Broken Nations

Delusional

Surprised by a pair of shield guardians and a stone golem, the party fought a pitched battle against the constructs. When the constructs put a temporary halt to the fighting by pushing a set of heavy crates against the hallway entrance where the characters were located, Ugagn used a blade to cut through the wooden crates and create a sniper nest. Then, he climbed into a crate. From that position, he thought he would be able to shoot arrows at the constructs with impunity.

Sadly, he was mistaken.

He fired one round of arrows at the nearest stone golem, which only upset the machine. As Ugagn scrambled desperately to escape from his roost, the 2,000-pound pile of mobile rock smashed through the wooden crates as though they were matchsticks, battering the helpless gnome within.

At this point, the party’s designated meatshield, Daukua, stepped into the fray to save his vertically-challenged friend. But the Paladin also underestimated the power of three golems, and was subjected a flurry of relentless blows from the golems’ unforgiving fists. After losing his sword in the battle, Daukua summoned his horse and fled. Finally, Pall-Bar Wodahs transformed his bird into a nine-headed hydra and put down the three uppity golems.

The party took advantage of a long respite from combat to explore the caverns and workshops occupied by the golems. Gilia Stoneforger’s theory, that the golems were responsible for the preservation of Iskandar, seemed to be accurate, as the party discovered forges, glassworks, construction and masonry equipment and even a golem lab, where smaller worker golems were busy constructing new guardians.

The group also found two metal rods and a curious white orb being held in a forge. Thanks to a handy “Identify” spell or two, the group deduced that the rods could be used to control the golems, and the orb, once properly charged, could be used to bring new golems to life.

The intrepid party moved through the cavernous complex, but in a room flanked by two boiling oil pits, one party member snapped. Ugagn‘s paranoia had been growing since entering the underground complex and witnessing the death of Yivellor Sa’Kaasv. Suddenly, the gnome spotted a honey badger swimming in the boiling oil pit on one side of the room.

The gnome tried to convince his incredulous companions that the animal was actually there, then Ugagn attempted to capture the animal. During the ensuing ruckus, Pall-Bar Wodahs decided to play a trick on his delusional friend. The wizard created the image of a second honey badger in the room. Ugagn tried to catch this badger, too, but was brought up short when the wizard made the image disappear and slapped him.

The destruction of the illusion proved to be too much for poor Ugagn, who drew his bow, and then shot Daukua. Just before the Paladin could smite the problematic gnome, Pall-Bar Wodahs brought the fight to an end.

Daukua cast Remove Disease on Ugagn, which seemed to put the gnome’s mind at ease. For now, at least.

Continuing on, the group found an obsidian hall, complete with lava flows and a giant, obsidian golem constructed to resemble a bull. Despite its fearsome appearance, the bull proved to be an easy target for our adventurers.

The group moved down a set of long stairs and came to an open, unrefined cavern studded with stalactites and stalagmites. At a chokepoint between two lava flows, the group encountered a wall of force that impeded any progress. Searching for a way to deactivate the wall, Pall-Bar Wodahs teleported to the other side.

Busy searching for a means to dispel the wall, the wizard was caught completely unprepared when a nearby stalagmite came to life—striking tPall-Bar Wodahs with barrage of long tentacles. Two of the tentacles latched on, and the creature began dragging the wizard toward a large and very toothy mouth.

Desperate to help his friend, Daukua took a risk and leaped with Horsifer over a lava stream. He barely made it.

But on the other side of the energy wall, the plucky Pall-Bar Wodahs
had come up with a solution of his own. With one hand free, the wizard turned himself into a massive black pudding ooze, weighing in at 18,000 pounds and capable of dissolving flesh and armor.

Who will win in the fight between the ooze and the fiendish cavern creature? Stay tuned for the result.

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Time to Bust Out the Big Guns...I mean Hydras

What do you do when you’re facing down two 10-foot-fall, 2,000-pound stone golems?

Buff like hell and pray your illusion spells will work.

That’s the course of action our merry adventurers chose when the iron gates swung open to reveal two hulking stone golems. As the golems advanced toward the party, Pall-Bar distracted both of golems with glamors and illusions. This gave Gilia and Daukau a moment to steel themselves for a prolonged fight with a handful of fortifying spells.

As the beefier members of the group went face-to-face with one golem, Pall-Bar kept the second guardian at bay by creating an illusion that the iron door between the rooms was closed. With one golem bashing uselessly at an illusionary door, the party polished off the first construct. But what would a battle be without an accident or two? During the fight, a stray shot from Ugagn’s bow pierced Gilia’s shoulder. Gilia shook off the friendly fire, and together the group charged through the illusionary barrier and quickly killed the second golem.

The group entered the golem guard room, where a pissed-off Gilia sucker punched Ugagn for striking her with an arrow. The punch led to a brief scuffle between gnome and dwarf, but Daukua and Pall-Bar put a stop to the infighting with a few well-timed spells. The dwarf, having gotten her revenge, shrugged off her anger and proceeded into the next room. But Pall-Bar was forced to calm down Ugagn, who in a fight of extreme paranoia, refused to leave the current room.

Moving past the now-deceased golems’ guard room, the group entered an unusual hall. At the center of the chamber, the characters found a glowing rune inscribed in a circular pattern. Inside the first circular inscription, the characters spotted a second, smaller circle of runes. Gilia and Pall-Bar, still under the effects of the Comprehend Languages spell, discerned that the outer rune read “Shelter”, while the inner glowing rune read “Silence”.

Assuming the glowing inscriptions were traps, the group took care to avoid the inscriptions as they explored the chamber and checked out two iron chests stationed on the far side of the room (both were empty, unfortunately)

Their explorations were interrupted when the iron door they entered through slammed shut and locked automatically. On high alert, the group noticed the smell of ozone growing stronger. Gilia, acting on a sudden impulse, dove into the circular runic pattern. She made it to safety with only moments to spare.

Without warning, lightning lanced across the room, badly scorching Pall-Bar and Thursten. Daukua and Ugagn dodged the bolts with well-honed reflexes, while Gilia watched as the bolts hit a force field around the runes and dissipated. The group members caught in the electrical storm ran for safety inside the circle. Gilia, acting on another impulse, stepped into the center of the smaller, inner rune. Immediately, the electricity stopped.

Proceeding to the top of a staircase, the wary group stopped to rest. After regaining some hit points and spells, they proceeded down the stairs, with Ugagn in the lead. The vigilant gnome wasn’t vigilant enough, however. Walking down the stairs, he triggered a trap that caused the steps to collapse into an 80-foot ramp. Oil gushed from two spigots in the walls, and the gnome lost his footing on the slippery surface. As he fell, he held out his bow as a lifeline for Daukua to grab. The last ditch effort backfired, though, when the paladin fell on the oily surface. Together, the two slid down the ramp and narrowly avoided a set of razors at the bottom.

Gilia, hearing her companions cries of warning slid down the ramp on her shield with Thursten, while the unflappable Pall-Bar cast a flight spell, and floated down the tunnel.

The party landed in a pit filled with chest-deep sand. Thankful for the soft landing, they began to explore this room. They quickly learned they weren’t the only occupants of the room, however, when they heard movement underneath the sand. Daukua, standing in the sand, was bitten in the leg by an unseen opponent. Frantic to get out of the sand, the group forced open a door on the far side of the room, but not before Gilia and Thursten were also bitten. Poison coursed through their veins, weakening both wizard and dwarf.

The group left the sand-filled chamber behind, pausing so that Ugagn could retrieve a curiously preserved, disembodied hand uncovered in the sand. He chose to keep the unusual item. Moving on, the five-some entered a hall filled with inscriptions. The pictographs on the walls depicted a great city populated by human slaves and cat-like creatures. But the slaves, with help from the gods, overthrew their masters, and built an underground complex beneath the city. The last inscription depicted a closed door with two ivory horns and an ever-blooming flower set into the stone above it.

The party paused to ruminate over the inscriptions. Who inscribed the pictograms? Why did the builders of this complex think these hieroglyphics were important for visitors to see? Are the party members subject to some sort of prophecy?

In the end, a different kind of curiosity won out, and the group left their questions behind as they advanced forward into the next room. They entered a great hall that—to their surprise—was filled with worker golems. The workers didn’t notice the newcomers, and the characters watched as the golems stacked and readied construction materials. A quick-thinking Gilia deduced that these golems must be responsible for the preservation of the ruins of Iskandar resting directly above the catacombs.

The party, choosing a less-than-subtle strategy, began raining spells and illusions down upon two larger sentry golems standing in the room. The battle began to look bleak, however, when a third stone golem entered the fray.

Pall-Bar, deciding nine heads were better than one, polymorphed into a gigantic hydra and began dealing massive damage to the guardians. With his help, the group quickly carved through the guardian golems, causing the smaller worker golems to flee.

Exhausted but victorious, the group retreated to rest, but their slumber was interrupted when another stone golem, accompanied by two shield guardians, attacked the room where they were sleeping.

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An Unexpected Death

While Yivellor communes with the Formians deep in the bowels of their hive, the rest of the party stands at the lip of a foreboding—and ancient—staircase descending deep into the earth below Iskandar. They send the plucky Ugagn, still hobbling from a broken ankle sustained in a previous fight, down to explore.

Just after Ugagn departs, the party hears someone attempting to sneak up on the group. They turn, weapons drawn, and see a not-so-stealthy dwarf creeping through the gloom. Pall-Bar quickly casts Compulsion, and the suddenly compliant dwarf, Gilia Stoneforger, begins spilling out her life story to the group.

She is a godless exile, sent from Kalte to uncover the secrets of Iskandar and atone for her heretical beliefs. Her pagan remarks about the gods strike a nerve with Daukua, and the two immediately—and bitterly—clash over theology.

Ugagn returns, and is shocked to find a dwarven cleric in the group. But the party’s misgivings about the cleric dissipate when Gilia heals Ugagn’s ankle. Practicality rules as the group decides a cleric may be useful addition after all. Together, they descend into the pit.

After traveling at least 150 ft. down, the group explores two sandstone ruins, filled to the brim with mummified (but thankfully unanimated) skeletons and the remains of two ancient camps. They load up on leftover magical items, and Pall-Bar finds a mysterious book in an ancient language while searching an iron-bound chest.

The second room is of considerable interest to the group. A system of mirrors channels sunlight into the room, and a pool of water stands in the middle of the area. Pall-Bar, rereading the Osenil riddle, surmises that this might be the place where “sand, sun and glass” meet. The others take note, and the group continues exploring.

Their dungeon-delving is interrupted, however, when a group of Formians—accompanied by Yivellor—arrive in the ruins. A quick fight ensues, and the ambushed insects get the worst of it. During the fight, Pall-Bar casts Web and Confusion on a group of insects and Yivellor. The first spell traps the group, while the second causes the creatures to either gibber incoherently or randomly attack one another.

During the madness, Yivellor attempts to save the Formian empath he bonded with, only to be decapitated by another crazed Formian. Shocked and dismayed by the accidental death of Yiv, the party mourns his passing, then promptly lights his body on fire while raiding his pockets for any valuable items.

With the Formians out of the way, the group rests for a night, then continues exploring.

Delving deeper, the party finds a room full of Formian corpses, oil pits and odd rock piles. In a flash of insight, Pall-Bar realizes the piles are vaguely humanoid in shape. The group makes use of Comprehend Languages to read the unusual book Pall-Bar found, and uses the information contained within to solve a riddle inscribed above a set of ancient iron doors.

As the doors open, the group preps for the worst. But even their worst fears pale in comparison to what they find.

The iron gates swing wide. Behind the door, four glowing yellow orbs flare to life. The group hears the grinding noise of rock against rock, and two massive stone golems step out into the light.

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Harmony

Trapped in the Formian hive city with a handful of survivors, Yivellor spends a night resting and taking stock of his options. The next day, having recovered somewhat from the wounds he sustained in Haroun, he and Ibn Jafir plot their escape from the pit. During a brief exploration of his surroundings, Yivellor learns a slippery membrane covering the stone walls of the pit can be cut, exposing the rock and making climbing much easier. Before he can put his plan into action, however, the Formians return for an inspection.

This time, Yivellor is not so fortunate; the insects make it abundantly clear that his time has come, and escort him from the pit. Rather than killing or eating him, however, the bugs escort him to a vast chamber dotted with small pools. In the pools, human slaves work harvesting bioluminescent algae seeds, which Yivellor soon learns are a food source for the hive. Yivellor is led to a small pool, and strikes up a conversation with another worker. The worker tells a bit about Formian society, which appears to be caste-based, with mindless worker and warrior drones filling the bottom two ranks. However, the Formian empaths seem to possess a high level of intelligence, and are capable of dominating humans with their will.

Yivellor, searching for an escape route, decides to sneak out of the growing pools using a clump of the bioluminescent algae to guide him through the pitch black tunnels. His first attempt ends quickly when a Formian worker spots him, but on the second try he makes it into a nearby tunnel. Unfortunately, he doesn’t go far before a Formian warrior spots him and pins him against a wall. After a few moments, a Formian empath approaches and uses his empathic sense to dominant the hapless elf.

The two-way link with the Formian is transformative for Yivellor. Immediately, he becomes aware of the vast hive mind, composed of hundreds of thousands of Formians living in the city. Exposure to the collective is overwhelming at first, but Yivellor feels an incredible sense of community and belonging. Gradually he becomes aware of a single presence within the thousands of voices—the voice of the Formian dominating him.

Rather than hostility, Yivellor feels a sense of pity emanating from the Formian. The empath uses mental images to explain that he feels sorry for Yivellor and all humans, because they are forever cut off from one another, unable to experience the joy of the collective.

Yivellor, a perpetual outcast who never found his place in life, is drawn to the sense of purpose and community flowing from the hive mind. The Formian, sensing Yiv’s curiosity, makes him an offer: Help the hive with a task, and he can become an adopted member of the collective.

Yivellor, unsure whether he wants to give up his individuality, but intrigued by the hive mind, agrees. The Formian uses the mental connection to describe an abandoned city—presumably Iskandar. Below the city is a metal door with inscriptions over it. The Formians, who have no concept of writing or verbal communication, need an elf to help them solve the inscription and open the door.

Yivellor, escorted by a small group of Formians, heads for the city.

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Pitch Black

The dust had barely settled on the party’s first battle with the Formians when a panicked messenger dispatched from Ibn Jafir summoned the group to the northeast side of town. Daukua and Yivellor ran north, and met the shopkeep and militia commander just behind the front lines.

The situation was grim, Ibn Jafir explained. Two groups of militia soldiers had barricaded themselves in two houses, only to be surrounded and cut off by a dozen of the bugs. Ibn Jafir asked Yiv and the paladin to rescue the militia and stabilize the battle lines. Just before departing, the pair ran into Gam, the not-so-talkative half-orc co-pilot of the sandsail.

Gam, dressed for battle, chose to assist the party. Together, the three of them ran headlong into the fight just west of one of the barricaded houses. Despite pummeling several of the Formians, Daukua and his warhorse were quickly swarmed and severely injured. Withdrawing from the battle, the Paladin downed potions while Yivellor and Gam did their level best to hold the line. Gam took a heavy blow from one of the creatures and retreated, but the pair bought enough time for Daukua to ready himself and charge back into the fray. The paladin dropped another Formian, but with wounds piling up and hit points steadily falling, the pair decided to join Gam in an all-out retreat.

Unable to save the trapped soldiers, they met with Ibn Jafir. There, they learned that Rashid had loaded a large group of villagers onto the sandsail, and was ready to carry them to safety. With the last of the defenders dying in the barricaded houses behind them, the group decided to split up. Daukua and Gam would board the sandsail and travel with the villagers to safety, while Yivellor and Ibn Jafir would fight a rear-guard holding action against the Formians.

Daukua and a group of roughly 30 women and children made it to safety. Yivellor, Ibn and a handful of defenders, however, weren’t so lucky. Soon after the sandsail departed, the small group was swarmed and Yivellor was brought down by a blow from one of the Formians.

The next morning, Daukua and Rashid, short on water and in desperate need of supplies for the survivors, returned to the village. After scavenging supplies and water, and finding no survivors or bodies in the now-abandoned village, the group used water from the oasis to collapse both Formian tunnels. Without any way of knowing whether Yivellor survived, Daukua asked Rashid to travel to the edge of the mesa northeast of Haroun. There, Rashid dropped off the paladin, the other party members and their plucky half-orc backup, then escorted the remaining survivors to the nearest town.

At the edge of the mesa, Daukua took stock of the situation, and decided to travel on foot to the ruins of Iskandar—a two-day long journey.

Some time after the battle, Yivellor awoke in darkness, trapped in a cocoon of sticky resin. After spending a moment getting his bearings, the elf discovered that he was being carried on the back of a Formian soldier, and was traveling through Formian tunnels. He soon learned that Ibn Jafir and two other soldiers had survived.

Making use of his own innate talent for escaping from sticky situations, Yivellor managed to regain some movement, and learned that he was still in possession of several of his hidden daggers. Eventually, the column of Formians came to a halt in a cavern, and Yivellor and his fellow survivors were dumped unceremoniously in a pit. There, in the darkness, they found several other survivors from the village, including a woman who told Yivellor that periodically the Formians would enter the pit and drag away a survivor.

Yivellor distributed weapons to the group, and in the darkness he was subjected to several inspections by the Formians. During one of these inspections, the Formians grabbed a survivor and dragged him toward a hallway on the other side of the pit. Always an opportunist, Yivellor followed the Formian and its struggling victim. He was seeking an escape route, but instead the elf came face-to-face with another Formian. The insect grabbed the escapee and brought him back to the pit.

A few minutes later, a Formian empath—similar to the creature the group fought in the first wave of battle at Haroun—visited the pit, accompanied by a human woman and a bio-luminescent larvae glowing an eerie green.

The woman, walking with odd, stiff movements, stopped before the survivors and spoke in a monotone voice.

“Remain obedient, and you may work for the glory of the hive. Become disobedient, and your lives will be short, but your sleep long,” the woman said. Their message delivered, the Formian, the woman and the larvae disappeared down the hallway.

Back on the surface, Daukua and Gam reached the ruins of Iskandar. During centuries of abandonment, much of the city—built from green glass and brass—decayed and was buried under the sands. But a portion of the city one half-mile in diameter remained mysteriously well-preserved. At the center of the remains, a magnificent spire, 90 feet in height, stood watch over the silent buildings.

Unfortunately, the spire was dwarfed by another construct: A 200-foot-tall hive city, built by the Formians within walking distance from the ruins of Iskandar.

After surverying their surroundings, Gam and Daukua chose to head for the top of the spire. The pair took note of a number of hieroglyphics inscribed on the walls of the spire that seemed to depict a cat-like race of beings, armed with spears and tools. In a large cathedral-like room, the two also found an altar with brass manacles built into the surface.

At the top of the spire, the pair spotted a large group of Formians closing on the ruins. Hiding at the spire, Daukua watched as the creatures entered another of the large buildings nearby. After several minutes of tense waiting, he and Gam chose to follow the Formians into the odd structure.

Exploring the building, the pair entered an ancient room filled with brass furniture and well-preserved artifacts. Their search was cut short, however, when Daukua heard Formians approaching. Watching from concealed vantage points, the two saw a troop of more than one hundred Formians march past. The column of insects was carrying a handful of injured or dead bugs.

Deciding that whatever could hurt Formians was worth finding, Daukua waited until the bugs left, then delved deeper into the building. At the center of the structure, he found a pit, lined with stairs, descending into darkness.

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Bugged

After spending a day recuperating at the Cedar Leaf Inn, which was shaped entirely out of living wood by its Druidic owner, the party makes its way to the Far Oasis to prepare for the long trek across the Windward Desert. They discover the owner, Aksa, may or may not be racist against gnomes, but she takes a shine to Daukua. During haggling, Daukua accidentally lets slip the party’s destination: the Ruins of Iskandar. Aksa, a shrewd old woman, advises Daukua that the Sufia has forbidden travel to Iskandar, and extorts extra money out of Daukua in order to keep his secret.

The party settles on a Sandsail, an unusual from of transport that they hope will shave several days off the journey time to their destination. Built like a small ocean-going ship, the Sandsail skims across the desert on skis, with several large canvas sails to propel it. This particular Sandsail is piloted by a young Talay, Rashid, and his hulking half-orc co-pilot, Gam. Neither Gam nor Rashid are particularly talkative, but the party eventually learns that Rashid, despite being a teenager, is one of the more skilled desert guides under Aksa’s employ.

Several weeks out from D’jamena, the characters spot a group of Formians keeping pace with the Sandsail far out in the desert. Rashid seems exceptionally nervous, and reveals his parents were killed in a Formian caravan raid years ago. The Formians, large, ant-like creatures, are known to inhabit the deep desert and prey on human settlements. The bugs don’t trouble the caravan first, but that changes when the group arrives in Haroun, the last tiny village before their destination.

Smoke rises from the village, and a barricade has been built across the road. The party meets with a group of scared but determined militia, and learns a large group of Formians has placed the village under a state of virtual siege for the past several days, staged skirmishes on the outskirts of town to gauge the defenders’ strength. The town militia, bolstered by a detachment of Fezhazeen warriors, is still poorly equipped to defend the village.

The situation turns critical shortly after the party arrives and pulls their sandsail into the middle of the village. The Fezhazeen commanding officer, Ibn Jafir (also a shopkeep in town), informs our group of adventurers that Formian activity has been spotted on the south and northwest sides of the community. The group is preparing for the worst when Yivellor, acting on a whim, sprints to the south side of town. There, he discovers a group of several Formian surrounding a house. The Formian give chase, pinning a desperate Yivellor on the roof of a neighboring building. The situation is looking grim for Yivellor when a griffin, summoned by Pall-bar, changes the tide of battle. Using quick thinking, the group defeats the Formians on the rooftop, only to be beset by more of the pony-sized insects.

A flying Pall-bar proves decisive in this battle, as he casts a handful of ensnaring spells from a safe vantage point to entangle the creatures, which are easily picked off by Daukua and Ugagn. The battle is turning in the group’s favor when the Formians’ activities are revealed. A huge section of sand outside the first house collapses, and a Formian empath—one of the most feared creatures in the desert—emerges from the mouth of a sand tunnel, along with more of the beasts. Again, ensnaring spells change the tide of battle, and the empath, despite numerous mental assaults, is handily defeated.

With the empath slain, the party pauses to take a breath before deciding its next moves.

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Concealed Blades

After interrogating the party, the wizard Radamyn, apparently satisfied by their answers, allowed them access to his library and storehouse. Radamyn, still cautious, also assigned a young female scribe to serve as a tour guide (and ensure our intrepid adventurers didn’t cause any mischief). The group immediately proceeded to Radamyn’s massive underground storehouse, where they found a museum-like catacomb stocked to the brim with Mirrenwaldian books, manuscripts, statues, antiquities and even a few sets of armor, accompanied by ceremonial weapons.

After thoroughly pissing off their escort with unwanted advances, the group gets down to the business of researching. The party spends several hours gleaning through Radamyn’s small section on the desert nation of Harazeen—on a hunch that the words “sand” and “sun” in their rhyme referred to the desert nation.

During their research, the party was interrupted by Ozran, the only other “guest” captured that week by Radamyn’s forest patrols. Ozran asked several prying questions, which raised the hackles of the more suspicious party members. When confronted, he claimed he was simply a courier for a noble living in the Inner Circle of Palisade Head. Sent to deliver a message to Lancet, he was waylaid by a group of Nyhelm mercenaries and took refuge in Radamyn’s forest.

Perhaps driven off by the party’s cold reception, Ozran retreats for a time, and the party returns to its book-reading—with the exception of Ugagn, who announced to his somewhat amused compatriots that he was illiterate. Thursten promises to teach Ugagn the basics of reading during their travels.

Finally, the party discovers a scrap of a clue that seems to point them in the right direction.

In a dusty, shabby book entitled “Tracks in the Sand,” the group finds this passage:

“Only once did I travel into the High Desert near Haroun. Accompanied by a guide, we reached the great glass city of Iskandar, whose ruins can be seen like a glinting green light from miles away. I spent two days in the city, and barely returned with my life. Respecting the wishes of the Sufia, who have closed the ruins to foreigners, I will not write more of my findings there.”

Deciding that Iskandar fits the rhyme’s description of a place where “sand, sun and glass” meet, the group retires for a formal dinner in Radamyn’s suite. The wizard spends the dinner questioning the party members about their motivations—and about a few of the more curious items in the group’s inventory.

Halfway through the meal, Thursten excuses himself from the table. He doesn’t immediately return, and when the players retreat to their quarters for the evening, they step into a dangerous trap.

Across the room, they see Thursten prone on the floor, with a surprised but surprisingly quick Osran brandishing two stiletto blades. Fortunately, a potentially serious fight is brought to a quick end by a lightning-fast Hold Person spell courtesy of Pall-Bar. The party, still unarmed as per Radamyn’s rules, rushes to disarm Osran.

They do, and Pall-Bar’s spell fades. Osran struggles, but then, in Draconic, utters the words: “I have failed.” Immediately, a strange red gem in an amulet around Osran’s neck drains to a clear color, and Osran slumps, dead, to the floor.

The stunned party demands attends to the mostly unresponsive Thursten, who appears to be poisoned. They then turn their wrath on Radamyn, who confesses he isn’t entirely sure how Osran broke into the storeroom containing Osran and the party’s gear.

The gem is examined, and Radamyn determines it is a gem of spell-storing that, although empty now, used to contain a powerful death enchantment, which was apparently triggered by Osran’s words.

The party slowly revives Thursten, only to learn that the poison in question weakened Thursten’s will to resist, and Osran was able to successfully interrogate his temporary prisoner. Thursten, still woozy, vaguely recalled that Osran seemed to be speaking to an invisible presence in the room, though he couldn’t understand what was said.

Suddenly aware that their mysterious opposition may know the answer to the riddle, the party makes haste to leave the library. That evening, the group begins the three-week trek to D’jamena, the capital of Harazeen.

They eventually arrive at the great gates of the city, which they learn dwarfs even Palisade Head in sheer size, and make their way to the traveler’s section of the city. There, the group stocks up and begins its search for a guide to take them across the desert.

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Memoirs of a thief

Our tale resumes with our party at five corners in Palisade Head. Ugagn and Yivellor discussed their plan of action. They had opened the container and read the riddle inside. None of them had any clue how to interpret it. In their indecision, they opted to go back to Jakaj’s shop to pick up the counterfeit passes they paid for to enter the inner city.
Thursten led them to the Underground and back to The Key to Success. They moved slowly to avert any ambush as they had experienced quite an active last several days. When they reached the door, Ugagn inspected it for traps. He spent some time examining the door until Yivellor found that the door was indeed unlocked. They entered the room to find a grisly scene; Jakaj sprawled in the middle of the room with blood everywhere. He was dead. They spent time searching the room. Yivellor found a sack full of different colored gems. Ugagn narrowly avoided disaster as he sprung a trap on a container, but luckily avoided the burst that followed. In it, he found an interesting looking dagger.
The party then left the scene and headed up to an inn around the Arena in Palisade Head. There they ate breakfast and relaxed. During their breakfast, the party talked about their next move. They decided that there really was little that they needed within the inner wall. They decided that they would journey to Radamyn’s Library and try to solve the riddle. After they had supped, the party decided to go shopping. They entered a magicians shop and Ugagn approached the two shop-keeps to identify his new dagger. They found it to be a Dagger of Entry. During their time in the shop, Ugagn spotted the object of his desire, a bag of holding. He asked to see it and soon left the shop. Not before he mentioned the container to the shop-keeps though in an attempt to sell it. The shop-keeps told them though that anything with the Osenil symbol had been declared illegal in Pallisade Head. They said that the party was quite lucky as if they had brought this up at another shop, they may have been arrested. They requested the party leave their shop at once. Once outside, Ugagn asked Yivellor if he would have interest in obtaining this bag of holding.. Yivellor and Thurston expressed their reservations. Thurston was very vocal in his opposition to robbing the shop. Ugagn stated that obtaining this would improve the party, so he really didn’t see what their problem was. As they hadn’t gotten much sleep in the last few days, Ugagn suggested they return to the inn, get a room and start out to Radamyn’s Library the next day. Ugagn suggested that if he saw an opportunity, he would possibly act on it. He said he would take care to not endanger the party if doing so.
They all went back to the inn and obtained several rooms. While the others slept, Yivellor stayed in the common room. He decided to not play his lyre today. As night fell, Ugagn awoke and left the room. He gave Yivellor the riddle in case he ran into trouble. Yivellor used this time to encode the riddle into his journal, taking care to make it difficult for anyone but him to put it together. Ugagn went to case the magicians shop. He waited outside the front door until they closed shop and dark fell. He hadn’t seen the owners leave, but realized they must have a back door they departed from. He approached the door. There was a moment when he felt like abandoning this escapade, but either foolishness, courage or possibly just greed took over. He examined the door but didn’t find any traps, just a lock. He opened the lock using the spell ‘Knock’ from his new dagger. Once open he cast ‘Find traps’ from his dagger. He found a pressure plate was immediately inside the door, but easily avoidable. He avoided the trap and stepped inside. He didn’t find any other traps and so approached the case the bag was in. It was rather high, so he took a potion of jump and tried the lock. It didn’t open. He heard whispers right outside the door. He had forgotten to shut the door! Two men outside were debating whether to go inside or to alert authorities. They decided to go inside. Ugagn used his ability as a Whisper Gnome to create ‘Ghost sounds’. An eerie voice spoke at the entrance of the shop. It said, “If you step foot in my shop, I will haunt you forever.” The two men looked at each other and ran off without a word. Ugagn crept over to the door, avoiding the pressure plate again, and closed it. He then went to the case and still detecting no traps tried to open it. After several tries he opened the case. As he reached to grab the bag, an indescribable and unstoppable fear came over him. He immediately ran out of the shop, luckily avoiding the pressure plate that he took no heed of. It was good he did as if he had stepped on the plate, he would have been paralyzed and arrested once found. He ran back to the inn and made no further comment on the matter.
After the party had rested, Daukua finally arose from what had almost been a walking slumber. No doubt exhausted from the day before. They went to the outside of the city and purchased horses and ponies. Pall-Bar and Ugagn rode a pony (whom they named ‘Horse’), Thurston rode a pony, Yivellor rode a small horse and Daukua obtained quite a specimen of a war-horse. Daukua’s horse took an immediate affinity towards him and they appeared to have an interesting, somewhat disgusting attraction to each other..
It took several weeks to reach the forest where Radamyn’s Library was supposed to be. They ran into little challenge on the way and kept their store replenished through hunting and gathering. Once they reached the forest, Yivellor and Ugagn decided to search through the woods for this library. Ugagn took the right side of the forest and Yivellor the left. Unbeknownst to them Daukua also decided to search the forest and strode right down the center. The forest was too thick for a horse to travel through, but possibly could fit a pony. All the steeds were left with Pall-Bar and Thurston except for Yivellor who took his small horse with.
Ugagn, Yivellor and Daukua went their different directions into the forest. They all separately noticed that the deeper they went into the woods, the more animals followed them. Ugagn bowed to the animals and told them he meant no harm. He received no response. Daukua made some proud statement to the animals whom stared back without response. Yivellor spoke in bird and animal language and received response. They animals said he needed to go deeper in the woods, but didn’t have any clear direction on what he should do and what he would find.
Daukua came to a wall of vines first. He reached out to it and only barely escaped as the wall reached out to ensnare him. He walked along the wall towards where Ugagn had went but after finding nothing, eventually went back to camp.
Ugagn came to the wall of vines last. Upon reaching it, he sent a message to Yivellor saying he found something and he was returning to camp.
Yivellor came to the wall second. He also was almost ensnared, but narrowly escaped. He asked the animals and birds how he could get over, but they had no answer for him. He travelled a considerable distance along the wall. He asked an animal if the library was through the wall and they confirmed. Yivellor approached the wall and allowed the vines to enwrap him. He made no resistance. The vines kept him for several hours until a person approached. This person questioned Yivellor and asked about the party. Yivellor stated that they seek Radamyn and his wish to enter the library. The person explained that he was a servant to Radamyn and his master did indeed wish to meet them and their party. He said he did need to take precaution though. Yivellor felt a prick and his world went dark.
After Ugagn and Daukua returned to camp, they waited but did not hear from Yivellor. Fearing he had been entrapped in the wall of vines, they decided to seek him. They left the horses and ponies and went the direction Yivellor had taken. Soon they heard someone approaching and say a figure of a man dragging what seemed to be an unconscious or dead Yivellor. Ugagn slinked off to the side and Daukua approach the man boldly. This man declared that his master, Radamyn, wished to see them and requested that Ugagn come out from the shadows. He said there is no hiding from the eyes of the animals all around them. The party approached the man and demanded to know what happened to their companion. The man responded he is a servant of Radamyn and that they required certain precautions before they would be allowed to enter the Library. The companions checked on Yivellor and he seemed to be alive, but asleep. Daukua sensed no evil with the man and assented. Ugagn was understandably cautious and concerned, but he agreed that if this was the only way to enter, that it needed to be done. The party all felt pricks on their necks.
They later woke up in stone great room in front of a fire. All their belongings had been stripped of them aside from their clothes. There were two doors in the room that were both locked. Daukua brayed out that they were awake and soon after a door opened. Radamyn walked in. He asked many questions about who they were and why they were here. The group responded back telling a truthful account of the container and riddle inside. Ugagn noted that Radamyn must already know some of this as he had gone through their possessions. Radamyn acknowledged that he had, but said that the companions would soon have their possessions back as they seemed to mean no harm. He was unable to shed any light about the riddle, but said he would allow them access to his archives as long as he is kept informed of what they find. The company assented and offered even to sell the container and scroll to Radamyn after they solve the riddle. They negotiated a price and Radamyn offered 8,000 gold that he would pay before they exit. He offered to show them to the library and their possessions. Here the story left off..

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Growing Unease

[An excerpt from the Journal of Yivellor Sa’Kaasv – the entry does not seem to have any chronology, though all of it appears to have been written around the same time. Partial songs and poems are haphazardly written between the paragraphs.]

To my friends, my family.

I don’t know how you’ll get this, or if I will ever allow this to leave the pages of my journal. I expect that simply writing to you is an effort to calm my nerves and to free myself of the weight that is already growing on my shoulders. Your advice and welcome during my darker times helped to put my burdens at rest. You taught me to direct my troubles into song, poem, and tale. It has carried me out of darker times.

I find myself in the middle of a tale that may echo through the ages. We stumbled across a sealed cylinder containing a riddle that may help to mend the broken nations. Songs and poetry have been running through my head since we cracked the seal, but beneath them I can hear the whispers of the past, threatening to take from me the soul I have struggled to regain.

And lo the shadow as it settles
consuming the lands and people.
Crumble oh cities and bastions of man,
shatter nations and descend to fear.

Yet hope grows so long as man has mettle,
Come forth courage and steel.
Struggle forward ’gainst villainous clan,
and mend a tattered land.

The cylinder is a curious object, used to safeguard information. Kaelan, you would love to have the chance to study it, though I must admit that I was more interested in cracking its contents as opposed to the device itself. I was sealed by magic, requiring a daylight spell to open it. Any attempts at tampering would cause the internal contents to be destroyed. Alas, I suspect that the cylinder itself will end its journey here in Palisade Head as even without its contents, it will likely fetch a decent price.

It hasn’t been without hardship that we’ve held onto it though. There are plenty who wanted to get their hands on the object before we cracked it open. Our wizard lost his shop as a result, along with another poor shopkeep girl who certainly doesn’t deserve the hardship that is being placed upon her for our meddling with the object, but it can’t be helped now.

Petals of crimson
Plucked from the stem
wilting on the ground

Hopes and dreams
dashed to pieces
Longing to be found.

We have been all over the city, and with each trouble we have encountered I grow more restless. I can hear a chant, bubbling up from the depths of my heart. Faint whispers that stir in the forgotten places in my soul. I am trying to do good. To help those in need, but any interventions that I take are only making things worse. Petty crooks and thieves who flock at an opportunity to take from the less fortunate.

My blade stirs, I can feel it, though I no longer know where it is. A cold void maw is lurching forward, stealing life at my hand, and despite the warm sun, and quiet glow of moonlight, the air is becoming chill. The darkness is lasting longer and settling upon the bright places; and I fear it is my own.

Blood soaked entry trim
Dress of flower, Spring delight
Hope lost, none remains

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Part 3

After Pall-Bar’s run in with the mysterious woman inquiring about the sealed container, the group decided it best to head to Palisade Head. After an uneventful four day journey by foot, they approached the out walls of the city. Pall-Bar had told them about a shop he used to run in the city, but that he had not been back for over five years, and wasn’t very optimistic of it still being in pristine condition. Ugagn was wary of entering the city with Daukua as well, shying away from the thought of being noticed. Daukua garnished some robes to try to hide his glistening armor from onlookers, as he too felt it best to not attract attention until they had a little more time to assess the situation.

Upon approaching the gate the disinterested guard at the front gate asked them what their business was here. Pall-Bar informed him that he had a shop in the city limits and was returning from a long journey with some bodyguards. The guard eyed Daukua, noting his large stature being quite enough for protection, while Ugagn blurted out “You can never be too dangerous while traveling.” The guard somehow let that one slide and let them enter after a 5g entrance fee.

Pall-Bar led them to his shop, where upon arriving found it to be, while still standing, completely ransacked of anything valuable. The windows had been broken in, and a thick layer of dust had settled upon everything. Pall-Bar led them to the back of the store where he revealed a secret door, hiding another secret door which led to the upstairs. The passage was much too small for Daukua to fit without removing his armor, so he stayed downstairs while Pall-Bar and Ugagn went up. Upstairs was his old personal quarters, and it looked as if it had been undisturbed; the thieves hadn’t figured out how to access the upstairs.

They decided to go and check out the city and shops around there. Before leaving, Ugagn made sure to sweep up enough to hide any tracks they had to the secret door, and to leave glass shards around the floor of the window for a make shift alarm system if anyone tried to break in while they were there. Daukua headed down the street the a large armory store called the White Knuckle. Upon entering he was greeted by a half-elf woman named Kaliah, who inquired what sort of goods he was seeking. Daukua was most interested in Bastard Swords, especially those of the magical sort. She told him they had a special back room for those, and that her husband Eldren could bring him back there. Moments later, an older gentleman in a wheel chair but arms of an ox came rolling out, and brought him back. The room had many wonderful magic swords and weaponry, but unfortunately was still a bit out of the price range of what Daukua had to spend. He thanked Eldren for his time and assured him that he would return in due time to upgrade his wares.

Soon enough Pall-Bar, Ugagn, and Daukua found themselves in a peculiar shop run by a gnome named Menchant. The shop was filled with various odds and ends, many of which were of the magical sort. The group inquired upon Menchant’s spellcraft abilities in relation to opening the canister. Menchant said he would have to see it to know what he might be able to do, so the group decided to meet back at his shop at 7:30 sharp.

Heading back down the street Daukua came across a religious raiment’s shop. He entered, offering blessings of Alessa to all, and wondering what goods they had towards the praise and glory of Alessa. The store clerk showed him some prayer robes used by the priests of Alessa, and Daukua purchased them without hesitation. He donned the garments and headed to the Temple of Alessa down to road for prayer and devotion. The temple was a bit run down, and not in the pristine condition that Daukua would of wanted for his Goddess. Nevertheless he was happy a sanctuary was available in town. Upon entering the temple he was greeted by a priest of Alessa who inquired about Daukua’s servitude to Alessa, who informed the priest that he was a Paladin of her, and here to pray for a bit.

While praying, the sudden overwelling desire to stand up and give a sermon swept over Daukua. Without hesitation he stood up to the podium, and what followed was simply mesmerizing. His words washed over all of the priests in the temple. They enlightened, inspired, and gave everyone who heard them a new outlook on life. No one who heard that sermon would ever be the same again. When the sermon finally came to an end, everyone there stood up and cheered for Daukua. The priests were so moved, that Daukua was invited back to give the same sermon the next morning at the 9am service. He happily accepted.

Pall-Bar and Ugagn were checking out some of the city shops and taverns durning all of this, and Yivellor had found his way to Pall-Bar’s old shop. Yivellor noticed the dismal state the place was in and decided to clean up some more. During this Daukua returned, saw Yivellor cleaning, and let him continue. Soon enough Pall-Bar and Ugagn returned. The group filled Yivellor in on bringing the canister to Menchant’s shop to have him look at it, and then all headed there promptly at 7:30.

The group arrived at Menchant’s, and showed him the canister after Daukua had to do some aggressive persuasion upon Pall-Bar to reveal it. Upon examination of the canister, Menchant was able to reveal that the canister was sealed by a powerful good spell, and that without the correct method of opening it, would destroy whatever was contained inside. He also was able to decipher that there was an evil tracking spell on the canister, placed with some sort of scrying magic, and had been put on the canister some time after the good spell had sealed it. Menchant told the group that he potentially had a way to open the canister without triggering the spell, and they agreed to pay him to have him try. He failed.

The group returned to Pall-Bar’s abandoned shop disappointed. But as they approached the building, they noticed a man waiting for them inside.

Wary, the party entered with weapons drawn. But the man, an elderly human wearing a dark robe, held up his hands in peace.

“I mean you no harm,” he told the skeptical party. Then he told them an outrageous tale.

The elderly man introduced himself as Thursten Dunlenning, former tutor to the slain prince Kiren Osenil. Dunlenning, it seems, had been following the party ever since their skirmish at the wizard’s tower some days ago. Dunlenning told the party he was on a mission to reunite the Broken Nations and believes the cylinder the party carries contains an important message from the dying days of the Osenil dynasty. He is surprised to hear of the group’s encounter with the dark-haired girl in Refugee Woods, and surmises that another person or group must be seeking the cylinder for its own purposes.

Although Dunlenning doesn’t know how to open the cylinder, he does have a friend living in the Undercity who may. The party evaluates Dunlenning’s story, and eventually decides to follow the man underground. He leads them to Jakaj Farland, a renowned tinkerer, locksmith and informant, who immediately recognizes the device as a Osenil message cylinder and, after a small fee, tells the party how to open it.

The cylinder, he explains, can only be opened when someone casts the spell daylight on the cylinder at the break of dawn.

The group members also learned that Jakaj creates forged passes to the Inner City, and several of the party members, including Daukua, purchased the forgeries, which would be complete and ready for pick-up the next day.

The group decided to head back to Pall-Bar’s shop to rest until the morning, but en route, the group’s sharper members noticed some peculiar shadows along the walls. Without warning, four shadows jumped off the wall and headed straight towards our heroes. Daukua charged forward to confront the enemy, while Ugagn readied his bow and shot at the shadows. Yivellor snuck around to the side to give himself a flanking position, and started playing a song to boost moral. Pall-Bar cast illusion spells, decorating the battlefield in glitter and wonder.

Viciously they fought. These shadows had some unearthly magic to their strikes, and soon Daukua found himself sapped of much of his strength and life essence. It was as if he was withering before their eyes from the massive Dragonborn he was into a frail mis-colored human. They managed to vanquish two of the shadows before Daukua had to step back to try and recoup.

At that moment, a pair of pale men leapt out of the shadows and attacked our heroes! Someone did not like what they were up to, and wanted them stopped at all costs. Yivellor was able to defeat one with a mighty stab to the back, and all the while Ugagn’s arrows pierced through the battle, striking foe after foe. The shadows took notice of this and attacked Ugagn with their strength sapping swings, and withered him to the point of skin on bone. It was a terribly ugly sight.

Pall-Bar’s spells dazed and confused the enemies, and Yivellor and Daukua were able to stab and bash the last remaining shadows and men till our heroes were the only ones left standing, Ugagn barely so. The group knew they were in trouble and that someone was out to kill them for what they possessed. The morning could not come soon enough.

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