Around a miserable campfire in the pouring rain, mourning Koldar, you reflected (as you leveled up)
Lital thought about the the battle in the Undercroft when she thought she was on her own, fighting off fifteen zombies, and realising that she was going to struggle to kill them all alone
Daechir’s misanthropy solidified, given people’s refusal of the assistance he kindly offers – they’re stupid and they need fixing!
Jacek thought about the shady characters he met in Concord, exchanging handshakes and gold and favours, where he discovered that the people he was looking for fled west, and had been seen more recently in Concord than anywhere else – he’s catching them up!
Vallessa thought about the time in Concord where she killed Endi the Wise, one of the people who cursed her. In that moment she found some clarity that let her remember a little of what it was like pre-curse, and realise that she can get closer and closer to the queen she intends to be…
You headed towards the Green Stair river, but were attacked by bullettes
Kibi emerges from his cocoon, about the size of a dog or wolf, but gets torn to shreds by one of the bulettes
Fighting hard for her vengeance, she broke one of her swords on a bulette’s carapace
After the fight, there was much mourning of Kibi, who Daechir cooked at Vallessa’s behest and then everyone ate part of him, talking about their grief over Kibi and Koldar, before setting off towards a town on the banks of the Green Star river, staring down at it from atop a ridge, the cooling bodies of some woodsfolk you encountered and mercilessly killed, ready to destroy the town…
Daechir identified that the crown on the altar was one pictured in the Undying Peerage with Duchess Blackblood of the Crimson Slaughter
Vallessa found a secret entrance to another room, in which the Ogre Mage (but much more powerful!) was waiting…
During the fight, Vallessa turned into starlight and teleported again, and as Lital raged the air filled with snow and ice, which was pretty confusing for all involved…
However, just as Lital struck the killing blow, the Ogre Mage teleported away again
Koldar, Lital and Vallessa piled up all the corpses, leaned them against the altar, tore down the braziers and defiled the temple, gaining the favour of the Mother of Liches…despite having been trying to call on the True Darkness
Following the secret tunnel in the hidden room, you found yourselves back in the watery room, and decided that you thought the ogre mage necromancer was just teleporting a short distance each time
Upstairs in the tower, you found a journal detailing regular rituals needing to be performed by servants of the Archmage to prevent the altar in the undercroft from sending power to the Mother of Liches (it had been built in the time of the Wizard Queen)
You also found a stewpot, and Lital ate some of the nonspecific mush in there…
At the top of the tower, a fight with the ogre mage necromancer and his “lady friend” ogre mage
Daechir cast Circle of Death, calling on Lady Victrix, Harbinger of Unlight
However, the two of them together proved too strong…Koldar was killed by a stray Channel Life from Daechir, while only sustained by the power of his armour. His body vanished entirely, leaving his armour and gear to clatter to the floor
Lital grabbed Daechir and fled down the stairs, followed swiftly by Vallessa
You found a trapdoor under table and headed down into an undercroft; the wooden spiral staircase led you into a dark, coffin-strewn cave network.
Jacek opened one of the coffins to see what was inside and was attacked by a ghoul with a freakishly-long tongue, while another ghoul and several skeletal archers burst out from other coffins
Koldar and Daechir pursued one set of archers as they retreated down a pitch-black tunnel, covering their movement with arrows
Lital, Vallessa and Jacek followed the other set of archers in the opposite direction down a different dark tunnel, lit only by Jacek’s lantern
At the end of Koldar and Daechir’s tunnel, when the final skeleton was defeated, Daechir used his light spell, revealing the cackling silhouette of the ogre mage necromancer. A vicious battle ensued, with the ogre mage using his naginata as well as crackling bolts of necrotic energy to fight off his attackers. He was defeated, but teleported away at the last moment.
Meanwhile, Lital, Vallessa and Jacek emerged into a large room lit by evil-looking torches, where two cowled priests (obviously undead, but with the sigil of the Queen of Shadows branded into their faces) commanded a large number of zombie shamblers. After another tough fight, these undead were all defeated.
You reunited in the room Lital et al. had been fighting in, where there was a large altar of some kind, with a crown on top…
Koldar was whisked from wherever he was to be in the same force-cage as the rest of you, giving you little time to catch up with each other before your captor came into view – a tall, imposingly-dressed human woman, clearly a wizard, backed up by several junior wizards
She eventually revealed that she was called Majory, and she was a friend of Endi the Wise, whose death she was here to punish you for, as she was a magistrate.
She seemed to know a lot about Vallessa’s past, and even mocked her for having cried when Endi the Wise et al. did whatever it was they did to her…
She said that your punishment was to travel to a tower far to the north
She teleported you a long way north, beyond the Oldwall, somewhere in the Dragon Wood, telling you that your punishment for what you’d done to Endi et al. was to go to an old tower and clear out an ogre mage/necromancer who had occupied it. She “teleported” you there, sending you flying through the Overworld
On the journey you saw brightly-coloured snake-dragons gliding through the clouds, dipping in and out of them as they “swam”
Upon landing, you started walking through the Dragon Wood towards the tower, but were attacked by a dire bear and two regular bears you disturbed while they were eating honey
Daechir called on Lord Vermont, Master of the Black Hunt, during the fight. He also managed to transform one of the regular bears into some kind of dire necro-bear…
Vallessa appeared to turn into starlight and teleport during the fight
Daechir was killed (actually killed!) by this dire necro-bear, but Shadow took hold of his soul and pulled it back into his body
Everyone applied runes to their armour and then approached the tower, which had a lightning ward across the door. Eventually you started to talk to the Ogre Mage Necromancer, who seemed pretty interested in overthrowing the Empress but setting himself up as a new master, possibly of an undead nation under the Mother of Liches
You agreed to leave, and then shortly afterwards broke in through the windows. However, on the ground floor you found only some gambling paraphernalia before you were attached by kobolds! One had vestigial dragon wings and spat acid, while the others had colour-changing scales and struck from surprise, doing a great deal of harm to all concerned…
Aboard the wonderfully twee Sea Princess (half-size halfling “ship”), some discussions continued about various topics, and Jacek was sent to bed with a bottle or three of wine – Daechir cast an “alarm” cantrip on the room to warn him if Jacek tried to escape into the depths again
Jacek had another bad night’s sleep, with strange and disturbing dreams. He didn’t go into too much detail, but he said they involved the Empress, and that he woke up covered in sea water…
Concord came into view, a beautiful city of elven spires and green space. The Sea Princess pulled into an appropriately-sized pier on the docks, and happy halflings (whistling and singing while they worked!) helped tie the ship up and get everyone disembarked. The Sea Princess put back out to see in order to collect their stuff from Drakkenhall
You spoke to a cheerful, courteous and helpful high elf harbourmaster who gave you directions to the Hall of Records (where you might be able to find out where Greenscale’s parents live, given than “Dewhurst” is quite a common name) and offered to keep an eye out for Goldentooth and feed him some gold (provided by Lital) if he swam in.
Jacek tried to steal a dwarf’s purse, but she noticed – her anger stopped almost before it began, though, so they just sort of apologised to one another for bumping into each other and walked on
Vallessa became enraged by the sight of a dark elf walking down the road holding hands with a dwarf
Almost everyone you walked past seemed happy. They looked you in the eye, said hello, smiled, and did all sorts of similar things that would be unthinkable in Drakkenhall or even New Port. They were mostly elves (of all three types), dwarves and halflings, although there were still quite a few humans, gnomes and other races.
In the Hall of Records, Lital saw a human clerk who looked like Koldar, who introduced himself as Kieran Meridius and was very friendly and helpful. He helped her and Jacek find a list of the various Dewhurst families in Concord who had daughters called Erica, because he was so moved by Lital’s plight of having to tell a family their daughter was dead.
Daechir tried to find a list of abandoned properties, but was told (by a helpful gnome clerk) that the city was repossessing abandoned properties and using them to house refugees from New Port. Instead, he directed Daechir towards a list of local realtors, so he could find a place to buy or rent…
Outside, Vallessa sat grumpily on the steps, feeling sickened by all this niceness. Suddenly, she saw someone she recognised – a high elf wizard in grey robes with a pointy hat, walking along with about a dozen dwarves and a halfling. She climbed the Hall of Records and found a cupola, where she made herself a sniper’s nest.
As everyone else came out of the building, she fired an arrow into the wizard, injuring him badly. In the ensuing chaos, everyone else in the plaza fled, shutting and locking doors behind them, leaving just you, the wizard, and his shorter companions
A really nasty fight ensued – almost everyone was down at one point or another, but eventually Daechir killed the wizard and the dwarves’ leader and the rest of the dwarves were soon dealt with (bar one, who Lital used her Helm of Infamy on)
Vallessa eventually gave up trying to hack out the wizard’s heart, and got Daechir to do it; he found the heart had a strange blue-glowing magical shard in it. When he handed it to Vallessa, the heart vanished and the shard merged into Vallessa
Jacek looted the bodies and stole their gold
Daechir found a strange necromantic wand on the wizard’s body, which he had presumably been taking to destroy with his little Company
Lital realised you were all trapped in some kind of force cage in the middle of the plaza, near to where she had stacked up all the thirteen corpses you’d made…
Headed to Bitter River, who was uncooperative, at which point Jacek hired some goblin urchins to prank him, and Daechir tried to deploy a haunting curse against the tower (but was defeated by lightning-wards)
Lital befriended a shapechanging dog that eats gold. She called it Goldenfang. It could clearly understand what you were saying.
The halfling ship’s captain that Mechtild found set off after putting all their cargo back on the dock, taking you with him on the half-size Sea Princess
You saw a huge stone Koru Behemoth breach and clamber up a cliff. The wake from the falling boulders swept Daechir and Koldar into the sea, but they were saved by a tribe of sea-wraiths who took some halflings in their place, and swam off towards the behemoth
Jacek and Koldar both had poor nights’ sleep; Jacek had nightmares about lost Sahua, whereas Koldar played down whatever non-event he had experienced
Jacek later dived into the sea, and had to be saved after he dived deep enough that he passed out
Vallessa shot him in the leg, and the blood attracted some seriously hardcore sharks
With the rescued prisoners, you first bundled your way through a labyrinth of tunnels, climbing up a tower of half-orcs and give directions from that higher perspective, losing a couple of traps as you go
You discovered that the first staircase heading up led into a corridor of deathtraps, with swinging axes – a couple of eager half-orcs got chopped up as they went, but then the leader got them together and sent them through a pace at a time, while Vallessa and Jacek overtake them with their superior agility
You then get into an antechamber armoury with a few surprised kobolds polishing equipment, and three exits. The rampage continues, killing the kobolds, before a short debate about heading through the leftmost exit – but at the same time a few more kobolds carrying weapons came through the right-hand entrance, sending Lital and a bunch of half-orcs charging after them as they fled
The smart people carry on leftwards, finding the stairs; listening intently at the stairs, you heard the rumble of a lot of feet (probably half-orcish!). The ceiling starts to shake, and everyone looks up as the bricks start to come apart (revealing blue lightning beneath). Jacek heads up, and everyone flees up the disintegrating stairs just as the half-orcs and Lital come out of a portal.
Several half-orcs have died, so you clambered over their corpses and emerge into a huge room.
Huge fight vs hydra and goblins, hydra went from 5 heads to 8, lots of horribleness, all the half-orcs killed by weird blue magic
Searched, found magic items and lots of cash
Jacek triggered trap on door, Vallessa unlocked it
Daechir applied a rune to his staff, Koldar and Lital oiled their armour, Jacek applied a rune to his dagger, and Vallessa applied a rune to her bow
Jacek and Daechir discussed the “creepy sea gold” and how the curse means that Jacek really shouldn’t give away or spend the money, as he won’t be able to break the curse if he does…
After a lot of effort, everyone except Koldar made it across the huge, deep, wide moat. He only safely made it across thanks to a pair of “devil cats” which erupted from the tattoo on his back. Daechir explained that the tattoos were dimensional portals, and that the “devil cats” clearly served the True Darkness in some form
After a brief pause to rest up, you went through the vault door
Jacek remained behind to guard it
Stepping through the shimmering energy curtain behind the door, Koldar, Lital and Vallessa each felt a strange sensation of rapid movement, and a pain (slowing to a dull ache) in the tattoos on their back
Daechir had a sudden and alarming return to life, and didn’t have a shadow in this place – it was stuck outside
Through the door was an outdoor scene, on some kind of plain, with a marble colonnade leading to a huge stepped marble temple with a statue of a three-headed dragon (and two stumps, for two severed heads) over the pitch-black entrance
Daechir claimed this was a “demiplane”, another realm of existence with potentially different rules
As you approached the temple, the eyes of the statue’s three heads lit up – one set red, one set blue, and one set black
Vallessa sent Kibi ahead to scout inside the temple, and he came running out, having been spotted by a “small” (i.e. juvenile/young-adult, about 3m by 2m by 2m, not counting wings or tail) red dragon that chased him. Koldar and Lital engaged the red dragon (supported by Daechir’s magic) while Vallessa snuck past it and into the temple itself
Daechir calls on Nogroth, Knight of the Cold to help with a spell
Inside, Vallessa discovered a blue dragon (slightly smaller than the red one outside) and a larger black dragon. Outside, the others finished off the red dragon in time to helped her fight off the other two.
The Diadem Of Lava And Splendour itself was a huge granite crown on a plinth in the middle of the dark temple interior, lit from above by a swirling forcefield that turned red when the red dragon was killed.
During the battle, Koldar called on the True Darkness, and a pattern formed in the sky matching the tattoos on the cultists’ backs
After a tough fight (at one point everyone bar Koldar is down) the other two dragons are finally killed.
Lital takes three trophies – the red dragon’s toe, the black dragon’s eye, and the blue dragon’s head
Vallessa takes the Diadem (an Epic-tier Crown)
The temple started to shake and fall apart at this point
Outside, a big clawed hand came down from the hole in the sky (of the scale of the image below, from Cabin in the Woods) and dragged the magical dragon statue back up with it, plus the dragon corpses (minus Lital’s trophies)
Coming back to the marble archway as the hole in the sky got worse, you headed back through and the gate closed behind, leaving just a blank stone wall behind it
Vallessa used her experience in the Elf King’s court to start finding another way out and dodge some patrols. Eventually, you came to the dungeons, where you found about eighteen imprisoned half-orcs. You rescued their orc leader from being tortured.
They had been arrested for their role in attempting to steal the Diadem (of which they were innocent) and were pretty annoyed at you all for presumably being the ones to get them into trouble. Nevertheless, once they had recovered their clothes and gear, they were ready to help you fight your way out…
You interrogated Grashnak, the hobgoblin captain you had captured. He explained that his unit had been subcontracted by the Underhammers to dig under the city into the vaults under The Tower district and steal the famed Diadem of Lava and Splendour, to make it look like She Who Is War was to blame. Eventually you decided to let him leave with his tail between his legs, Lital having used her Helm of Infamy on him.
From there, you went to a tavern called the Skeletal Hand to regroup. It was fairly busy, and Lital picked a fight with a gnoll barmaid and her friends/pack. It was intended to be a friendly fight, with everyone getting healed at the end, but eventually Daechir called on a lich called The End to cast Circle of Death and killed almost all the gnolls outright
This utterly horrified everyone – a gnoll shaman ran away from the shadows and fled, and some guards arrived at almost exactly the worst moment – Jacek and Koldar fled, the dark elves leaned against the wall, and Lital looked on in horror
Koldar was rescued by Irena, newly in town from New Port, supervising a military camp/archaeological expedition. She took him there, and told him to investigate rumours of a local Crusader paladin who’d gone rogue somewhere in the east of the city. He also went to see a Cleric of Tyan The Whisperer at Irena’s instruction, when he told her about his doppelganger problem. The cleric had some sort of possession-type moment or seizure and, in a whispering voice, told Koldar to go to Sulaco, his hometown.
Meanwhile, the dark elves had been rescued by a Silver Folk lich-Prince called The End, who took a vial of each of their blood as payment, and gave Daechir a copy (on loan) of a book called Denerith’s Malediction, and told Vallessa where Percival du Lance, the High Guard of Spiderwood was (in Spiderwood, with many of his wood elf relatives!)
The End was in town looking to capture white dragons and asked Daechir for an introduction/info about the white dragon in New Port, but Daechir stalled for a bit – The End said he would send a messenger later for more information
One of the guards who seized Lital and dragged her to prison was one of the people who attacked her village, saying that the attack had been all Lital’s fault. He was overcome with guilt (and fear) and apologised for what he did. He told her who gave the order (Capt. Landon, now a mercenary captain in Axis and Shadow Port) to kill the village, before unlocking her cell and running away.
Jacek discovered that the gnolls had paid to clear the bar out ahead of time…
Using a cunning ruse, Jacek helped Lital escape from the prison by leading off the baying mob of humanoid monsters calling for her death – he created a fake “Lital” to lure them away.
Eventually you all met back up in Silverspike, the dark elf bar you attended before
Jacek went off and met with one of his white dragonic allies and warned them about The End’s designs on dragons
Daechir went to the Rat King, and met with Eremos to tell him about The End, and also collected a magic bow to deliver to Vallessa
Vallessa, Lital and Koldar followed a lead from a drow paladin (bedecked in web-themed black armour) who took them to meet The Dark One inside an onyx cathedral. Each of the three prostrated themselves before him, and Vallessa revealed she is in fact a princess (daughter of the Elf King)
They gained a MISSION to overthrow civilisation, destroy the dwellers of the Abyss, and bring the IRONTYRANNY OF THETRUEDARKNESS
In exchange, The Dark One promised them aid with their goals if they helped plant the seeds of victory for him, and offered sacrifice to the True Darkness
Afterwards, they each gained some kind of mind-warping tattoo on their backs
Koldar’s gauntlets both also slipped off, and he left them on the road and walked away
Following a ritual sacrifice by the three of them in front of Daechir, he had some Questions and also realised that their new tattoos were some sort of demiplanar symbology, although he didn’t fully understand it
Jacek went off to recover the gauntlets by getting in touch with the local thieves’ guild; while attempting to negotiate the price of the “insurance policy” he attempted to use the power of his Ring of Honeyed Words and the two guards there coshed him out and stole all his gold (except the creepy sea gold) and left him with the two gauntlets, which Koldar seemed uninterested in.
Vallessa arranged a meeting with Eleni, using her contacts in the Black Fangs. Once there, in the Tower District, Jacek used his Ring of Honeyed Words to convince Eleni that there really was a threat to the Diadem from the Underhammers, and that she should go and check it was OK. Vallessa also told Eleni that Kathkar Bitter-River was planning to kill her.
She took all of you, and her lizardfolk guards, down many flights of stairs and deep into the Tower District’s basements. You passed huge numbers of kobold guards until you came to a vault entrance.
The entrance was guarded by a three-headed basilisk (a head each in red, blue and black) who seemed sceptical of Eleni’s claims but agreed to go investigate. It unlocked and opened the vault with three different breath weapons, and as it passed through the curtain of energy beyond it transformed into three separate dragons – a medium red, a medium blue and a large black. It closed (but didn’t lock) the gate behind it.
You took the opportunity to attack Eleni and her guards, killing them and attracting a kobold guard patrol, whom you also killed.