was forgotten as the Sparrow soared through the air, gliding effortlessly through the clouds, the Still Sea spreading wide below the awed fliers.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klsktSMF8nU)

After landing the Sparrow, the Party could concentrate on the news. The captain of the Huntress confirmed the dark tidings: The dragons Shahrazhad and Zathare have attacked Dusk Coast, demolishing the walls of Kolmhaag and Longwall, and now the countryside was being rampaged by orcs. The Party was concerned by these news and wondered what their plan should be.

As the days went on, the Huntress arrived near Bowmeet. The Party pondered whether they should visit the Patron of Shadow’s island or not, eventually coming to the conclusion that Carric would take the Huntress to load up on supplies and check out the situation, while the rest took the Sparrow to Assarna.

The hidden wizard retreat was bustling as ever. Sunder, Pivot, Kenkirk and even Khiss welcomed the Party warmly, discussing the news and hearing the Party’s stories. The island had managed to stay independent, although Lady Yagasha was pressing them to co-operate with the Sorcerer’s lodge. The question of how the arcane research would be most beneficial lay in the air.

Confiscation in the Night
57th Session

As Dulkan took Reneé to discover new flavors to a local inn, the talking pony drew in crowds. One such onlooker was Vath, a Paladin of Ashanti. The dragonborn demanded to know whose the obviously magical creature was, and Dulkan invited him to ask the Marquis. While this exchange ended in the Paladin’s apology, it showed that the advent of the Followers of the Guardian had placed the faithful in a state of high alert.

With several days to wait until the arrival of the Huntress, the Party investigated the Followers for any leads on the Dragonslayer’s whereabouts. They scried with the crystal sphere Master Oberon, the cult’s second in command, learning that the cult was spread wide and that there was one cell operating east of Maelida. Of the local group in Nidha they found nothing else but that they were busy spreading word and converting people, no doubt growing the Dragonslayers’ power.

While investigating, Dulkan ran across a woman being accosted by the Paladin, suspecting her of wizardry. The woman was terrified as the Paladin brandished a metal cylinder found in her bag. Dulkan interfered, claiming that the woman belonged in the same group as Dulkan and Carric, who was permitted to carry objects of sorcery. He succeeded, allowing the woman to pass. They exchanged few words, as the woman was eager to continue on her way. But out of gratitude, she gave a subtle warning: It would be wise for Dulkan to leave the city as soon as possible.

Back in their aristocratic quarters the Party was curious of this person and their object. Lady Althaea and Antinua wondered on its nature, coming into a conclusion that it might create shockwaves, but for what purpose, they did not know. The mages headed towards the Singing Lotus, a tavern the woman had mentioned. Inside the cozy establishment they did not find anything of her nor the item, but they did discover with magical sight a dragonborn, also looking at them with magical sight. The dragonborn quickly headed away, prompting Althaea to give pursuit. With her magics she was invisible, managing to keep up. The dragonborn eventually went inside a hidden hideout, with Althaea close on his heels.

The hideout contained a group of Ochrana’s servants, speculating on the magical item on the floor. They were planning on using it to cause havoc in the city, although curiously without damaging the temples or other places of value. They also made certain that Oshriss, the Dragon of Nidha, was close by. But before they began their horrific deed they wanted to made certain that the ground zero would be a noble interested in the Cult.
With this information, Althaea headed back and the Party orchestrated a heist. They headed to the second floor of the building, bribing the occupant away. While Antinua coaxed the stone floor to create a hole, Carric levitated the metal cylinder to their possession. It would have been a perfect crime, if not for the fact that the occupant was in league with the secret priests. As the Party left outside, the high priestess confronted them. Not willing to shed blood, perhaps to spite the Divine the priests served, the Party merely escaped unharmed, with the object in tow.

Back in safety the question lay what to do with the dangerous magical item. As it could lure more trouble their way, and as the Party did not trust the officials, a decision was made: They opened a gate to Null and send it there, where its magic could harm no-one. After the curious metal cylinder stand was safely off of Realm, Althaea marched to the Marquis and explained what had happened. The Marquis, horrified of what had been plotted, promised to send word to the Ashanti’s temple, so that they could root out any further unpleasantness concocted by the servants of Greed and Hatred.

And so the remaining days went by with the Party recuperating. And finally, on the 20th of Silence, a letter arrived, addressed to Carric and bearing a seal with a sparrow on it. The Huntress had arrived, just as sleek as they had seen when they had left. The only thing, besides repairs, that was different, was a humongous object, covered in tightly-wound sheets…

Return to the Realm
56th Session

Tired, the Party ascended the stairs that led them to Zandath. On top of the castle was a round room, surrounded by cabinets, bookcases and tables, and opposite the staircase was an ornate chair. On it sat a white Dragonborn, his skin wound tight and its scales curled and dried. His eyes were glowing red dots that observed his guests. With a grand gesture he welcomed the travelers to his home and summoned servants who brought seats.

Zandath, apparently without even a hint of remorse or apology, asked the Party to share their story. As they nearly died to this being’s fancies, they were understandably not very sociable. What Althaea and Antinua managed to ascertain about the being was that he was ancient, fed on pure life force of others and was bored. Not wanting to give any information to this being of unknowable motives, the Party was mum. This disappointed Zandath, who with a flair of annoyance, delivered on his promise. Opening a secret path on the floor, he took them deep down to a very forlorn cavern. Dozens and dozens of shadows, lost souls, were desperately trying to claw their way into a space in the middle, separated by a high metallic cage. From a bridge from above one could drop down into the space, and that is what Zandath suggested before leaving the Party to their own devices. One by one they dropped down into the cage, evading the shadow claws, and they found themselves in another, dark space.

That space turned out to be a divination room in a tomb. The tomb, holding the remains of a powerful warrior of old, was itself in the Neptek desert, near the Than river, in the southernmost edge of the Still Sea. Near the domain of Nidhi, Lady Antinua’s home. As they beheld the Sun staring down at them from familiar skies, the Party let out a collective sigh: They were back home. The cold air and the Highmoon told them that it was the 10th of Silence, almost middle of winter. But this south, the winter merely translated to cold night air.

It was two days when they arrived in the city of Nidhi itself: A stony, geometrically pleasant city in the deltas of Than. Canals separated the buildings and small gondolas ferried nobles and wealthy people from building to building… And from a coal-warmed brazier to another. While Dulkan left to find stables for Reneé, the rest of the Party traveled to Marquis Thahka’s chambers. There they found the jewel-laden Dragonborn sitting near a huge floor-mounted brazier and cololurful silks. The Marquis welcomed the Party, providing them some information on what had been happening: In Dusk Coast the Guardian had revealed her existence to the general public, inspiring the Followers of the Guardian to spread far and wide. Even here, over a thousand miles away from Dusk Coast, their presence was causing trouble with the clerics and paladins.

Now the Party had a week to plan their next move, as it was the time it would take for the Huntress to arrive. If all went well, that is…

55th Session

Lady Antinua’s cube brought the party on a hilltop road. Shadowfell was a bleak place; Rocky, barren and lifeless. The sun was faintly glowing from the grey skies, struggling to get past the dark clouds. Colours themselves seemed to have bled out, apart from the Party, who were still brightly lit. The gravelly road the Party stood on led to a foreboding forest behind them… And to the other side, over a black river to a jagged, uninviting castle sitting on top of a cliff. The cliff was the only place in the vicinity that could conceivably contain a place known as the Bleak Caverns, so they headed out.

As they came to the river, they found one of the plane’s inhabitants: A shadow-like being. It was following the riverbed, ambling along. The Party after a brief debate decided to engage the shadow in conversation. It barely acknowledged them and could not identify itself, only explaining that it was heading towards the castle on the cliff because it was “calling”. The shadow floated along the ground, more briskly than the Party, so very soon it had disappeared into the dim distance.

The Party soon came to a crossroad: The main path headed directly towards the cliff, while there was another, smaller, more disused side road that ascended the cliff to the side. By Zariss’ whim they decided to take the smaller path, which precariously took them to the castle proper, which seemed less like it had been built and more like it had been dreamed into existence: Jagged parapets and sharp towers made the castle very uninviting. But still, they braved inside, heading over the drawbridge and through the main door.

The antechamber was round, dark and contained very grim imagery along with one raised door and an iron maiden in the middle. As they stepped inside, a voice boomed from somewhere above, introducing himself as Zandath and demanding to know who had trespassed into his realm. Listening to the Party’s introduction, Zandath offered them a choice: Either leave his realm or entertain him. After protests and explanations that the Party sought the Bleak Caverns the being offered and additional incentive: Entertain him and he will allow them to pass the dangers of the place they sought. With that, the doors began to close by themselves, forcing the Party to make a decision. They stayed.

When the door closed, the ceiling began to rumble. Sharp tall spikes lowered from small holes in the tiles and the whole ceiling began to slowly descent. The Party dashed to the door on the other side of the antechamber, finding it opening inwards and being sternly closed. As the mages prepared their spells to get out of the situation, Dulkan took the chime he had found from Null and tried it on the door. A slow metallic screech rang, followed by the thud of something heavy hitting the floor on the other side; The bar that kept the door closed had moved! Quickly, the Party opened the door and dashed inside.

The nature of Zandath’s “entertainment” was now clear. The next room on the next floor of the castle contained a statue-filled corridor, which was trapped to the brim. This became apparent after Antinua stepped on a pressure plate that peppered the party with poison needles. Not willing to brave the many hidden traps, the Party used their foldable hole and Althaea’s magic to move beyond the next door, which was a disappointment to their “host”.

As they further ascended to the roof of the castle, they found several dark statues peppered with rain, and another drawbridge to another tower, this one the highest in the castle. Seemingly bored with trying to inconvenience the party with traps, Zandath sent their “dance partners” to test them: On the drawbridge, four strange characters climbed around them silently and attacked: Dragonborn and men, all with ashen skins and scales, sharp claws and teeth and eyes glowing malevolent red. A violent, desperate battle ensued. The beings seized their victims and bit into them, sucking vitality away and leaving behind emptiness. They barely slew three of them with spells and Dulkan’s fiery rapier, and the last one they flung to the darkness below by wrapping it into an animated statue, courtesy of Althaea.

Tired and injured, they could hear the amused and elated approval of Zandath, who was undoubtedly waiting for them on the top of the tower…

The Dragon Divines
54th Session

With everything ready, Lady Antinua cast the Conceptual Reinforcement over the Party. Now protected against the transformative effects of the planes, the Party swam and in Carric’s case, walked into the fog. It thickened around them, enveloping each of the planar wanderers, with the only sound the splashing of water. But soon enough the fog evaporated and the sounds faded into faint echoes. The landscape was milky white, with strands of errant thoughts and concepts floating past and the Party were floating, or rather, existing in some sort of void. They had entered the Celestial Sea.

It was like a mathematical formula without any numbers. There was the idea of gravity, but nothing that it pulled towards. There were concepts of objects and theories, but each one without matter. Althaea’s musics existed when she hummed them, but the sounds itself broke into melodies, then notes, then waves, then nothing. An errant fleck of ink from Carric’s pen left the shimmering field surrounding the Party and then evaporated into a theory. Truly, the Celestial Sea was a strange and unforgiving place.

But the Party was here on purpose and the protective spell wouldn’t hold forever. Dulkan shouted into the void, calling the Divines who supposedly lived there. His mind first went to Ashanti, the one in whose temple he was judged back in Duskport. Without form, Dulkan saw in his mind the symbol of Ashanti, the torch with a sword hilt. This thought faintly swirled in the space without space in front of him… then solidified. A majestic temple, with endless pillars and a hard stone floor came onto being and the Party found themselves standing in it. And in front of them appeared from nothing a massive torch, with an orange leaping flame dancing on it. And it spoke, with a booming voice like rumbling thunder:

You have arrived.

Realization dawned and Dulkan found himself falling to his knees in awe. The rest were dumbstruck while their inner skepticism tried to deflect the fact that they were in the very presence of one of the Divines. Ashanti gave Dulkan permission to rise and he asked where the other ones were. The Divine stated that he had called Ashanti first. Realizing this, Dulkan then besought Mishra to arrive. And immediately a flaming sphere exploded among the pillars, spreading sky around and radiating pleasant, summer-like warmth. Mishra had arrived, greeting the Party warmly. And she called the rest.

It was a swirl of power as the Divines came, one by one, and surrounded the Party. They brought with them their aspects, transforming the empty void into a paved hilltop with vistas of different places of the Realm. The Divines surrounded the Party, transforming into their canonical forms. Cruxis, a blue dragon on top of a small metal tower. Mishra, a golden dragon on a small lively glade. Nissha, a green dragon on a warm clifftop with a single fruit tree growing on it. Zariss, a bronze dragon sitting on a crossroads. Ochrana, a red dragon on top of a mound of gold. Sithrahk, a white dragon on a withered tree. Quirion, a black dragon inside a perpetual shadow. Ashanti, a silver dragon standing proud on top of a throne.

With little formality, the Divines dived into the matter at hand: Why the Party was here. It turned out that the Divines had bent their mutual rules to give incentives and signs pointing the Party to the Celestial Sea for one purpose: To ask them to kill the Dragonslayer.

Divine Essence, the power Thera Ser had learned of and started to gather to turn into the Guardian, was an even more profound feature of the world than even the Divines. According to them, any being that could collect enough Essence could ascend and join the ranks of the Divines. But the Dragonslayer had expressed her fanatic decision to kill them, a feat that seemed to be possible, seeing the Divines’ implied concern. Their claim was that even if just one of them would fall, some of the domains holding the Realm together would be masterless, precipitating the entire world into an age no-one could predict.

While Ashanti at least expressed confidence of their prowess against the Dragonslayer’s plans, it became apparent that the Divines would not directly interfere with any mortal affairs. That is why they could not directly oppose the Dragonslayer, nor could they help nor command the Party. They were under no obligation to do anything the Divines asked them to do. The decision to traverse the planes to the Divines’ home was the Party’s own.

But before accepting the Divines’ request, the Party had one major question: How did the Divines decide which ascendant would they oppose and which they would allow to face them as equals? As Carric asked the question, he saw something few would have believed in the dragonic divine faces: Doubt. It was a debate that the Divines have never resolved, and one that would not ever be, as the group of eight seemed to be in a stalemate. Their answer was that for the moment it would be a case-by-case-basis.

This, however, prompted the Divines to ask the Party a question in return: Would they oppose the Divines? Did they have prospects of grandeur and godhood? Dulkan merely wanted to be left to his own devices. Lady Antinua was satisfied so long as the Divines continued to govern well. Carric too was disinterested in divine matters. Althaea understood that the world operated on a balance; Each Divine pulled and shaped the world in their own image, the net effect being that the world was in harmony. So she too, saw that the Divines’ order was good. This pleased the Divines.

With their primary matter exhausted, Carric used the opportunity to ask the one question that haunted him for a reason he did not remember: Do sorcerers have a dragon’s soul? As an answer, Mishra and Sithrakh explained that the soul is a container for the Divine Essence. There are many different kinds of souls, some with their own properties. When a being dies on the Realm, the Essence it carries is released back into the cycle, and the soul is sent to oblivion, where Mishra takes one and breathes new life into it. There are countless, innumerable souls both old and new, so it might very well be that Carric’s is one that had at least been a dragon one time.

The Party’s final question was how they could get to the Realm. After the Divines stated that they could not help the Party directly, Antinua began probing for a way to obtain the answer some other way. She asked about the planes, learning that the Realm was a unique place in the center of the cosmos, with a couple of planes in close proximity and the rest of the planes far away. Among these far away planes were ones the Divines had crafted alone in their own image. All except one: Shadowfell. It was beside the Realm, as it was the place where dead souls came to relinquish their Essence. And in this plane were many places of crossing, like the Bleak Caverns.

Now armed with a name, the Party bid the Divines farewell. The mighty beings dissolved into concepts, leaving the Party yet again in the void. Their next direction was clear: Shadowfell.


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