Chronicles of Khaldun: Bread and Circuses

Session 41

Moonday, Patchwall 17, 552 CY (50 AN)

As Croitus walks, the ghostly form of a guard coalesces next to him — the same guard for whom he travels to Dawnslight. The ghost notes that he has ignored his duty, but Croitus disagrees, as he is walking toward Dawnslight right now. The ghost reminds him that he pledged to destroy evil creatures, and given Dhavita’s description of the mimic-thing that is Lord Key, she likely qualifies. Croitus can try to kill her intelligently, of course; the ghost notes that Croitus could probably sneak into Kiris Dahn and assassinate her, or join his friends in an attempt to take her out. Croitus decides to rejoin his friends; the shades of the dead point the way.

Thusly, Resh awakens the others at the sound of an approaching noise while Rat disappears into the shadows. Once they realize that the approaching noise is Croitus, they welcome him back into camp, and he sleeps.

Dhavita dreams of the Council of Lords chambers in Scandshar. A tall, lithe woman — evidently the guard captain — enters the chambers, finding Lord Key draped over the governor’s chair, drinking champagne. Chambers are otherwise empty. The captain asks what this is about, and Lord Key explains that the Scandshar Six were sighted in Kiris Dahn, although they managed to flee. Before they did, however, the dwarf among them apparently told one of the town’s current residents about his business in Duchy Jepson. The captain notes that they cannot go to war with Jepson, but Lord Key retorts that they can still gather a warrant and search the town now that they know what they seek. The captain asks if it is wise to send soldiers into the maw of the beast; why not just wait for them to return to Jepson, but Lord Key makes a subtle gesture and incant, crossing chambers all-too-quickly and brandishing a glowing, green sword of energy. She reminds the captain that people were very upset with her mismanaging of the whole Scandshar Six fiasco, and letting them slip through her fingers would hardly help matters. Then she might be replaced with someone more willing to work with the Peacocks. Lord Key indicates that arrangements have already been made to track them down; the captain needs to start sending soldiers through portals.

Dhavita awakens and makes certain the others are awake. She informs the others of this development and they prepare. As they do, however, they hear noise. After a few moments, two knights with hounds blunder into their camp; the knights bear symbols of Bahamut and a white flag. They explain that armies are coming from Scandshar with orders to kill, and they’re bringing wargs to hunt down the Scandshar Six. If the Six are willing to go with the paladins, they will guarantee a fair trial. Otherwise, they cannot guarantee any safety. A debate ensues; ultimately, Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava decide to go with the paladins, while Rat, Resh, and Southie decide to stay and fight. The two groups wish each other luck, and the paladins take the four into custody.

Rat, Resh, and Southie follow them at a distance to make certain they are safe.

After about a half-hour, the paladins run into soldiers, roughly fifty of them. They are riding giant goats, and a pack of ten massive, wolflike ride at the front, tracking. At the head of the group is Lord Key and her four bodyguards. She dismounts and strides forward, asking, “What the fuck is this?” The paladins cite precedent, indicating these people are under church sanctuary. Arguments go back and forth for a few minutes — these people have no rights, as they are property, and so cannot ask for sanctuary. Marguerite and Croitus indicate that they do have rights, Lord Key says they were forfeit. Ultimately, however, she sends them away with ten soldiers to guard them. Croitus subtly calls upon the ghosts to spook the goats and Lord Key adds an extra five soldiers to guard them. She tells them to kill the prisoners if there’s any trouble. She then mounts her goat and the group rides into the forest.

Deciding on a guerilla warfare strategy, Resh sets up a deadfall trap to separate the soldiers so they can pick them off in groups. The soldiers trigger it, and in the confusion, Rat, Resh, and Southie manage to separate four of them and take them out, stealing three of their goats in the process. Knowing they won’t be able to keep doing this forever, they decide to send the goats back into the throng of soldiers, maybe taking out a few and escaping in the confusion. However, in the process, Rat and Resh are forced to flee and become separated from Southie. Southie, having climbed a tree, waits as the others pass. At the back of the group is Lord Key and her four bodyguards. One trails just enough that Southie thinks he can take him out; he drops with his axe, slicing off the bodyguard’s shield arm and cutting through his riding goat. The man does not scream. As tendrils start to emerge from the bodyguard’s arm, Southie quickly cleaves off his head. However, this horrid worm-thing leaps out of the neck stump, launching itself at Southie’s open mouth. He manages to catch it and wrestle with it, although he never gets a strong enough grip on the thing to crush it. He’s forced to toss it away, but the ensuing noise alerts Lord Key, who merely instructs her bodyguards to kill Southie. They dismount and advance, crouching behind their shields. Southie moves in to cleave at one, and although he injures the man, he pops from behind his shield and vomits another of the worm things at Southie’s face. His lifeless body falls to the ground as the worm-thing launches through the air. Southie is unable to react fast enough as the thing latches onto his face and forces its way down his gullet. He barely has enough time to register the deed before an alien presence establishes itself in his mind, and he loses consciousness.

Rat and Resh manage to lose their pursuers and double back to see what happened. To their surprise, they note that only two of the bodyguards remain, but now Southie rides with them. Not having been noticed, they slink away, and decide to head south. Perhaps Resh can take control of one of the goblin tribes along the way? He and Rat have plenty of time to consider their options.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava have been walking with paladins and soldiers for an hour or two when Croitus subtly tries to summon a ghost. An old dwarf appears to him, and after some conversation, Croitus says he will ensure the dwarf is laid to rest if he helps him escape. If the dwarf can release his shackles and spook the goats, that should be enough. The dwarf ghost agrees. Suddenly, Croitus’ shackles fall away; simultaneously, the fifteen goats scatter in different directions. The surprised guards have enough time to launch a volley of arrows, although Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava all drop to the ground, leaving the paladins to take the worst of it. When the dust settles, the dogs have fled, the soldiers are nowhere nearby, and the paladins are dead. Croitus says he’s going on to Kiris Dahn; Marguerite asks him to free them, and so retrieves the paladins’ keys and opens everyone’s shackles. With that, Croitus heads southeast while everybody else decides to head northwest.

Croitus manages to evade patrols, but when he approaches Kiris Dahn, he sees that it is full of Scandshar troops. He decides to let it be, cutting west to head to Dawnslight to discharge his current debt.

Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava begin to walk northwest. To avoid the worst of the group, Thava turns into a dragon and the other two ride her. They fly over the soldiers, noting that Southie is now somehow mind-controlled by the others. They consider trying to rescue him, but decide it is too dangerous, particularly since the soldiers have definitely noticed the dragon circling overhead. As such, they continue northwest until they must land. After discussing their options, they consider trying to find a port and heading to Nadhi in the hopes that Dhavita’s father can assist them.

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Session 40

Sunday, Patchwall 16, 552 CY (50 AN)

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, Southie, and Thava walk through the streets of ruined Kiris Dahn, heading toward the Kiris Estate at the other end of town. Various construction crews bustle around the settlement, a mix of humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings. Amid the mix of peoples, they notice the dwarves seem to have two characters about them — some are singing work songs and seem to enjoy their labors while others toil in silence with sullen demeanors. Dhavita recognizes the latter dwarves as hailing from Anhak, and knows them as skilled craftsmen despite their dour natures.

The group is in the midst of discussing their plans — Croitus senses that the ring he seeks is to the northwest while the Kiris Estate is to the northeast — when they are interrupted by a cry of, “Why, it’s little Margie Patenaude!” A burly dwarf emerges from the crowd and is introduced as Thainan Torranol. After chatting and awkwardly making introductions, he inquires about their business. Dhavita explains that they’re lost and hope to purchase a teleportation scroll and make use of the local circle so that they may find their way home. Thainan again directs them to the Kiris Estate, and then takes his leave so he and the travelers can all return to their business. He starts to return to his construction before he appears to remember something and rushes off toward the Kiris Estate.

Although his abrupt change in direction makes the group nervous, no one wants to raise suspicion and so they head toward Croitus’ ring. He leads them to what appears to be a ruined market district where several Anhak dwarves work. A ginger-headed dwarf woman, apparently their foreman, greets the travelers and asks for their business. They say they’re surveying, and Southie indicates he’d be interested in purchasing a stall — are they for sale? The woman says the ownership situation in town is a bit complicated, as three factions are currently vying for the town and each claims legal precedent. The Tain merchants of Sorgforge claim the town under a form of salvage rights, the Kiris nobles claim it under familial right (although they currently don’t quite have the funds and political influence to enforce the claim), and a cleric of Bahamut came to town with a force of paladins — he claims that since the town was liberated by a priest of Bahamut, the town should rightfully go to the church. In theory, a magistrate from Scandshar is supposed to arrive and resolve the dispute, but he hasn’t arrived in the past couple of months, so she’s not expecting a resolution any time soon. The group thanks her, Southie posts a note laying claim to one of the market stalls, and they search for the ring.

Unfortunately, Croitus spots a heavy iron ring on a chain around the neck of one of the Anhak dwarves. The dwarf apparently found it and thinks it would make a good gift for his nephew when he returns home, but Croitus expresses an interest in trading for it. The dwarf initially does not wish to part with it, but after some back-and-forth, Croitus negotiates for the ring by offering an emerald, and Resh offers a gold idol he obtained in his travels. Satisfied, the group leaves the market. As they do, the dwarf woman bids them farewell, and Southie asks if she would be interested in investing in his company. When she expresses an interest, he explains what Freedom Unlimited, Ltd. represents — namely, the violent abolition of slavery and the acquisition of money — and offers her shares of stock. Realizing that they’re in the safe deposit box in Jepson, he directs her to his offices in Duchy Jepson, and says she can find his employees there even if he is not around. She seems wary when it sounds like his business isn’t terribly formalized, but she thanks him and the group finally manages to pull him out of that awkward conversation. Dhavita chides him for giving away too much information, but he says he does not intend to stay on this plane of existence much longer, so it matters little to him.

The group finally makes its way to the decrepit Kiris Estate where they are stopped by mercenaries guarding the front door. When the guards inquire about their business, they again explain their desire for teleportation spell scrolls. The guard says he thinks he heard something about them, and asks them to wait a minute while he goes inside. Resh makes light conversation with the remaining guard while also looking around for an ambush that never arrives. The guard indicates their presence is necessary, though — they still get goblin and kobold attacks from time-to-time, and the occasional thief. Among others, they’ve caught a kobold and a tiefling relatively recently. Instead, the guard returns and says they’re out of teleportation spell scrolls, but they expect more tomorrow — teleportation spells are the most commonly-used spells in town. They ask if any wizards currently have such spells memorized; the man goes back inside before again returning, this time with a merchant. The merchant explains that the magicians on staff would have to rest to prepare such a spell, so they’ll have to wait until tomorrow anyway. Since they plan on doing business with the Tain family, however, he’ll gladly see to it that they have a free room for the evening in one of the abandoned houses. The travelers agree.

The merchant leads them to one of the houses in the same block, near a burned foundation and the ruins of a once-massive oak tree covered in goblin graffiti at the base. This was apparently once the local inn; some of the houses nearby were burned in whatever fire claimed them, but some of the others are sturdy. Since they’re drafty and get quite cold at night, someone should be around in an hour or so with furs for insulation. If they need anything, they can let any of the workers or merchants know. Nanarv Granitebuster is quite helpful and is working nearby in the market district, and when Resh inquires if she has red hair, he indicates they’ve already met.

Once the merchant leaves, the group discusses options, deciding that they will probably try to switch houses in the night. The next day, Croitus will see them back home, but will not travel with them, as he must discharge his duty. Dhavita and Marguerite wait inside the house while Croitus communes with the spirits in the corner. Outside, Southie and Thava casually watch their surroundings while Resh goes to investigate the nearby houses and prepare an escape route. His plan is to prepare a route through an unstable house that can be collapsed behind them as they flee. When he finds a suitable location, he gets to work.

The rest of the group is aware of the thud and the cloud of dust when a nearby house collapses. Workers and mercenaries begin flooding to the site, worried that someone was caught inside. Southie and Thava also make their way over there, and everybody sees Resh emerge from the wreckage of the house. Many of the workers are alarmed to see a kobold climbing from the wreckage, but Thava manages to keep everyone calm and one of the merchants indicates he’s a guest. He makes his way back to the group’s resting place and Dhavita treats his wounds. A merchant comes around with furs and things, and also asks for Resh to sign a non-liability document. Since Resh cannot read Common, Dhavita reads the contract for him, and then he signs with an “X.”

The rest of the evening passes uneventfully. The group decides not to switch houses so that they do not risk drawing attention to themselves. The group notices that more mercenary patrols seem to come around than before Resh’s accident, but it’s otherwise quiet. Dhavita and Southie take first watch, which passes uneventfully. Croitus and Resh take second watch, which is nearly uneventful, although Croitus apparently makes some pact with the dead to stand vigil with them. Resh asks why they have not passed on, and the dead reply that the violence done to them here has bound them to this place. They need to know their loved ones are safe to transition to the afterlife. Marguerite and Thava are initially alarmed when they awaken for third watch, but apart from the tranquil restless shades, it’s otherwise quiet.

Dhavita awakens with a start. She quickly awakens the others, and describes her dream. In the vision, Thainan and a few other merchants stand nervously around a teleportation circle. As the air above the circle shimmers, Lord Key, her four guards, and three Scandshar soldiers emerge. Lord Key admonishes the merchants to not waste her time, and they assure her that they have not — he saw Marguerite Weogora with his own eyes, as well as a dark-skinned woman, a kobold, and dwarf matching the descriptions of some of the Scandshar Six. They wait for eight other soldiers to emerge, and when they do, Lord Key asks for the merchants to show the way to the Six.

As they prepare to flee, they are surprised by a seventh in their midst — Rat, a thief Southie met outside Dawnslight. She’s very quiet and mostly sticks to the shadows, which is why the others were unaware of her. She agrees to help them escape.

As the travelers begin to flee, Croitus asks for the dead to guide them to safety. The shades of the dead stand silent vigil, pointing a way to safety — they head northwest, to the bridge crossing the river. As mercenaries stand guard, they decide to creep through the frigid waters. Dhavita, Marguerite, and Resh manage to creep across without a sound. Rat and Southie both avoid making noise but each inhales water when forced to dive and feels a bit unwell upon leaving. Croitus and Thava make too much noise, and the mercenaries begin showering them with arrows. Croitus dives into the river and follows it until stopped by a thicket of bamboo bars — he muscles through and follows the river along its course. Thava casts a spell and turns into a dragon, taking a few arrows but swiftly flying out of range.

Croitus emerges from the river to the south of the town and begins heading west, back to Dawnslight to discharge his duty.

Meanwhile, Dhavita, Marguerite, Rat, Resh, and Southie flee to the northwest. Thava follows them for a time before veering off and landing so that she can walk through the woods without being seen. They march until darkness begins to fall, when Resh marches onward to catch up to Thava and bring her back. Once Thava is reunited with the others, they prepare for a long night. They wonder why Thainan betrayed them — probably for the money — but Marguerite notes that the Tain family helped her escape. Maybe they were caught, and Thainan hopes to cut a deal?

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Session 39

Godsday, Patchwall 11, 552 CY (50 AN)

The next morning, Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, Southie, and Thava awaken. Dhavita recalls vaguely dreaming of the Scandshar military patrols between here and Duchy Jepson, and informs the others. Croitus empties his canopic jars and builds a pyre for animated corpses therein; he says he is on a new path now. Margot apologizes to Dhavita for her behavior in the Shadowfell, explaining that she was just overcome with a terrible despair that she could barely even articulate.

After discussion, the group decides to head east to Dawnslight to find what they can about Kiris Dahn, and possibly head there in search of a teleportation circle to return to Duchy Jepson.

It is early afternoon on Earthday, Patchwall 13, when the travelers arrive outside Dawnslight. Noting the very real possibility that they could be recognized, particularly since some of Marguerite’s former slaves might still be in residence, the group decides to camp outside town while Croitus, wearing his hat of disguise, and Thava enter the village.

They arrive without incident and decide to look around briefly before having a bit to eat and drink at the local tavern. Everything seems normal, although Croitus thinks he spies some residents who appear as though they may have been former House Weogora slaves. Thava asks about Kiris Dahn, and the barkeep explains that an adventuring party known as the Platinum Claws — an adventuring party dedicated to Bahamut — cleared out the goblins from Kiris Dahn some months ago. Since that time, merchants have been there surveying and trying to rebuild the abandoned town.

After a bit, Croitus and Thava leave the town, bringing food and ale for the others and relaying the information they learned. The group discusses the possibility of using Kiris Dahn as a base of operations before deciding to go investigate and potentially use whatever teleportation circles remain. The group rests, planning to journey in the morning.

That night during his watch, Croitus summons a spirit, the ghost of a Kiris Dahn town guard named Leeke Whitetall. He asks if there is an active teleportation circle in Kiris Dahn, and Leeke agrees to reveal this information if Croitus will undertake a quest — find his wedding ring, left in Kiris Dahn and stolen by goblins, and return it to his wife, Naldda. He also requires that Croitus will not suffer any evil creatures he encounters. Croitus agrees to the terms, and Leeke indicates there is a teleportation circle. He will ensure Croitus has the information he needs to complete both tasks.

The next morning, Freeday, Patchwall 14, the group awakens, and Dhavita notices a glowing symbol on Croitus’ chest. He indicates it is a tattoo representing his pact with the spirits; it appears on his chest as Croitus but is hidden when he is in disguise, although Dhavita always sees it as a glowing sigil. The group disembarks for Kiris Dahn, which they expect to take about three days. That evening, Resh notices goblin tracks. As per Croitus’ taboo, they must hunt the creatures down. After tracking them for a couple of hours, they find the goblins’s camp. Their leader appears to be some manner of shaman.

Croitus and Southie rush out of the shadows into the light of the campfire, trying to scatter the guardians and kill the shaman. Resh fires arrows at the shaman while Thava covers the group with her magics; Dhavita provides support. After being wounded by an arrow, Croitus and Southie kill the shaman, although before he dies he manages to fire some orb of acid at Southie, who is forced to remove his armor lest he is covered in acid burns. While Southie fumbles with his armor, the former gladiators make short work of the rest of the goblins.

Once that is done and the campsite has been searched — the shaman carried a clay pot stuffed with coins — the group moves away from the carnage to camp for the night.

The next day, they again set out for Kiris Dahn, finally arriving in late afternoon on Sunday, Patchwall 16. Several bored mercenaries playing cards guard the rickety gate. They ask for the travelers’ business, whereupon Dhavita explains they hope to barter with the merchants to find their way home, and the mercenaries explain that the merchants are headquartered in the Kiris Estate at the opposite end of town. Dhavita thanks them, and the group enters the city.

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Session 38

Moonday, Patchwall 10, 552 CY (50 AN)

Suddenly, Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Osvanpyw, Resh, Southie, and Thava find themselves somewhere else, without their horses. They are in a well-appointed (albeit somewhat gloomy and bitterly cold) throne room. Sorrowsworn stand at attention around the walls, each standing guard. Two of the creatures flank an ornate throne upon which sits a black-clad maiden with alabaster skin and a cloak of raven feathers — the Raven Queen. She stares impassively ahead.

She inquires why they have requested her assistance, and Croitus reveals that they wish to return home. She seems offended that they have asked of her what any properly-trained magus can do, but they indicate that is their request. At discussion regarding his allegiance, Croitus expresses that she does not wish to stand against her, and so she enters into a non-aggression pact with him — he will not interfere with her and her servants so long as she does not antagonize him. Southie also volunteers that Bahamut made him an offer to leave this plane for another once his tasks are complete, chief among them likely involving slaying Lazghul the Lich-Lord. The Raven Queen notes this would please her, as he is a servant of Orcus (no doubt why he seeks the Shard of Evil, to slay assist his master in slaying her) and has evaded death for far too long. His Ivory Tower, however, is a fortress, and they would likely have to raise an army of their own to besiege it, unless they take it by stealth. She says if they agree to fight the Lich-Lord, she will send them home and see to it that they are no longer wanted for their crimes. The group huddles to discuss these matters, and says that doing the Raven Queen’s bidding sounds significantly more difficult than just finding some wizard to send them home. Dhavita also notes that she does not know if the Raven Queen’s offer to clear their names has some unforeseen loophole, such as the group no longer being wanted because they’re dead, or some such. Southie notes that he doesn’t know what constitutes standing against her, as he assumes Croitus’ pact binds them all, but the others think it does not. He breaks away to ask, and the Raven Queen indicates the pact only binds Croitus, as the others are not worrisome. Southie asks if she’s just a little concerned about him, but she replies that he will either come for her first or last. If he kills her first, how will he kill the other gods? If he kills her last, she will have too much time to prepare, and then how will he destroy her? Southie ponders this.

After much deliberation, the group decides to reject her offer. She bids them to leave immediately. Croitus makes one final comment, again calling her Nera, and she bids him to go, telling him she will not see him again.

The former gladiators leave her hall and travel through the palace, descending the stairs and descending the steep mountain that bears her keep. They begin heading south, and as they come to the ring of mountains, they notice a temple overlooking the pass to the south. They decide to investigate, ascending and knocking on the door. A pale, dark-haired woman answers, robed like a monk, tattooed, and bearing a spiderweb of slender silver chains threaded through her facial piercings. Croitus recognizes her as one of the shadar-kai, humans now native to the plane, and when they ask for sanctuary, she bids them to enter. They indicate they wish to raise a friend and return to the Prime Material Plane, and she says she will summon the priest. She bids them to sit and wait in a small chapel within the temple. She returns with a similarly tattooed and pale-skinned priest. He bears black robes embroidered with the raven’s head symbol of the Raven Queen. Piercings along his arms are threaded with chains terminating in two incense censers that dangle from his wrists, spreading clouds of fragrant incense. The priest seems pleased to see them, recognizing them as the Scandshar Six who have sent so many souls through the Raven Queen’s domain. They repeat their request to raise Resh and obtain transport back to the Prime Material, and he requests a donation of 5,000 gp. They’re about the discuss matters when Croitus merely pulls 5,000 gp from his pack. The priest asks if they have Resh’s body, and to bring it forth. They lay it upon the altar, and the priest chants over it and anoints it with oils and incense. There is a call and response, when some of the few shadar-kai in the pews wail. Finally, Resh’s ghost disappears and his body slowly awakens. When he has recovered, the priest bids the group to join hands and continues his chanting to enact a plane shift. After a few minutes, the vision of the chapel fades.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, Southie, and Thava appear in an overgrown field next to a small, ruined shrine to the Raven Queen. Osvanpyw does not accompany them. It is late afternoon. To get their bearings, Thava transforms into a dragon and flies into the air. Based on the position, they appear to be in the southeast of the Sorrowfell Plains, likely some miles to the west of Dawnslight. Before she can land, however, the spell ends prematurely, and she begins to fall. The others try to stand beneath her with a bag of holding, but she manages to weave a spell to slow her descent. When she lands, she reveals the information, and the group determines that this shrine marks the battlefield known as the Battle of Mezzik’s Farm during the Cackledread War.

As they prepare to camp, they hear footfalls through the grass. Croitus dons the hat of disguise, and with the exception of Southie, everyone finds cover. Southie is greeted by three hobgoblins and their contingent of thirty goblins. When he gives greeting, the hobgoblin leader demands, “Your money or your life.”

Southie is overjoyed.

The battle is swift and brutal. The three hobgoblins are quickly decimated by Southie’s axe blows, Croitus’ ghoul-amalgam, Resh’s arrows, and Thava’s fire magics. When Thava emerges from the trees as a dragon — albeit a grotesque, misshapen dragon as her magics again go awry — the goblins scatter and flee, although at least four of them don’t make it. The ghoul-amalgam manages to grab one and return it to the group for questioning. In broken Common, it reveals that it is a refugee from Gorizbadd. The others recognize Gorizbadd as the goblin name for Kiris Dahn, a human city that fell about eight years ago. Apparently, something has chased the goblins back out. As they question the captive, a brief shadow flickers over the sun. The interrogation is interrupted when a relatively young green dragon interrupts the conversation to snatch the goblin in its jaws.

Again, the battle is swift. Croitus orders the ghoul-amalgam to hold the creature’s jaws shut, while Resh and Southie antagonize it with weapons and Thava throws spells. Dhavita weaves a glamour using song to empower Southie’s attacks, but that draws the beast’s attention. Resh, however, leaps in its way and takes the blow as Southie cuts deeply into the beast’s neck. It falls and is still.

With that unpleasantness done, the group searches the fallen goblins and finds some trinket that potentially looks valuable. They also make camp and spend the rest of the day skinning and dressing the dragon to harvest anything of value.

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Session 37

Sunday, Patchwall 9, 552 CY (50 AN)

At the alpha wolf’s request, Southie indicates he will not cause any trouble. The wolves let them pass, indicating they will not stop them, but the road ahead is still treacherous. The group continues onward.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Osvanpyw, Resh, Southie, Thava, their horses, and the mercenaries continue along the road. As dusk approaches — what passes for dusk in the Shadowfell, anyway — they note a figure sitting by the side of the road. He wears only a loincloth and carries a begging bowl, walking stick, and a pack. His features and dark complexion mark him as a native of Nadhi; his head is anointed with Tilaka and his body is covered in ash, marking him as a sadhu, or holy man (and potentially as one of the death-focused Aghori). As far as anyone can tell, he is alive. Dhavita greets him befitting his station, and after inquiries, he reveals he is there for her. He is an associate of her father’s, and although her father has not requested her presence, it goads the sadhu that she is living beneath her station. He would like to return her to her father. She has pointed questions about this — namely, would she be free to go if she journeyed to her father. The sadhu presumes so, but does not know. As far as she can tell, his belief is genuine, although she suspects his purposes are more mercenary (trying to toady to her father, perhaps?) than his indignation suggests.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, Southie, and Thava take a moment away from the ascetic to discuss the matter. Southie wants to take the deal, as he thinks dealing with a vampire is better than dealing with the goddess of death — he even acquired magic weapons to fight vampires! Dhavita counter-argues that they don’t know what the situation may be when they arrive — he may have legions of soldiers in some massive temple complex, and they end up having to fight their way out. She interested in leaving, however. She asks if it would disrupt Croitus’ plans if they leave before confronting the Raven Queen, and he replies that he will have to speak with her eventually, but it does not have to be now. He has plenty of time.

The group returns, and Dhavita indicates her terms — she is willing to go with him if they may be returned to neutral ground in the Sorrowfell Plains with no agents of her father around and with three days before he or his representative arrives. The holy man replies that starting three continents away with three days’ head start sounds like no meeting will occur. Southie, however, indicates he is willing to return to Nadhi with the holy man. Ignoring Southie, and with no further negotiations, the sadhu takes his leave, walking on the road back to the House of Black Lanterns.

As it is near dark, the group decides to camp for the night.

The group rises without incident the next morning. As they continue their march, the road ends, giving rise to a deep wood of evergreens. Croitus notes this is the outer border of Letherna, and will progress into rugged mountains before leading to Letherna proper. As the group penetrates the woods, they notice silver streaks in the sky, heading in the direction of what is presumably the Raven Queen’s domain. As they notice this, Resh feels a curious pulling sensation; he acknowledges it but resists it, not wishing to leave just yet. Osvanpyw apparently also resists it, but the mercenaries do not — they and their skeletal horses transform into silver streaks of light and rush toward the sky.

Resh questions why Osvanpyw did not pass on, and he indicates he still wishes to discharge his debt. The group continues to walk until they notice chains stretched across the trees like spider webs. They move to circumnavigate the chain webs, but a creature — humanoid, but covered in chains — rushes out at the group. Southie does not engage, thinking this creature may be a native and attacking it would go against his agreement not to cause trouble, but Croitus, Resh, and Thava absolutely do. Thava slings spells and Croitus throws his spear while Resh drains its essence with his enervating touch; the creature quickly falls and dissipates in a greasy mist and a puff of brimstone.

As the group debates what needs to be done next, and that Southie should participate in future battles, two creatures silently descend from the trees. They are humanoid, bearing lean, cadaverous faces, raven’s wings, and scythes. Various piercings and tattoos adorn these creatures. Croitus recognizes them as Sorrowsworn, servants of the Raven Queen. Battle is joined — Southie engages one while Croitus and Resh engage the other. Southie cuts at the beast with his axe while Croitus sends his amalgam-ghoul after the other. Resh menaces the creature with his enervating touch. Thava throws spells of flame and force at both, and Dhavita tries to keep her wife out of harm’s way. After a few moments, the chaos of battle is over, and the creatures are destroyed. Croitus speaks a brief incantation to keep them from dissipating, then places their bodies in canopic jars. Dhavita treats the injured — Thava is a simple matter, although trying to develop a symbolic treatment regimen for Resh is more difficult — and then tries to calm her wife again.

While the others recuperate, Croitus moves away from the group as if in prayer. In truth, he invokes the Raven Queen, Nera, and says if she wishes to speak with him, she should do so in person.

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Session 36

Freeday, Patchwall 7, 552 CY (50 AN)

Dhavita throws her arm across Margot and starts ushering her out of the building, chased by the maddened Zafira. She manages to avoid the knife, and as she exits the building, Resh grabs Zafira. His translucent hand passes through her, but it seems to do something as she howls and her own form grows more translucent and ragged. Croitus, having made his way back to the inn (but not before asking the Dead Man the location of the Crux of Eternity), casts some spell to knock her to the ground, and before Southie or Thava or even Osvanpyw can intercede, the mercenaries make short work of her. Zafira howls and her spirit dissipates.

The excitement over, Dhavita tries to comfort Marguerite and calm her while the group discusses potential options for leaving the Shadowfell. They decide that trying to search for a shadow crossing between the Shadowfell and the world, or trying to cut a deal with some settlement leader or temple priest seems like a roundabout path.

Instead, they decide to journey to Letherna, to deal with the Raven Queen. After all, she probably wants them out of her domain as much as they want to leave. It certainly seems the most efficient arrangement.

They march along the road, and as night falls — such as it is in this strange, twilit place — they camp. As Osvanpyw, Resh, and the mercenaries do not need to sleep, they keep watch.

That night, Dhavita dreams of a merchant caravan of elves trying to fix their carts. Her group approaches and offers to help, but only she apparently notices that the elves do not breathe, and their eyeteeth are too long, and they look upon the travelers with lean and hungry looks.

The next morning, they awaken and breakfast. Dhavita tells the others of her dream. Osvanpyw quietly notes to Dhavita and Thava that he researched these mercenaries before he tracked them, and many of them had families and seemed like normal people. But the lands of the dead change things, and in the past several months, he has known them to be lazy and cruel. Just so that everyone keeps it in mind. Dhavita and Thava quietly inform the others; Dhavita makes certain that Southie in particular knows that he may have to murder his own mercenaries.

The group marches to Letherna. When Resh scouts ahead and spots a caravan of elves, the group decides to leave the path and skirt around them. Picking their way through the badlands, they come across a robed figure sitting next to a campfire. They similarly decide to avoid this entity, moving further into the badlands before camping for the night.

Wolves howl throughout the night, but do not approach within the firelight. Although many of the group catch sight of glowing red eyes throughout the night. Dhavita has dreams of nameless fear and dread, although it is more of the Shadowfell in general than the prospect of visiting the Raven Queen.

The next morning the group continues its march. Returning to the path, they across a group of pilgrims marching in the same direction. Peasants, they defer to the obviously important travelers. As they pass, one of the mercenaries strikes one of the peasants and suggests he remember his place.

They continue to walk until they are confronted by a pack of wolves in the road — fur so dark that they appear as great, wolf-like shadows, and glowing red eyes. The alpha speaks with a gutteral, growling voice, and indicates that they march to Letherna. He asks if they come in peace, referring to Croitus, and after some discussion, he indicates he means no harm, he only wishes to negotiate.

Expectantly, the alpha asks Southie the same question.

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Session 35

Freeday, Patchwall 7, 552 CY (50 AN)

As the spirit screeches, exorcised by Thava’s arcane power, a low, sinister chuckle sounds. Dhavita recognizes the tell-tale signs of some manner of illusion or message, set to convey when specific triggers are met, while Thava recognizes the signs of a teleportation trap about to spring shut. A thick, black mist forms over the area, and a grinning, leering skull forms from the mist, speaking with Lazghul’s voice. As he begins to speak, Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Southie, and Thava all start to leave. When they reach the outer boundary of mist, however, it triggers the trap prematurely — Lazghul absolutely seems the sort to want to monologue, and to punish interruptions — and everyone feels the eldritch vertigo of transitioning between realms.

When they return to their senses, Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Southie, and Thava, as well as their five horses, are standing in a rocky valley full of howling winds. They appear to be at the intersection of five roads with an ancient and unreadable signpost marking the spot. Lashed to the signpost is an ancient, leathery corpse. The mournful demeanor and perpetual twilight unbroken by a sad and haze-covered sun suggests they are in the Shadowfell, the shadowy realm forming a boundary between the living in the dead. Surprisingly, Resh is also at the crossroads; his demeanor has taken on a significant pall, and wisps of smoky ectoplasm waft off him. Notably, he bears a heavy axe wound in his chest, and his right leg bears a bleeding wound where the bone is visible, with only a few scraps of sinew joining the top of his thigh and the bottom. The last thing he recalls, through a dream-like haze, is traveling through gloomy burrows and rocky tunnels before finding himself here. Whatever place he found himself, it felt like home.

Lazghul unceremoniously appears at the crossroads and Southie instantly hefts his axe at him. He is dejected when it passes through him, like an apparition. Lazghul indicates they must have cut his message short. He apologizes to Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, and Thava, indicating it was not quite his goal to send them here. He notes that he has regretted letting Southie go, since the dwarf attempted to kill him, and rigged it so killing his Executioner and the other undead would transport them to the Shadowfell. Since Southie apparently sent an angel back to its domain with the knowledge that he would kill the Raven Queen, it seems an appropriate place to send his foe to meet his final fate. He notes, however, that if they escape from the Shadowfell, Lazghul is willing to let the matter drop. If he comes after Lazghul again, however, he has a ghost following Manny and Quithyra, and will use the location of the Creation Forge to his advantage. Although he has not yet decided if he will use it or destroy it. With that, he disappears.

After discussion, Croitus indicates the Dead Man upon the sign will answer questions regarding the locations of things by pointing. He asks which way to the House of Black Lanterns, an inn that often appears in the victinity of Dead Man’s Cross, and the corpse points off to the right. After asking about ways to escape and where the Raven Queen’s domain might be, as well as Southie asking where Bahamut’s domain may be (although he keeps calling him “Bathmat,” to the consternation of some of the others, particularly Thava) and if the Dead Man wishes to be destroyed (he does not respond; Croitus suggests he is cursed to remain here for choices he made in life), they decide to investigate the inn. Before they walk to it, however, a mournful bell tolls three times and a mist rises in the direction the Dead Man pointed. When the mist falls, an ornate two-story inn with black lanterns bearing blue flames appears. It is surrounded by a courtyard of cobblestones, and someone has apparently set up a haphazard and ragged tent city near the inn. Croitus, Resh, and Southie decide to go to the inn while Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava investigate the tents.

Inside the inn, the place appears to be occupied by several sad, grey shapes in dusty corners, as well as the innkeeper, a woman in a kimono whose mouth has been slashed. She has a broad knife tucked in her obi. As Croitus, Resh, and Southie enter, a quiet voice accusingly mutters, “You.” They look to see Zafira Shulud, who looks momentarily angry before returning to her mug. She no longer has the sores around her mouth, but her neck is now bent at an odd angle and bears rope burns. Southie goes to talk her while Croitus decides to talk with the innkeeper. Southie learns that Zafira was executed as an accomplice to the Scandshar Six — the Peacocks wanted someone to blame, and she formed as good a target as any. He apologizes for his part in these events, as well as for decaptiating her before, and asks if she wants to accompany them on her journey; she agrees.

Resh listens for a bit, and asks why she has not moved on — introspection, she says; she wants to be truly ready before meeting her deity — before deciding he’s more interested in seeing what is happening outside.

Croitus speaks with the innkeeper, learning her name is Nishimura Kumiko. She seems a bit off-kilter — not too abnormal for the lingering dead, though — but otherwise like a normal innkeeper. He orders a drink, and determining that this place probably doesn’t care about such things, removes his hat of disguise.

Meanwhile, Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava investigate the tents. It appears to be composed of whatever scraps of fabric the inhabitants were able to scavenge, and more likely forms one tent with several flaps. Nine skeletal horses are tethered outside. The tents house several military men — Dhavita counts eighteen, and by their markings, notes they are likely mercenaries. They appear to have been battered or crushed. In the middle of the tent is a dark-skinned man clad only in a loincloth and tied to the supports of the tent. He bears a couple of arrow wounds in his shoulders, several stab wounds in his abdomen, and a vicious abdominal wound that appears to have started small in his back, like a rapier point, but left with much more force, leaving a terrible crater. It looks like some form of magic, perhaps. Ancient whip scars mar his shoulders, and in addition to his bleeding death-wounds, he generally appears to have been mistreated. He bears the angry, sullen silence of a slave or prisoner.

The mercenaries greet the ladies as they approach. When questioned, they explain that they were killed in what they determined to be an engineered rockslide. They’ve been waiting here for the rest of their mercenary company for…well, time passes strangely, but perhaps three or four months. They’ve set up this tent city because they’re not welcome in the House of Black Lanterns; when they arrived, there were nineteen of them, but one got handsy with the barkeep, and she stabbed him to death. (Whatever lies beyond death in this realm, anyway.) The man they’ve captured is the man responsible for killing them — they waited at Dead Man’s Cross for someone to pass through who looked surprised to see them, and found him within a day of their passing. Resh, having joined the ladies by this time, inquires why they keep this man bound and why they have not yet moved on. The sergeant indicates they mean to punish this man and to wait for the others to return so that they can properly determine what to do with him. For emphasis, the sergeant strikes him; he winces, but says nothing. Resh asks why this matters, and the mercenaries seem to think it is important for nonspecific reasons. Dhavita asks if she can speak with the man, and the sergeant shrugs. She and Margot step into the tent, and ask how the man came there. He says he should not have let the halfling go; he was an assassin sent to track down some robbers who burglarized a merchant’s house and burned it to the ground. This group of mercenaries he killed was collateral damage, as he was instead supposed to assassinate their employer, an adventuring band. Before he was an assassin, he was a hunter from the Kinamsitu region of ’Ichi. He was captured and sold into slavery, only to be purchased by House de Rais. At hearing them mention Southie, he indicates he knows the name as they were owned by the same master, Revaz de Rais, and he heard it with some frequency. As the de Rais family sometimes does, they hunted him for sport, but he was so skilled at evading the hunts that by the time he was freed, his greatest skill was hunting men. So, he became a professional assassin and moved to the Isle of Anhak.

He remarks that one is never free of slavery; that it continues to shape one’s destiny, even as a free man.

Dhavita and Thava ask if they mercenaries can be hired, and after some deliberation, they say they can: 30gp should cover costs for a month. When inquiring about the man, they say they will free him for 150gp.

Southie then exits the House of Black Lanterns with Zafira, and reintroduces her to the rest of the group. She looks briefly angry when she sees Dhavita, but then apathy reasserts itself. He says she will be coming with them and trying to help them find the way out of this plane. She seems a little surprised at Southie’s change of heart and profuse apologies for decapitating her, and the others indicate that Southie has grown since last she met him. Southie makes note of the tents as Croitus comes out, and while the rest of the group tries to keep him away, Southie ends up striking up a conversation with the mercenaries anyway. When he finds out they can be hired for 30gp, he agrees; he waves aside most of the explanation for the bound man and deigns not to purchase his freedom, partially because he is running short on money. Dhavita and Thava decide to split the cost for the bound assassin’s freedom.

Dhavita asks his name, and he introduces himself as Osvanpyw de Rais. She tells him he is free to go, but he explains that he does not want to pass to the afterlife with a debt on his soul, so he will assist them in returning home. He is a skilled tracker, and although he does not know this land well, he will offer his services. She asks about the strange wound in his abdomen, and he explains it is a wound from a device called a firearm. To lighten the mood, Thava ignites her arm with magic; this prompts Marguerite, barely keeping herself together in the face of being in the lands of the dead, to begin sobbing uncontrollably. While comforting her, Dhavita asks the man to proceed; he explains that it is a rod that forces a projectile out by means of igniting smoke powder. He says a man called Giblets gave him the wound.

Once that line of questioning is finished, Dhavita takes her wife aside to try to calm her down.

Southie indicates that he wishes to find the way to the domain of “Bathmat”, as he wishes to make him a deal — if Bahamut will help him deal with Lazghul he will willingly go to one of the realms without gods Bahamut mentioned. Although he may, of course, have to delay leaving so that he can deal with the slavery problem.

While the others are deliberating, Croitus returns to the Dead Man’s Cross. When he is certain no one else is around, he asks where to find Pluton, dead Nerull’s domain. The corpse points to the mountains.

Also while the others deliberate, Zafira returns to the inn. Seeing that Zafira is gone, Dhavita and a still-shaken Marguerite enter the House of Black Lanterns to find her inside. She again seems displeased to see Dhavita, but apart from grimacing and threateningly reaching into her robes, she says nothing. Dhavita asks why Zafira sought her in the first place, and Zafira explains that she was given a quest to serve Cihuacoatl, whom she understands to be Zehir, god of serpents, poisons, and murder. She was to find Dhavita, remove her appendix, and if she survived for a week, take her back to her temple so that she could be sacrificed. This was not the only mission she had, though; among other things, she was also tasked with cutting out the heart of an enemy’s child, but placing it in the home of still another enemy and being caught in the process, for that is the only way for her to get close enough. Dhavita asks to what she was trying to get close — she responds simply that it was her goal. Now she waits in the hopes that she can prepare herself before she must stand before Zehir. When Dhavita inquires further, Zafira turns on her and draws a knife, a mad gleam in her eye.

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Session 34

Freeday, Patchwall 7, 552 CY (50 AN)

Dhavita dreams of a stone archway, revealing only darkness beyond. The vision of it fills her with dread.

Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, Southie, and Thava awaken, and Dhavita recounts her dream to them. As Dhavita seems agitated, Southie pulls Marguerite aside and asks if she and Dhavita are having marital problems. Somewhat perplexed, as she often is with Southie, Marguerite replies that they are not, and Southie says to make certain she keeps plying Dhavita with sexual intercourse, as that should keep her mood elevated. As they break camp, Dhavita inquires about the wisdom of trekking toward the Creation Forge. As Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Thava discuss these matters, Southie continues to walk at a brisk pace, leaving them behind. Quithyra joins him first, followed by Manny; after discussion, the general consensus is that it is probably wiser to travel with Southie so that any unfortunate circumstances caused by activating the Creation Forge can be examined and remedied, rather than Southie creating them on his own and the consequences happening without anyone else’s knowledge. Dhavita, for her part, is concerned about the wisdom of investing souls into Warforged in the first place. Resh notes that in terms of Southie using them as weapons of war, the Warforged are supposed to have free will, and so Dhavita would have the opportunity to argue against warfare when they are created.

As Southie walks ahead, with Quithyra having joined him, he passes an old man sitting on a rock. He is dressed in robes, and surrounded by seven fluttering canaries. Of note, he has no pack or gear. He greets Southie, and as Southie is about to travel past him, he notes that things do not have to go the way they are going. Over the course of the conversation, Southie surmises he is some deity in mortal form, and asks what his purpose is. The old man replies that the deities are the holders of natural forces, and if they are destroyed, those forced may go awry. He notes that he knows of two places where the gods hold no sway, and that he can take Southie there if he wishes. Southie indicates he would rather finish his work here first; given his philosophical proclivities, the old man notes he would probably feel at home in the planar city of Sigil, where the gods are unable to tread, either. Southie notes that given the old man’s gentle demeanor, he is likely against slavery, so their goals are currently in alignment. The old man agrees, although he notes he does not agree with Southie’s methods. With that, Southie takes his leave. Manny joins Southie’s advance group at that point, and waves at the old man.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, and Thava arrive to find the same old man, and Croitus and Thava instantly recognize the Old Man with the Canaries, a folkloric form of the Platinum Dragon Bahamut. They give greeting, and after some conversation, Bahamut indicates he tried to speak with Southie, but to no avail. The others acknowledge this, and before they leave, Thava asks for a blessing on her people and her kin, Torinn. Bahamut grants this.

Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, Resh, and Thava finally catch up to Manny, Quithyra, and Southie, and within an hour or so, Resh finds very strange tracks. Someone — or rather, several someones — has crossed their path. It appears to be a densely-packed group in the middle surrounded by a looser gathering of people. No one in the middle wears shoes, and only some in the outer group wear them; they appear humanoid. Not wanting to encounter this apparent army down the road, the group decides to track them. After wandering through the mountains for another hour or so, following this strange trail, the group finds their quarry — a throng of soldiers gathered around a cloaked giant with a massive axe. Close examination with Southie’s spyglass discovers the apparent discrepancy as the soldiers are all dead, bearing rusty armor and battered swords. The giant comprises several bodies melded together to form one large creature, explaining the more tightly-packed tracks in the middle of the group. While the group deliberates, the giant turns and looks at them, an amalgam of human faces melted together to form one giant face.

The group retreats to find a defensible location. Wanting to keep the location of the Creation Forge secret at all costs, Southie sends Manny and Quithyra with the map and Warren, his war pig, to travel to the Creation Forge and begin plans without him. As Manny and Quithyra leave, the others wait to make their stand, and Resh starts assembling a trap to collapse on the entrance of this pass. However, his trap falters, and the giant evidently found another way around, meaning that the group is sandwiched between the army of undead at the pass, and the giant at the other end. Southie deigns to hold the pass while the others try to fight the giant.

The battle is chaotic. Croitus unleashes his ghoul amalgam to antagonize both the army of the dead and the grotesque giant. Southie holds the pass, keeping the legions of the dead at bay with his axe. Dhavita and Marguerite try to offer Southie aid in holding the line, but end up riding into the thick of the undead soldiers and are nearly pulled off their horse when Croitus’ ghoul-amalgam intervenes. Resh antagonizes the giant with arrows, but it rushes at him and flings him across the pass with a savage axe blow. He stands and continues to fire arrows at the beast while Croitus’ summoned monstrosity attacks it. Thava attacks the giant with her magics before turning on the army, transforming into a dragon to rain fire upon them.

As Resh peppers the giant with arrows, its attention turns upon him again. It crosses the battlefield in a few long strides and swings its axe. The force of the blow knocks Resh back, and the axeblade severs his right leg. As he flies through the air, before he loses consciousness, he flings his spear. It flies true, embedding itself in the creature’s head. The beast falls and the spear dislodges itself to return to Resh’s waiting hand — but life has already left him, and the spear twists and lodges itself in the dirt several paces from his corpse.

With the giant slain, the rest of the group makes short work of the undead warriors. Dhavita checks on Resh to find there is nothing further to be done, and then bandages her arm — one of the undead warriors touched her there during the battle, and the skin is blackened with frostbite.

Once the travelers have recovered and bandaged their wounds, they turn their attention to the day’s events. Although some initially think that the undead noticed their passage, most of the group quickly agrees that the things were probably sent by Lazghul, and were tracking them by use of his bound ghosts. Thava quickly weaves a spell to reveal the presence of the hidden, and the passage of energy reveals two such creatures. Temporarily solid, she slings fire at one while Southie cuts the other ghost in half. The first only appears injured, however, and quickly becomes incorporeal again. She prepares herself, and attempts to invoke arcane power to exorcise the remaining spirit.

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Session 33

Earthday, Patchwall 6, 552 CY (50 AN)

Captain Chandler returns and sits next to Thava. He asks if she knows where her friends have gone; they are not in trouble, but he needs to know what they know. She explains that Croitus is currently disguised as the man sitting in the corner; Chandler summons him over, and once he makes his way to the table, Chandler confirms he is speaking to Croitus and asks if the others are available. Croitus says they probably are, although he is not certain. Captain Chandler asks if he could find them as he has questions; he again reiterates that they are not in trouble, but he needs to know what they know. Croitus wanders away to retrieve the others while Captain Chandler and Thava wait.

Meanwhile, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Southie make their way into the Vistani camp. Leolann greets them and explains that Croitus indicated they would be coming. They ask when the Vistani are leaving, and they say tomorrow morning; the former gladiators are welcome to stay until then. Should they wish, they can also travel in the same direction when the time comes.

They do not wait long when Croitus arrives and relays Captain Chandler’s request. They agree and all go to the inn.

At the Addled Alchemist, Captain Chandler is surprised when everyone wanders into the tavern. He suggests they hold this meeting somewhere a little more private, and everyone agrees to relocate to the guard barracks. (The prisoners are being held there for the moment, but he has no plans to bring the former gladiators and their associates back to the holding cells.) Southie idly requests mead. Once there, he gathers everyone in a room typically used for questioning, and asks to know what they know. Dhavita explains her dream, and Captain Chandler indicates that matches with what he knows — the captured bounty hunters are an adventuring party known as the Breath of the Basilisk, based out of Sorgforge. Chandler also notes they have four members, and inquires about the elf. After some conversation, the Scandshar Six obliquely admit that the elf is probably not going to be a problem anymore. Captain Chandler declines to inquire further. Additionally, during the course of conversation, Croitus reveals that they had plans to go public with their suspicions of the Scandshar Six’s residency in Duchy Jepson, and that if they do not return to Sorgforge, the information will be released via a safe deposit box. Captain Chandler notes that might be an issue; if there is ever definitive evidence that Duchy Jepson has housed the Scandshar Six, conflict is the expected outcome, either with the Scandshar military or the Illustrious Menagerie of Peacocks. The logical options to avoid war appear to be either the Scandshar Six leaving town, or quietly making the problem go away. Chandler also notes his legal limitations, that he cannot keep the Breath of the Basilisk incarcerated unless Thava is willing to press charges, which would of course mean that she would not be free to travel. Without that, he can probably only stall them for a couple of days before he will be forced to release them.

After some discussion, they say that they will go on their way but will somehow handle the situation. Captain Chandler ought to let the Breath of the Basilisk go after a couple of days. He agrees, and indicates that he does not want to be informed of their plans further. Whatever they do, he knows nothing about it. They agree, and ask if they can use the room for a bit more to discuss matters. He agrees, and takes his leave as one of the guardsmen delivers Southie’s mead.

The assembled party cycles through several iterations of the plan, trying to determine how to sneak into Scandshar, find the Breath of the Basilisk’s bank, and extract the letter. After discussion, they finally decide to go with a simpler approach — make it appear that the elf’s body was found, the scout having been killed by a rockslide, so that there is no evidence of the Scandshar Six’s passing. Hopefully, with the surviving members of the Breath of the Basilisk having been arrested and having lost a member, they will be discredited in the eyes of any other bounty hunters who might come to investigate. Eventually, it is decided: the group will purchase horses, head north, and assemble about a mile outside of town. Croitus will appear as one of the merchants and return the elf’s body to the guardsmen in town, claiming he was found in the rockslide earlier. Once complete, they will head to the northwest to investigate Southie’s alleged Creation Forge.

Once the plan is agreed, the group leaves the barracks. As Thava still plans to travel north with the Vistani, they bid her farewell. Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Southie travel to the stables to purchase horses — the stablemaster is very surprised and amused to see them again — and then they ride out of town. Dhavita and Marguerite share a horse, as do Manny and Quithyra, while Southie continues to ride his dire boar. Once they are about a mile down the road, the group stops and Resh gets to work building a makeshift cart. Once he’s finished, Croitus removes the elf from his canopic jar and carts him back into Jepson.

The guards at the gate are very shocked and escort him to the guard post. He’s forced to stay there for a few minutes while the guards determine what to do. Once Captain Chandler catches wind of the proceedings, he examines the body in the cart, looks for a long while at the disguised Croitus, and notes that further questioning is probably unnecessary. He lets Croitus go.

On his way back, Croitus is surprised to find Thava trotting up the road on horseback. She evidently thought better of her decision, deciding to travel with the group. Satisfied, the assembled travelers follow Southie’s map to the northwest, leaving the roads to travel where the hills rise wild. They make camp that evening in the shadow of the Hoarfrost Ridge.

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Session 32

Earthday, Patchwall 6, 552 CY (50 AN)

Thava lands outside the walls of Duchy Jepson near the east gate. Before she has an opportunity to go to the Vistani camp, the guards note her injuries and insist she sees the town’s abbot for treatment. Exhausted, she agrees.

The guards lead her to a house apparently being used by the Jepson clergy while the church is being rebuilt. Abbot Aelius inquires about her injuries while treating her, and she explains her run-in with the mercenaries. The abbot recommends she contact the guards. She agrees, and after she is healed, she goes to the guard barracks, again explaining her plight. After a brief wait, Captain Chandler mobilizes a guard contingent and asks if she can accompany to lead them to the mercenaries. She agrees.

Meanwhile, Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Southie wait by their trap. Southie watches with his telescope, noting an elf scout is walking up the road in their direction. Dhavita confirms it to be the elf traveling with the bounty hunters. They take positions and wait.

He tracks them, but apparently doesn’t notice their trap. He falls into the pit and is buried by the rockslide. The group uses the telescope to see what the mercenaries are doing in their camp. They appear to discuss the matter — the rockslide was definitely noticed — but they continue to wait. Eventually, the telescope reveals that Thava and a contingent of the town guard have arrived. They speak briefly with the mercenaries and everyone leaves peacefully.

Croitus, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Southie proceed to clear the rubble, both so that the road is passable and so that they can get rid of the elven ranger. Once he is uncovered, Croitus tastes his brain. He recalls a conversation between the elf, Carondir, and the dwarf leader, Ukhad, that the information regarding their suspicions is set to release from a safe deposit box in case they do not return to Sorgforge in twenty-four hours. He searches the body, finding a small trinket, a wooden carving of an elf done in the elven style. His other equipment is broken by the rock slide; Croitus scoops his remains into one of his canopic jars.

Having spotted a merchant caravan on its way, the group works to clear the rock slide, and after some discussion, they decide Croitus should return to Jepson to determine what is happening. Once they have finished, they’ll return to the Vistani camp.

In Jepson, the guards return with the mercenaries to the guard post for processing and interrogation. Captain Chandler asks Thava what she knows about the mercenaries, and tells her to stay in town as he’ll likely have more questions for her. She says she’ll be in the tavern.

Croitus returns to Jepson without incident, and enters the Vistani camp. He finds Leolann, and after trying to dance around the subject, he indicates he is Croitus and that his friends plan on coming soon. Leolann indicates that should not be a problem, and they will be ready to receive them.

After Thava has been sitting in the tavern for nearly an hour, a stranger enters and indicates he’s Croitus. He doesn’t explain much — as he says, for Thava’s safety — but the others will be returning to Jepson shortly. She explains what happens, that the mercenaries were arrested (although the elf was missing; Croitus indicates they may have been involved, although he declines to give details), and that she’s waiting to see if she needs to render additional assistance to Captain Chandler. So, they wait.

When the merchants arrive at the rockslide, Dhavita, Manny, Marguerite, Quithyra, Resh, and Southie explain that they’re helping clear the road after an unexpected rockslide. The merchants help them finish and thank them for the assistance. They ask if they need to purchase any provisions before continuing on their way, but the group declines. They then proceed back to Jepson to meet with the Vistani.

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