Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Episode XII: Shilukar's Lair II (Juliar 1-7)

Most of the companions are grievously wounded and Emeris accepts Shilukar’s offer to negotiate. The dark elf seems to have lighter skin than the average dark elf and carries an assortment of weird tools and devices at his belt. He seems frank while he elaborates on why he wants the protection of Castle Shard. He says he has many enemies who wish to stop his experiments, and he has been forced to use the gnolls as protection. He wants to live in Castle Shard so that he may pursue his experiments in peace, for no one would dare assault him if he is under Lord Zavere and Lady Rill’s protection. He says that if he can live there, he can be rid of the gnolls. Ravaan is the Beast God and is the father of BRUGUL and Angash, and for some reason it is because of him that they serve the dark elf. He also cryptically says that he is the key to transforming Abbercrombe, and if he is killed or hurt restoring the man will be impossible. The group is sent away to deliver the information to Castle Shard.

Dziga, Vatex, Early, and Emeris stop by the Ghostly Minstrel to discuss the current situation over a few drinks. Dziga and Vatex want to kill Shilukar. Early wants to kill the fiendish blue gnolls. Emeris wants to see what happens if they play both sides to their own best advantage. They are unsure of what to make of Helmut’s prophecies, anticipating the “black rain” to cause trouble for divine spellcasters and a possible connection between Helmut and Shilukar. They are interrupted by some excitement about a bold paladin of the Emperor proclaiming he is going to enter Jabel Shammer due to an item that grants immunity to disintegration. Unfortunately, the plan does not work and the man disappears in a cloud of dust as he flies towards the evil fortress at the top of the spire.

Emeris reads the historical book from the university about the runebearer heroes. It is a florid text that describes the many exploits of the eight legendary heroes, such as the slaying of great wyrms, demon lords, and the Dread One himself. Darkstar had attained divinity and was worshipped by many as the epitome of evil, but such was the power of the god-like runeheroes. The runebearers champions were also responsible for the defeat of two of the most powerful servants of the mysterious Ancients, Mrathrach and Vladaam. Mrathrach shares its name name of both a huge sinkhole by Aelric’s hometown, and the strange game at the White House. Vladaam shares its name with the notorious Elanian noble family of House Vladaam.

Later, Dziga and Vatex return to the Temple of the Rat God. They find it empty. The chaositech gargoyle has been removed and the idol of Abhoth seems to have melted into the ground. That night, Dziga dreams once again of the huge empty city and this time finds his way into a library of mythic proportions, with thousands if not millions of books twice the size of a man. Within this building, he finds a strange statuette of a star-headed…thing. He is not sure what it is, but when he wakes up he finds it still in his hand.

From Saharasahla, the group learns more about the Ancients (also known as the Galchutt, the Hylden Lords, the Lords of Chaos, the Natharlu’carna, even the “Creators” to some). They are mysterious outsiders, beyond godlike in power, alien in thought and deed, who crave only pure destruction and chaos. When Saharasahla sees the star-headed thing that Dziga has, he is clearly disturbed and censures the rogue for touching the Abhoth idol, banishing him from the library. Additionally, the shadowcaster gives Emeris the minor task of acquiring anti-sleep drugs from a Shuul agent named RINNER.

Early tells Hitomi about their discoveries at Helmut’s house. For now, her hunt for Vermillion will continue and she plots for when Helmut returns in a few weeks. She continues to wonder why Helmut wants the runechildren dead.

At Castle Shard, Zavere is ultimately forced to accept Shilukar’s offer. He has the company deliver the message, and when they do the dark elf is delighted. He also offers them a mission of his own. He says he will pay them each an amount equal to the bounty on his head in exchange for the head of a Shuul scientist named DR FEAGUS. The Shuul are a group dedicated to law and order, the Empire, and the resurgence of technology, with connections to the Temple of Vexander and the Sorn organization of techno-magi. Shilukar says they are secretly funded by the Killraven Crime League, and Dr Feagus is engineering anti-chaos monsters and a machine that will supposedly be capable of destroying all the chaositech in the city. Shilukar believes he must be stopped.

The group accepts the mission. Shilukar tells them of a rumor that an old chaos cult hid weapons that were strong against the forces of law and order in a building called the Pythoness House. Emeris is immediately summoned by Saharasahla via the thoughtstone. The old shadowcaster tells of women named MAQUENT and RADANNA who ran a strange brothel that also offered fortune-telling during copulation. The place was a front for a bizarre cult called the Crimson Coil. The leader of the cult, named KHYRON, gave Maquent one of Neveran’s allkeys as a gift. And their brothel was called the Pythoness House. The Knights of the Pale attacked the place three years ago and drove out or killed the cultists and demons and undead. He also speaks of fate and destiny -- how Emeris was destined to meet the old shadowcaster, and he is apparently destined to go to the Pythoness House.

Before visiting the Pythoness House, the group takes a few days to train and rest and study. Early refines his connection to the Vajra with Hitomi’s help through meditation and exercise. He also gives Itumar some more training, and learns the young man has some rather fiery anti-Empire sentiments and had a pamphlet from an anti-Empire group called the Brotherhood of Elan. Emeris reads more of the Book of Eidon and learns more about the metaphysics of shadow. Dziga has not had any dreams of the giant city in many nights. And Lord Zavere offers each one in the group a friendship band, a sign of their good relationship with Castle Shard.

Next: The companions enter the Pythoness House, seeking the weapons of chaos and the allkey of Neveran.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Episode XI: The End of the Trail II / Shilukar's Lair I (Juliar 1)

After leaving the Temple Observatory of the Watcher of the Skies, Aelric leaves the group to rest. Despite the Temple of Ashe’s magical healing, he has not fully recovered from his encounter with the chaos beast and the last few days have been exhausting. This leaves Early and Emeris to head for Dziga’s apartment. In order to break into Helmut Itlstein’s house, they will need the rogue’s skills. Dziga decides to go along – not to mention, he needs to get his alchemy lab equipment back from the Darkwater hideout somehow.

While the next step is to find out where Helmut lives, Emeris receives a sending from Lady Rill, summoning the group to Castle Shard at once. There they meet with Lord Zavere, whose usual calm composure is nervous and distraught. Rill has not been able to unravel the mysterious magic holding Lord Abbercrombe in his stasis. That morning, they had received a message from Shilukar. The dark elf was offering the restorative for Abbercrombe in exchange for Castle Shard’s protection, and they have been given two days to decide. Zavere insinuates that he wants the companions to find Shilukar within two days and get the restorative from him. Zavere tells them to work with another “associate” of theirs, an elven urban ranger named VATEX who has relevant skills.

Together, the four of them start their hunt. After a few hours, they learn that Shilukar sometimes uses a fence named AMMEL DAR. They also ask around the Temple District and find the location of Helmut’s residence. They break into the residence and find a couple of Fate Weavers, the sorcerer MENASTER and the fighter JAMILA. (A third person, a man named URLIN, was seen leaving the house before they broke in.) Jamila is killed in the melee and Dziga and Emeris torture information out of Menaster. He reveals that Phon is hidden in a secret room in the house, and that they are making a mistake by rescuing Phon, for her baby cannot live. Emeris kills the man and the group finds Phon heavily sedated but otherwise healthy and pregnant. They are surprised by a large magical table that animates and attacks them, but they trash it. Emeris searches Helmut’s office and takes a stack of notes on the Watcher’s prophecies and signs. They then haul Phon back St. Gustav’s and leave her in Fabitor’s care.

The companions then head to the Manticore’s Plate, a tavern where Ammel Dar hands out. While waiting, Emeris reviews the strange prophecies in Helmut’s notes. Many are unintelligible without accompanying interpretation. Some are specific:

> “A test of will, a test of faith, the children of the New Gods are Silenced by the Black Rain.” When the black rain comes, wielders of divine power will lose their connection to their gods. At this time, Helmut plans to attack the Holy Palace of Elan (home of the Prince of the Holy Order of Vigoor and headquarters of the Knights of the Dawn).
> “The Dark Traveller will find the Golden Man. But the Idol of Ravaan brings doom.” This is accompanied by a map of the Guildman District identifying Shilukar’s lair hidden beneath a junkyard. But who or what is Ravaan?
> Another prophecy mentions Dreta Phantas. They can make no sense of it, but Vatex tells them Dreta Phantas was the legendary city of the lunar elves of Moonsilver Forest, which was reputedly completely spirited away by dark elves several thousands of years ago.
> Finally, they find the most detailed notes surround the rune children. It is said that the appearance of the runebearers will bring disaster to the city, and any child conceived by Helmut will be a runebearer. This analysis accompanies the following disturbing verse:

They who are not dead, they who can eternally lie
Dreaming within the earth until the initiation of a Strange Aeon
When it becomes necessary to utter a Word
The whole planet will be bathed in blood

Ammel Dar no longer matters. With the location of Shilukar’s lair, the group heads to the scrap yard. They find a hidden door leading underground into a portion of Ghul’s labyrinth. A difficult battle against Shilukar’s gnoll minions unfolds. The companions are tested by gnoll warriors, their hyena pets, and a powerful cleric named NYRATHAH. Emeris controlls the battlefield with shadow magic while Early and Dziga cut and shoot down foes, but Dziga is held by the fierce gnoll cleric’s magic. Nyrathah is brought down but the situation grows direr when a huge fiendish blue gnoll with a greataxe called ANGASH enters the battle. The brutal fight pauses only when Shilukar arrives with another squad of gnolls, and another huge blue one that seems every bit as fierce as the male but it is female and wears armor.

“If you kill her brother, she will fight you,” Shilukar says. “Perhaps it would be better if we negotiated.”

Friday, August 14, 2009


Aelric the favored soul of Vazdah, Dziga the rogue, Early the warblade-fighter, and Emeris the draconic shadowcaster had investigated the attack on Phon Quartermain for weeks and only now had discovered the identity of "Methul Watcher" -- he is Helmut Itlstein, High Priest of the Watcher of the Skies and leader of the Republican Movement. It is somehow related to the runebearer children, Dullin Balacazar and the eastern swordswoman's little brother.

Meanwhile, in their assault on the Temple of the Rat God, they had stumbled upon some sort of plot related to the chaos cults and something called the "Night of Dissolution". There is no Rat God -- it is merely a front for the worshipping of one of the Ancients, known as "Abhoth". Dziga's contact with Abhoth's idol seems to have changed him somehow... The demons of the Dark Reliquary may be involved. What are the Ancients, and what are their worshipers planning?

At the same time, Emeris had come in contact with the strange old shadowcaster Saharasahla, who was interested in acquiring a complete copy of the Book of Inverted Shadows. What power is contained in that ancient tome's missing page? And what of the mysterious, shadowy key found beneath Derby's house?

Finally, they had also become contractors for the Lords of Castle Shard. Lord Zavere and Lady Rill will surely wish to strike out against the dark elf Shilukar, who hides somewhere in the city...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Episode X: The End of the Trail I (Junar 28-Juliar 1)

Further exploration of Anamethe/Ephraim’s hideout beneath Derby’s house must wait, for Aelric requires immediate magical assistance to cure the condition inflicted by the chaos beast. The company leaves Derby’s house and make a midnight stop at the Temple of Ashe, where the priests take care of Aelric for the next 24 hours. Dziga heads to his girlfriend’s house to visit her. Emeris the shadowcaster and Early the fighter-turned-warblade return to the docks to get some rest at the Darkwater hideout.

Upon arrival, something is immediately wrong. Hans, Bort, Abdar, Kerris, and even their boss, Darusa, had all been killed by stealthily executed twin sneak attacks. An attack by Vai assassins! Furthermore, it seemed the assassins were being stalked by the Pyrnese swordswoman for whom they had been searching! Emeris is enraged by the death of Darusa, and swears vengeance. Darusa had brought him in when Emeris was in the city with no job prospects and no place to live, and had always treated him fairly. Joining forces with the eastern woman, the Vai are torn apart in a quick melee fuelled by vengeful bloodlust. On the assassins’ bodies, the characters find a magical globe containing an image of Darusa, Emeris, and Early.

They speak with the young swordswoman, eager to hear what she has to say. She is beautiful and graceful but the hunger for revenge burns in her eyes. Her name is Hitomi, and she is trying to find a gun-wielding Vai assassin known as VERMILLION. She explains that this exceptionally youthful looking, green-haired, red-eyed assassin travelled thousands of miles to West Pyrna to murder her twelve-year old brother. He was apparently sent by…Methul Watcher! Finding no leads on Methul Watcher, Hitomi began hunting the Vai (not an easy task) hoping to find Vermillion. That led her to confront the Vai in the brutal attack on the Darkwater smugglers. Of the Vai, she knows that they are led by the TWIN LORDS KEPER, possibly the two greatest assassins in the Empire. Their hideout is somewhere beneath the Warrens, and they have connections to the undead-worshipping Forsaken.

The three of them consider further connections. Hitomi’s little brother had a rune on his face, as did Dullin Balacazar (whom Dziga had protected from another Vai). Did Phon bear such a rune? Darkwater is declared finished, and the hideout abandoned -- it is too dangerous to remain. Emeris and Early meet up with Aelric and get rooms at the low-profile Dragonsfire Inn, where Hitomi is staying.

The next few days are spent investigating. They speak with many people: Saharasahla, Zophas, Gandorf, Judge Rahl, and a professor at the Imperial University named BELSKY. They were referred to another professor, a shoal elf named SHAR, but he was out of town, and they sought information from Lord Zavere and Lady Rill but they were too busy working on the restoration of Lord Abbercrombe. Additionally, they visited Chasthamus Isle in the Necropolis, home of the great druid ANDACH, where they spoke with a huge talking lion named SAMUH. All in all, they learn the following:

> The runes are characters from a written language called the Elder Script, which is recognized as such by some specialist scholars. However, no known person can read the script. It was used tens of thousands of years ago, when ancient peoples worshipped the Elder Gods. (Belsky also mentions something called the “Enhasa Prison Theory” although he is too impatient to elaborate.)
> Thousands of years ago, the runebearers were quite common (one in four people bore runes), and marked people with a special aptitude in things such as fighting ability, arcane might, and so on. The great heroes who defeated Darkstar were all runebearers. Fewer runebearers were born as time passed and eventually they disappeared. Some say it was related to Enhasa’s second moon disappearing, but others say Enhasa never had a second moon.
> The Vai’s most high-profile clients are the Balacazars, the Killraven Crime League, and House Vladaam.
> Methul Watcher is bogus name. There is no listing of that name in the City Registry and no criminal connections have heard of such a person.
> Archanfel, leader of the demons of the Dark Reliquary, is something other than a demon and "arguably worse" than one.

Emeris speaks with Saharasahla. The old sage takes the strange shadow key and stores it in a safe. Emeris asks to read a copy of the Book of Inverted Shadows, but Saharasahla says he is not ready. To grapple with the concepts of the Book of Inverted Shadows at a premature level of understanding could cause insanity or worse. Instead, the sage provides the young shadowcaster with the Book of Eidon, an introductory tome of shadow metaphysics.

Fabitor finally returns from a mission for his deity, and reveals that he has discovered the identity of Phon’s lover – Helmut Itlstein, High Priest of Watcher of the Skies and leader of the Republican movement. Fabitor considers him one of the most dangerous men in the city. What is Helmut’s motivation in all this?

The characters visit the Temple Observatory and learn about the Watcher of the Skies and his priesthood. Using methods prescribed in their holy texts and the magic of their massive telescope, the clergy looks for special formations of celestial bodies and translates these into prophecy. Helmut’s skill with translating the prophecies is regarded as the greatest of all the Watcher’s followers. It turns out Helmut’s is away from Elan and will be gone for several weeks. Early, Emeris, and Aelric decide they will need Dziga to rejoin them – they plan on breaking into Helmut’s house while he is away. They must first find out where he lives...

Next: The characters break into Helmut's house, and Shilukar offers to make a deal with Castle Shard.