In the 179th Year of Our Goddess, in the lands of Tyreth…
A Meeting of Like-minded Individuals
The group of adventurers that would come to be known as Norgorber’s Instruments came together in the desert city of Lotani. Each of them were following a rumour that would supposedly lead them to great power or riches. One by one they were approached by a mysterious figure who invited them to meet an individual in the subterranean tunnels and caves known as the Low Places, a black market for all kinds of unusual and precious goods.
When the group came together, E revealed himself to be Emmett, an agent of Norgorber, god of secrets and assassinations. Emmett proposed a deal: in exchange for performing some tasks for him, he would grant each of them rewards beyond their wildest dreams. For their various personal reasons, they agreed to the deal.
The first of their tasks was to obtain the second Book of Hell, an unholy artefact that had recently been acquired by the Lotani Merchant Guild. Despite not having worked together previously, the group was able to infiltrate the Guild warehouse, obtain the Book and retreat temporarily to the desert outside the city. It was there that the Book summoned its guardian, the devil Esveralda, with whom the group did battle so that Toad could claim ownership of the Book. Esveralda was driven off, but not defeated.
Returning to the Low Places to meet with Emmett, they learned that their contact was in fact Norgorber’s avatar on the Material Plane. He gave each adventurer a gift for fulfilling their first task, then instructed the group to meet him in the city of Iomedaea on the 5th of Tora. The group decided that they would stay together until this meeting time, deciding on strength in numbers. Leaving Lotani, their first stop on the journey to Iomedaea was a detour to Dolmar, an abandoned dwarven settlement that was rumoured to have discovered a Ring of Wishes.
The Ring of Wishes
Arriving in Dolmar, the group found that the years had not been kind to the place- the rooms were covered with dust, and the only sign of its inhabitants were skeletons. They would soon discover that ruins had new inhabitants, however, as various undead made their presence known by attacking the party.
Although the party suffered from the attack, they found a large cauldron known as the Cauldron of Goop, an artefact created by a dwarven wizard obsessed with the creation of purely random magical effects. The group’s wizard was able to control the qualities of the cauldron just long enough to create healing potions for those who were injured.
Exploring the rest of the mining complex, they discovered various unpleasant surprises that the dwarves had left for any who would lay claim on their domain including an adamantine-bladed garbage disposal and fireball traps. The group also discovered an animated flaming great axe which singled out a member of the party, chasing them out of the mines. They also discovered a journal belonging to Jarltungstr Dwemen (Jarltungstr being a title given to dwarves who exemplify the virtues that the dwarven race prize.
Further into the mines the party found a vast cavern that housed a gigantic statue of a winged serpent, soaring up into an artificial sky. They also found the sole living inhabitant of the cave, a ratman who called himself Nelod. After quickly dispatching him, the group found that the ring they had sought after was in his possession. The group wizard was tempted by the power it offered, but decided that it couldn’t be that powerful if its previous owner could be defeated. (He might have also thought it was a little bit cursed.)
Continuing on their way, the travellers briefly passed through Myrt, where a little bit of research resulted in them learning that Jarltungstr Dwemen was an authority on divine entities, with more than a passing interest in trying to bind, confine and control the powers of minor entities. They did not linger, however, given the lawful nature of the city.
“Acquiring” Items for Tabody’s Thieves
The next town on the trade route to Iomedaea was Tabody, a trade capital on the edge of the territory belonging to the Khanate of the Aladrim, a fierce and war-like nation of elves. The group decided that they would have some fun, getting in touch with the thieves in town to see if there was any work that needed doing.
The leader of the thieves, Paula Pinlights, said that there was work going, but that the party would have to work for free- she had recognised them as being responsible for the theft in Lotani, and threatened to expose them if they didn’t work for free. Paula was after a collection of magic conch shells that would be auctioned off in a couple of days. A minor noble of House Tavadon was organising the auction as part of a festival that would be held in the nearby Tavadon Halls, and it was up to the party to plan (and carry out) the heist.
After a little bit of reconnaissance (and a good deal of bumbling), Paula provided the group a way in: clown costumes (the group’s barbarian was not amused). After “performing” for the masses, they were able to break into the underground vault, obtaining not only the items that Paula had sent them after but also some items of interest for themselves. Returning to Paula, they were given a note that Emmett had passed on. The note was a list of names and numbers that would prove a puzzle to the group in the weeks and months to come.
The Caves Near Casta
The group took their leave of the town, continuing along the trade road. Hearing various rumours along the road, the group decided to investigate reports of dead sea life and spoiled food near the village of Casta. After questioning the villagers, the group discovered that the source of their problems appeared to stem from a cave nearby. Investigating further, they found that the cave was guarded by a small group of mercenaries.
After neatly dealing with the majority of the mercenaries, they decided to take the sole survivor into their ranks, and explore the inside of the cave. They were surprised to find one of their former compatriots in the cavern, in possession of a strange runed skull. The party weren’t particularly interested in fighting over the item, however, and took off for Casta to claim their reward from the villagers.
On returning to the village, however, they found an enraged devil laying into the townsfolk- the vengeful Esveralda had finally found their trail. Screaming bloody murder the Erinyes bore down on the party’s wizard, who, with naught else to risk, relied on his words to save him. Amazingly, he managed to bewitch Esveralda with his compliments, arranging to meet her later for a date at a quaint village chapel a couple of days ride away.
Once this was arranged, the she-devil returned to the slaughter. With a shrug, the party joined in, killing every last villager in what would be their first action as real villains.
Date with a Devil
After the events at Casta the group rode quickly to the small town of Huxton, where the date was to take place. The party went about securing the chapel, eliminating the small group of paladins who were holding a church service there. Rather than kill the pastor of the church, the group decided to subdue and keep him as an offering for Esveralda.
With the unholy knowledge received from the Books of Hell the group wizard was able to perform the appropriate profane rituals that would satisfy a devil. As such, the date went off without a hitch- a night of gory torture, death and cannibalism. Esveralda left the wizard with a kiss, and the promise of further dalliances.
The group quickly cleaned up the considerable mess and pondered where to go next. They decided to split up- some of the party wished to perform a special morning service for the villagers of Huxton, while the rest wanted to forge ahead to the United Kingdoms’ city of Jebagara. Those who stayed for the service appreciated the skill with which the party sorcerer was able to part the villagers from their coin as “donations for the church”.
A Stop in Jebagara (And a Gnome Named Dusty)
Those who went ahead on the road made good time in their travels. On the way they encountered a gnome adventurer who went by the name of Dusty. Dusty related her tale: she and her fellow mercenaries had been tracking a monster nearby, but her compatriots had been felled by the beast. While the party was largely uninterested in her story, they WERE interested in looting the bodies of the fallen. After killing the monster and a difference in opinions on whether Dusty would receive part of the bounty there was a brief tussle between the party and Dusty. Dusty was able to escape without harm, however.
Arriving in Jebagara the party went to Blackwing Keep to claim the bounty on the monster, only to run into encounter Dusty once more. This time she was accompanied by the head of her guild, Smitty Gorehands. Smitty was less than impressed that the group had tried to kill one of his guild members, but was persuaded to not list a bounty for the adventurers.
Emmett informed the group that Dusty was to join their group (much to their frustration). Reluctant to voice their concerns, the group continued on from Jebagara with their newest member. The party tried to sell a cart and horse that they had obtained in Huxton to a couple of merchants, but Dusty had secretly planted explosives in the cart. The end result was exploded merchants and grain, and another headache for the group as they tried to explain to the authorities that they weren’t responsible.
Entering The City of Heroes
The group would eventually arrive at the Last Rest, the last village and chance for would-be adventurers to misbehave before traveling across the bridge to Iomedaea known as the Scales of Justice. Dusty was lost among the sea of faces (much to the relief of the rest of the party), but the group found that there was a substantial paladin presence in the town, including a screening checkpoint to enter Iomedaea.
Luckily for them, one of the group ran into an old smuggling friend who offered to take them to the island city by boat. After the appropriate amount of coin had changed hands, the party found themselves at an entrance to the city sewers. They were able to make their way through the tunnels without incident, avoiding the sewer patrol and only running into one combat (a bone golem in a necromancer’s lair).
Emerging into the light of day, our plucky adventurers found that no-one noticed anything odd about their appearances- apparently adventurers in the sewers was par for the course. They paid for rooms at the Red Parrot, then split off to explore the parts of the city that interested them. While doing so, they also kept an eye out for any location that might be where they were to meet Emmett (as he had not specified where he would meet them). Eventually they discovered that a toy shop called Emmett’s Emporium was a secret entrance to Norgorber’s personal demiplane (hiding in plain sight, if you will).
After entering the demiplane, the group sat assembled in a boardroom before a manifestation of Norgorber. Also in the room were members of the group who had in one way or another been waylaid or left the main group. Norgorber informed the two groups that they would fight each other for the right to decide which path they would follow: the path of subtlety, or that of might. The PCs won, and chose the path of subtlety- they would carry out missions of stealth and secrecy for the God’s (and their own) benefit.
Having done this, Emmett informed the group they were to perform one last task to prove their devotion to the cause. The party were instructed to obtain certain children from an orphanage in the city and return to the demiplane, where they would be sacrificed for the cause. Emmett then took his leave, leaving the group with something of a moral dilemma (for the non-evil characters, anyway).
Barbarian on the Run (Saad Leaves the Party)
The party’s then-current barbarian had decided that the sacrifice of children was beyond his morals, and did not trust the rest of the group to not kill him if he refused to do as instructed. Taking a few select items from the party’s Handy Haversack, the barbarian silently left the inn at midnight, buying a horse and riding as fast as he could for the mainland.
The rest of the group met up in the morning but did not check Saad’s room (it had a sock and a “do not disturb” sign on the door). Content to wait a couple of hours, the party discussed how they would abduct the children. When it became evident that Saad was no longer on the premises the adventurers raced for the Scales of Justice to try and catch him. Unfortunately for the group, Saad made good his escape by triggering the Cube of Disasters and causing a meteor to strike the bridge. In the upheaval it was impossible for the party to follow Saad; in fact, the group was almost caught by a paladin checkpoint. Most of the group were able to flee except for the party sorcerer, who was eventually able to talk his way out of the situation.
The Champion’s Tourney
After attempting to talk their way into the orphanage (and subsequently being asked to leave) the group decided that they would take part in the Champions’ Tourney, an event being held in honour of the Hand of Iomedae. Each adventurer would prove themselves worthy in the initial melee, taking no serious wounds. They then watched the first round of matches, taking notes on the winners and the strategies they used. The party sorcerer would at this time start his flirtations with the Daughter of Day known as Dawn.
The group won their fight against a group of alchemists and were happy to receive a reward in both coin and a magic item. With a day before their next bout, some of the party did surveillance of the orphanage while others relaxed as they were greeted in the Red Parrot with free drinks and cheers. The party sorcerer, however, was taken for interrogation by a captain of the City Watch, and was not released until the day after (as a consequence for not co-operating).
Their next fight was against the Sublime Sisters, the group of all female paladins. While the party was a little better matched against these foes, they were still able to deal with them quickly and efficiently. With their combat finished the group decided to put into action their plan to take the orphans. Part of the party would act as a distraction for the Daughters of Day who supervised the orphanage by inviting them for tea, while the others would abduct the children. The abduction team took advantage of a seasonal holiday in which the Goddess Iomedae would visit children and give them tokens of regard. One of the group was able to use a Hat of Disguise to appear as the Goddess, and lured their targets quietly out of the orphanage.
The group made haste to return to Emmett’s Emporium with the children, only for the shop to explode. Suitably confused as to why Emmett would destroy his own shop, they eventually discovered another entrance to the demiplane. After patiently waiting in the reception as previously our adventurers were led into a large marble chamber with a raised dais and altar at the centre. Norgorber offered the group a sacrificial knife, and gestured to the children. While most decided to kill his or her child, the party sorcerer refused, reasoning that there must be some element of choice at work. The surviving child was led away into another room.
Norgorber subsequently congratulated the group on a job well done, granting new powers to each adventurer for their loyalty. They were also informed of the importance of the List of Names: each number represented an unusual powerful item or phenomena that is owned by the name next to it. The group’s task (when they’re not otherwise occupied) is to hunt down the owners of these items, kill them, and return the items to Emmett.
Victory and Admission to the Hall of Judgement
The group were able to defeat the dwarf Quarth in the next round, earning their place in the final round of the tournament. Knowing that the winners of the competition would receive their final prize from Solomon, High Priest of Iomedae, the group planned to use that meeting as a chance to kill Solomon and raid the Hall of Judgement (Solomon was one of the names on the List).
Though the Red Judges were by far the most difficult foes the group had faced (save perhaps Quarth, and he had entered the competition alone) the group was able to prevail. The only setback they faced was that one of the evil-aligned members of the group had their true nature revealed, and was forced to flee to the sewers.
Arriving at the Hall of Judgement the group received rewards from the Red Judges’ storehouse. Solomon offered to bless each of them, but was refused for the given reason of “differing ideologies”. While the group was in the Hall the group’s wizard was able to identify that the Third Book of Hell was being held there. Given the large number of Red Judges present, the party decided to return the next morning.
The adventurers were able to find an alternative entrance to the Red Judges’ compound due to the team member who had been forced down to the sewers. They were able to silently make their way into the Hall of Judgement’s depository of dangerous and valuable artefacts. Each of the group liberated certain items that were of interest to them, in particular a book named “The Ten Thousand Paladins”, a pair of dragon bookends, and a lovely set of furniture (two chairs and a table) that appeared to have some being bound in it.
The party was subsequently able to lure Solomon away from the majority of his guards and murder him- their first name crossed off the list. With a rather inventive way to get rid of the body (feeding it to summoned hyenas) the group staged a mock battle so that they could avoid any suspicion.
Time to Leave the Island
The group departed Iomedaea in two parts: those who were able to pass the paladin checkpoints on the Scales of Justice did so, and those who could not rendezvoused with the smuggler’s boat near the sewer entrance. Regrouping at the Last Rest the group were given instructions to visit an old friend of Emmett’s at a villa on Lake Maseron, close to Jebagara.
They were surprised to find a large number of people working on a boardwalk between the east bank of the lake and the island which sat on its centre. As the boardwalk was not yet complete the group was ferried across to island and its villa. Arriving at the villa, they saw that it was an older building but also seemed to be undergoing significant reconstruction and expansion.
Entering the main building, the party would meet the vampire Lord Elias du Pont. Du Pont initially invited them to sit and enjoy an enchanted feast, but withdrew deeper into the villa when the group proved aggressive. Our adventurers would subsequently do what they did best- kill and loot their way through the place, floor by floor.
The group continued deeper into the bowels of the building, navigating their ways past traps and fighting the various monsters and vampire spawn (including one troll). They also found two prisoners who had been captured by Du Pont: one, a half-elf female by the name of Fleur, and the other a dwarf barbarian who would join the party with the intent of getting some revenge.
As the party made their way through the castle’s lower floors the party wizard was contacted by Lord Du
Pont who claimed that Fleur had stolen something of his. In return, he offered assistance in their goals and the ceasing of hostilities. As he had caused the group a great deal of inconvenience they chose to continue killing as many of his minions as possible.
After following the subterranean passages to their end the group found a vast treasure vault. The vault was not unoccupied, however- the supposed thief Fleur was taking a ring from a central pedestal in the room. The party prepared to attack Fleur, but she was able to convince them that she would prove to be a more valuable ally than Lord Du Pont. Furthermore, a few verbal slips revealed that Elias was in fact Fleur’s father and that she was a vampire herself. Fleur found herself frustrated that she would not inherit anything from her father, given his immortal nature, and thus wanted to claim ownership over the villa and its lands. In return for helping to depose Elias she was willing to let the group use the villa as a base for their activities. The party chose to accept this deal, as some of the group were looking forward to confronting Elias and introducing him to mortality.
Going up to the roof of the castle (the final part of the building that remained unexplored) the group found Lord Du Pont waiting calmly. He expressed some disappointment in the group’s choice not to follow through with his deal as well as his intention to turn the group’s wizard into a vampire to be his new heir. No one in the group was particularly keen on this idea, so they decided to kill him/slice him into itty bitty pieces. Du Pont was sent fleeing as a swirling gust of smoke to the northwest where his coffin had been sent by Fleur; while she wasn’t overly fond of her father, she did have some remnant of loyalty to him.
Judgement within a Book’s Covers
After the group took a (much-needed) rest, they set about going through some of the loot they had obtained recently. The group’s sorcerer discovered that the being bound within the set of furniture was able to offer a deal: a person could give up something that they truly valued, and would get something of equal value in return. The sorcerer chose to accept the deal, trading his neutrality for the lands and title of Baron of Hensmouth.
Meanwhile, the group’s wizard worked out how the Third Book of Hell was hidden: when the book “The Ten Thousand Paladins” was placed between the dragon bookends, a portal to a small demi-plane was created. The party found themselves in a facsimile of the land leading up to the Scales of Justice, with the city of Iomedaea beyond it. The major difference, however, was that there was no trace of the Last Rest, and the bridge was guarded by the largest group of Red Judges that they had ever seen.
One of the paladins stepped forward and issued a challenge: should the party wish to enter the city, they would have to defeat a similarly sized force of Red Judges. The group’s barbarian chose to try single combat, fighting admirably against a single paladin but ultimately losing. For his courage he was granted a blessing by the warrior that he fought.
The rest of the party decided to fight together, and put up a good fight. Eventually the group decided to fall back on the smooth-talking of the party’s sorcerer, who convinced the leader of the Judges that they were trying to obtain the Book of Hell so it could be disposed of, and that there must be some other way to prove their worth.
It was at this point that a giant eye coalesced in the sky, focusing on the group. Each adventurer had the uncomfortable sensation that it was peering into their very soul. After a long moment, the eye disappeared and the leader of the Judges told them that they were to be escorted across to the island.
The Tale of the Would-Be Conqueror
As the group crossed the Scales of Justice, their escort regaled them with a tale of Tyreth. A few hundred years ago the red dragon Hastelaseth was born to one of the most powerful dragons on the continent. She was not content to be the lesser, however, and consumed her brothers and sisters for the power she would receive. Fleeing from her father’s wrath at her actions, she crossed the southern sea for the nation of Caelon, where she would learn magic from some of the most powerful (and morally lacking) individuals in the world.
Her hunger for power was not sated there, however- she became obsessed with opening the uppermost chamber in the Black Spire and the power that she believed would be found within. Working alone, she concluded that blood magic (a school of magic that came naturally to dragons) could be used to open the doors. There was only one hitch, however- she would need to tap the life force of the entirety Caelon.
Amassing a following of kobolds and other individuals through bribes, threats and promises of power, Hastelaseth was almost able to achieve her goal. Instead, the regent Rhaz Ahai and several other powerful mages of the Black Spire banded together to stop her. As punishment, Rhaz ripped off Hastelaseth’s wings and banished her permanently from Caelon.
Forced to flee, Hastelaseth was carried by her faithful kobold minions to mainland Tyreth, where she would make new plans to gain the power she believed was rightfully hers. When she surfaced again, she commanded armies; she marched upon the major capitals of Tyreth with the intent to subjugate their inhabitants and use the power of their combined life force to invade Caelon and claim the Black Spire for her own.
Faced with such a powerful enemy the individual cities and nations of Tyreth banded together for the first time in centuries. Humans, dwarves, gnomes and even the elves of the xenophobic Khanate joined the effort to end the threat that Hastelaseth represented. (It should be noted that there were other races that participated in the fight against Hastelaseth, but that they generally joined in the armies of the United Kingdoms.)
The war would be ended by a single individual’s heroic (and horrific) sacrifice. Krazztar, Lord of Vrena, was a man of outstanding character, powerful magicks and a determination to finish the war no matter what. He fought Hastelaseth in the skies above the plains between Kawa and Vrena as the battle raged between the armies below. As the minutes turned into hours and the hours turned to days, Hastelaseth lost her patience, lowering her magical shields so that she might strike with full force against this insignificant human. Sensing this change in her tactics, Krazztar took the opportunity to retaliate.
Hastelaseth’s attack drew the life force from combatants on both sides, syphoning the blood from them (and the power it held) and channelling it directly into Krazztar with the intention of overloading him with blood magic. Simultaneously Krazztar summoned Bigby’s Grasping Hand, and ripped one of Hastelaseth’s eyes from its socket.
With a screech of anger, Hastelaseth fled the field of battle. Krazztar also vanished with an inhuman scream of pain; no-one knows whether he was able to make his way back to Vrena. The real cost, however, was to the armies assembled on the plains: every creature in a 4km radius from the combat died from having the blood drained from them, leaving only hollow husks behind. It would take 25 years before the area would return to its normal state.
Hastelaseth swore to return and enact her vengeance, no matter what gets in her way…
A Deal with Judgement
After their escort finished their tale, the group found themselves inside the Hall of Judgement once more. A figure awaited them with an appearance that seemed to change based on who it was addressing. The entity introduced itself as Judgement, one of Iomedae’s most powerful servants in the battle against evil. It had served its purpose in protecting the Third Book of Hell for over a thousand years, but had become aware that a greater threat was returning: Hastelaseth was back.
While Judgement wasn’t inclined to let them leave due to past crimes (in some cases punishing individual adventurers for their acts) the entity was unable to leave the book on its own. In return for releasing it, Judgement would allow the party to take the Book of Hell and would not render further judgement until Hastelaseth was dealt with. The group tentatively accepted the deal, and were whisked out of the demiplane and back to the Du Pont villa. Deciding to stick to their end of the bargain, the group destroyed the book that contained Judgement was destroyed, and a powerful force for good entered the world once more.
The party was surprised to be met by Emmett, who (for once) was brutally honest about how events had developed. Hastelaseth had indeed returned, and had somehow subverted a prophecy that would lead to her defeat: the prophesied heroes lay dead at her hand. Emmett had organised an emergency meeting between the various rulers of the races to deal with the crisis. Norgorber was none too pleased at the potential disruption of society that Hastelaseth’s rise represented, and planned to volunteer the group as the next set of adventurers to solve the problem. They might even be… heroes?
When the various groups arrived at the villa, it was easy to see that recent years had spurred on old grievances rather than setting them aside. The Khanate wanted complete and utter control of the combined armed forces, while the other nations strongly opposed such action. The party worked hard to convince all involved that Hastelaseth was an equal threat to all, and that they would need to work together, not against each other.
The conference was interrupted by the appearance of what appeared to be several heavily armed dragonborn. They attacked the leaders of the various groups but were dealt with by the party. Through the battle and after the dust had settled the group made some unfortunate discoveries. Firstly, these dragonborn were in fact kobolds in mechanical exo-suits that significantly increased their strength and speed. Secondly, these suits could be detonated at will by Hastelaseth, who seemed able to see through the exosuits.
With the danger of Hastelaseth once again made clear, the representatives grudgingly put aside their differences, promising to lend aid wherever Hastelaseth’s forces threatened Tyreth. While almost all the representatives subsequently left to their homelands to begin readying for war, one chose to stay. Sister Dawn of Iomedaea informed the group that the Goddess Herself appeared to Dawn in her dreams, saying that Dawn should join the group in their efforts. The party were a little wary of her offer, but she seemed genuine.
Thinking for a while on what their next move should be, they decided on what seemed like the most efficient path. They would pass through the barony of Hensmouth (which the party’s sorcerer had “inherited”), stop at the Tower of Beshelor to consult the gold dragon Balthazar on how they might be able to protect themselves (and others) from blood magic then continue into Khanate territory to meet the Khan (the party sorcerer had received a personal invitation).
The group stopped briefly at Jebagara to purchase a cart, horses and enough supplies to pass as a merchant. The party’s sorcerer ended up picking up a small package for delivery to someone’s grandmother in Catania in return for a discount on the horses. He inevitably became curious and tried to open the package, poisoning himself on the intricate mechanism.
The party travelled without running into any fights, but nightmares awaited them when they slept. In particular Hastelaseth seemed to claim some bond on the sorcerer, delighting in making his dreams literal nightmares. They eventually arrived in Hensmouth, a delightful little town off the coast. Most of the group were a little disturbed by just how perfect everything was, while others took advantage of being friends of the new Baron. The adventurers would eventually discover that (as they thought) this village had a secret- everyone was a were-animal of varying nature. To complete the process of becoming the Baron (or Chieftain) the sorcerer had to defeat the tribe’s strongest fighter. As the party’s barbarian had defeated said fighter hours earlier, the two party members were pitted against each other. Although in their altered states (the sorcerer became half dragon) they were a reasonably fair match for each other. In the end the sorcerer won through treachery, and the barbarian earned a few new scars to his face. After the fight the sorcerer was confronted by the shaman about his treachery, and warned that if he brought evil upon the barony that the shaman would put him down personally.
More About Dragons
After being appropriately re-provisioned the group set out for Beshelor’s Tower, the home of the ancient gold dragon Balthazar. The tower was in a state of moderate disrepair but the magic that made the rooms bigger on the inside seemed to be holding the odd building together. Progressing through the tower and finding various oddities including a silver goat’s skull inside a summoning circle (they released the summoned being from the circle), a ruby dragon claw and a golem made of balor parts called Bob.
When they eventually made their way to the top of the tower, they found that they were too late- Hastelaseth was in the process of ripping out Balthazar’s heart and devouring it. They were able to glean some useful information from the dragon before he passed away, however. Balthazar was able to improve their mental defences so that they would no longer be prey to Hastelaseth’s attacks in their dreams. He also informed the group that dragons acted as magical batteries. Over the course of their lifetimes dragons would absorb ambient magic, storing it primarily in a gland within the dragon or in other major bodily organs (usually chosen by the dragon). These organs could continue to serve this function past the dragon’s death, making them particularly valuable to those who could consume the organs without dying.
Armed with better knowledge, the party continued into elven territory. They stopped for a while in the central town of House Istel, best known for their fine craftsmanship of weapons, particularly bows. The party’s ranger took on the famous Istel archery challenge, winning a legendary bow that had previously belonged to the ranger who trained him.
Arriving in Aert Trannen, the capital of the nation, they were met with a warm reception by the Khan. It wasn’t long before the party found themselves embroiled in politics (which, for the Khanate, means assassinations, spying and allying with the right Houses at the right times). The Khan requested that they speak with the Heads of the Great Houses to ascertain where this treachery might be stemming from.
After some excellent detective work the group found that one of the Heads of Houses had been enchanted to incriminate another. The party was forced to fight off a group of elven assassins in false House colours that attempted to assassinate the Khan. The group was convinced that the cause of all this was a lesser noble of House Kaelara by the name of Elenya, but had no way to tie her to Hastelaseth. For all intents and purposes it seemed that Elenya had lived a relatively normal life, save for her significant wizardry. Regardless, the group was knighted for their service and allowed to receive a boon from a Great House of their choice.
The party ranger was informed by a House Aecoma contact that the grave where he had buried his mentor had been disturbed. As the group was close to the area, they decided to check out the matter. Not having fond memories of the inn where he grew up, the ranger thought he’d have a head to head with the innkeeper that used to abuse him. It turned out that the innkeeper was actually part of a cult of necromancers (albeit a lowly member) and it was he who had suggested that the body be… recycled. Incensed, the ranger killed the innkeeper, and gave ownership of the inn to his mother.
Having dealt with the threat to the stability of the Khanate throne, the group decided to take a detour into the gnomish conglomerate of Gyntuckets to see whether they could find who was manufacturing the kobold exo-suits. On the road to Tinpaktu (the capital) the group found various amusing developments by the gnomes including pop-up Suggestion Boxes, a Huge mythril stealth golem and other devices that had applications varying from geoscience to mechanics.
The group hoped to find whether anyone had filed a patent at the Hall of Knowledge in Tinpaktu for exo-suits (or similar technology). Failing to do so, they instead decided to see if they could find any additional information about dragons. They were able to discover that the ruby dragon claw they had found in Beshelor’s Tower could be merged with an appropriately prepared orb to become an Orb of Dragonkind.
Unfortunately their enemies had anticipated them- the Champion of the Balance, Galahad, teleported into the chamber and set everything in sight on fire. By the time the fire services had arrived most of the lore on dragons was irreparably damaged. Not only that, but the battle had been difficult- most of the group had been laid low by Galahad.
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves.
After their defeat at Galahad’s hands the group decided it was time to get serious (and lethal) with their villains. They knew that Hastelaseth had used a Jabberwock in her previous campaign, and that there were rumours that a creature matching that description in the nearby Arboron Forest. Ready to go Jabberwock hunting, the group paid for a druid to guide them to the last known location of the beast. As they progressed through the forest their guide remarked to them that an enclave of necromancers had been defiling sacred groves within the forest, presumably to create a network of necrotic energy to draw from.
Their guide didn’t get the chance to elaborate, however, as the Jabberwock soon made its presence known. The battle wasn’t easy, but the adventurers were able to triumph. They chopped off its head and removed the vocal chords (in case they could be used in a weapon) and went back to the closest gnome village to claim the bounty with the beast’s head as proof.
The Ruins of Mal Finus
The party returned to the forest with the intention of killing every single last one of them (and obtaining a special robe for the party’s sorcerer). Unfortunately for the adventurers there were two exceptional individuals in the cult: the lead cultist and a hulking half-orc that wielded a blade that pulsed with blood magic.
It was against these opponents that the group suffered their first loss of a party member. The party wizard was brought to his knees, and the devil Esveralda came to collect his body and soul. The necromancers teleported away, leaving the group frustrated and eager to get revenge. Searching the building for any trace of their foes they found a secret passage that would lead below the ruins. Now all that needs doing is finding the necromancers and eliminating them with extreme prejudice.