Citystate of the Invincible Overlord

Dunlough
Dark Deeds and Heroism

Taproom.jpgHaving decided to make the trip to the Northlands, the party depart the Citystate, traveling northwest. Two days of travel by horseback brings them to the Elurian border. Once inside the bounds of the ancient imperial lands, there are inns at regular intervals and patrols ensuring the peace. Three days from the border lies the capital of Redbridge.

After nearly a week on the road, the party chooses to spend the night at the famous Pig & Whistle Inn. Over a hearty meal in the taproom, they overhear rumors of war in the Northlands. No details are heard, and discrete questions return noncommittal or no answers.

After a night in comfortable feather beds, the group takes the North Road from Redbridge to the Frontierlands. Two days of easy travel bring them to Dunlough, a crystal-clear lake near the foothills of the Dragonspine Mountains. On the southern shore of the lake a ring of standing stones lend the place an aura of antiquity.

Recalling the letter, Opheila’s orders are to make a small fire near the circle. Shortly a cloaked Dwarf shows up and shows his scorpion tattoo, demands to see hers. He tells her that her party is to travel to the entrance to Bordinar’s Cleft, and take the Deepway north to the Northlands. This will take them beneath the mountains safely. However, she is to find and assassinate Bosi Stronghelm, the gate captain. She will be contacted with new instructions later.

Returning to camp, Ophelia and Freya sneak into the entrance to the Deepway, where they carry out the orders and escape back to camp safely. In the morning, the decision is made to avoid the Deepway, using the trails over Bitter Pass to cross the mountains.

Two days of trudging along narrow trails, with the pathway becoming steeper and the occasional griffon eyeing the horses hungrily brings the party near Bitter Pass.

Next: Bitter Pass
Previous: The Wolf’s Cry
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The Wolf's Cry
To the Northlands!

An odd little scholar, Erevyn, arrives in the Citystate to look for a hero to hire. He finds Lux. If he can convince the Paladin to help him, he can gain access to the histories held by King Haemund of Torness.

It seems the King has some sort of problem that needs a hero, and Lux looks to fit the part. Erevyn is pretty hazy about the details, but speaks at length about the histories and their possible contents. He also mentions something about some kind of reward for aiding the King in his time of need… but again, the details are fuzzy.

While the two converse (at the Light Gale Inn), Freya enters and joins the discussion. Erevyn immediately recognizes her as a Halgaring. He offers to take her to the burial grounds of her ancestors, as they will pass very near there on the way to Torness. After some discussion, Lux and Freya agree to accompany the scribe to the Northlands.

In the meantime, Ophelia receives a packet via courier. It is a thick bundle of parchment sealed with wax. The symbol on the seal is a domino mask. When she opens it, she finds it contains another letter, also sealed with wax. This seal bears the mark of a scorpion.

The outer letter cautions her not to open the inner one until arriving at the Frontier north of Redbridge. It instructs her to travel north until she arrives and the standing stones of Dunlough Lake, and there to open her next instructions. It is not signed.

Sister Melina visits Cora in her gardens and asks if she will receive a visitor. It turns out to be Eldritch Venefix from the Temple of Corellon in Khal, across the sea.

He expresses his gratitude for Cora’s aid in recovering Glade Whispers, and says that as a courtesy to her, he had spoken with the other Eldritch to praise her efforts.Unfortunately, however, his words have had more impact than he had intended.

The Eldritch have chosen her to consecrate a newly-discovered shrine far to the north. Will she agree? It lies in the Kingdom of Valinor, and as such is of vital importance to the ruling King as well as the Church.

Next: Dunlough
Previous: Of Times Past
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Season 3: Of Time Past
It has been four months...

Following their return to the Citystate, things have settled into something of a routine for the adventurers. While the Hawk Masks have not given up their pursuit, the investigation is no longer an active one.

Cora Starbrow retires to the Cathedral to study herbs and medicines in detail, and is assigned a plot in the gardens to tend and study. Her peers are supportive and complimentary of her efforts and she participates more fully in sacred life as a supporting member of the clergy.

Next: The Wolf’s Cry
Previous: Season 2 Epilogue
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Season 2 Epilogue
Return to the Citystate

Desert.jpgUpon their return to the desert city of Ahgram, the party was received with honor. A banquet was held in their honor at the palace of the new Caliph Mahmoud, and their provisions for the journey back to Khal were provided. After a refreshing stay, the party left to return home at long last.

The journey from Ahgram to Khal was largely uneventful. A few caravans, recognizing the foreigners from the stories from Ahgram, hailed them warmly and offered small gifts for their deeds. Once at Khal, however, with its busy ports and bustling trade from many distant lands, the party blended in with the crowd. No special notice was paid them when they booked passage across the Homeward Sea from the port of Khal to Blackport in the north.

The sea journey was entertaining due to the presence of a bard, Tryna of Rivervale, a sprightly and funny halfling lass. Between her jokes and songs (and the beautiful weather) the trip was over too soon.

After spending an evening at the inn in Blackport, the party set off on its final leg to the Citystate of the Invincible Overlord. Despite a few inconveniences (and the departure of the bard as she left for her home), the journey was a safe on and the group returned to the Light Gale Inn. The brothers. Warbling and Huggy, met them joyfully and set about preparing a banquet to celebrate their victories and mourn their loss.

Over the course of the next few days, visitors came by to pay their respects. Lady Ashyra Shade-Blossom met with Lux to recover the armor of her husband, the late General Decius. She offered a chest with a thousand pieces of gold as a sign of her favor, complimented the Paladin that he honored her late husband by making use of his old sword, and indicated she would leave soon to reclaim her home in Ahgram.

Cora returned to the Cathedral to deliver Glade Whispers to its rightful place, whereupon Sister Melina Loske placed a Blessing of Corellon upon her and named her Cora Starbrow, a full Sister of the Faith.

Ophelia met her mentor late in the evening, and he informed her that her journey on this path was just beginning. He would act as her contact to the Red Scorpions, he would be responsible for her training, and he would be the one to give her assignments.

Next: Of Time Past
Previous: The Tomb of the Subtle Prince
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The Tomb of the Subtle Prince
Ophelia's Quest

After the recovery of Glade Whispers from the Fane of the Redcap, it was time to unlock the mystery of the Tomb of the Subtle Prince. Ophelia managed to cobble together the final clues, and the party continued east.

puzzle.jpgHaving arrived at the location the clues suggested, the group searched until they discovered a stone doorway cut into a nearby gully. Symbols were cut into the door, in a pattern that looked like the ones to the right.

With a flash of inspiration, Ophelia opened the portal on the first attempt. The party entered the depths of the tomb. They opened a door on the right to discover a chamber with four sarcophagi. They carefully searched the room, finding nothing of note.

Across the hall they found another chamber, this one apparently for the purpose of preparing bodies for interment. A third door opened into a chamber similar to the first, but this one draped with faded, dusty banners. Being unable to decipher the tomb engravings, Cora took a rubbing for later study.

Exploring further into the tomb, they party discovered a door at the end of a hallway. Just as Ophelia reached the door — and discovered that it was a false door, crudely painted onto the wall — a portcullis gate crashed down behind them. Footsteps approached, and half a dozen armed cultists confronted the heroes.

The cultists demanded to know what the party was doing at the tomb, and hearing Ophelia’s explanation, they invited her (and only her) to leave the trap for a discussion.

The leader (cloaked and robed, so no identification was possible) brought the rogue back up the hall and through a doorway which was not evident when the party passed it. It led to a much larger room, dominated by an elaborate tomb with gold highlights, surrounded by other sculptures. Upon learning that Ophelia had been sent by her mentor, the leader invited her to become a member of the Red Scorpions. He warned her that her friends could leave the tomb alive, but only if they swear they would never return. She agreed and was given two gifts: the Mark of the Scorpion, and a suit of black leather armor which radiated magic.

After returning to the party, Ophelia said she had secured their release, but mentioned no more than that. They departed and set off to Ahgram.

Next: Epilogue
Previous: The Fane of the Redcap
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The Fane of the Redcap
Cora's Quest

Having recovered the armor and helm of Decius, the party moved on towards the abandoned oasis rumored to be the location of the spriggans, a place called the Fane of the Redcap. During the journey across the rocky, arid lands, Ophelia continued her work, deciphering the clues in Desert Shadows.

The oasis, it turns out, was abandoned for obvious reasons. The spring that once fed the pool had been reduced to a trickle, leaving a patch of damp soil where once a pond had been. The grasses and palm trees were brown and dry, dying if not dead already. Cora explained to the group what she had learned from the books at Corellon’s shrine in Ahgram, and they decided to pitch camp and set a watch.

Sometime before sunrise, a rustling in the dry grass drew the attention of Lux and Cora. They woke Ophelia, only to catch swift movement from the grass into the gap from which the spring issued. An enormous, swift spider (about the size of a dog) had gone into the gap. The group waited until sunrise before exploring the gap and the rock wall around it. Finding no secret entrances, they prepared to enter the narrow gap.

Exploring the tunnels at the bottom of the well, they discovered some (apparently quite old) artifacts, including an old bow and a couple human skulls decorated with painted black triangles above and below the eye sockets. The tunnels eventually led to a large cavern with twisted roots buttressing the walls and an altar at one end. Once inside the cavern, the party observed two spriggans unwind themselves from the roots (in which they had been hiding), as well as two huge spiders and a couple of grotesque ettercaps.

The fight was brutal. The magic of the spriggans was unpredictable, and they moved through the cavern with ease, sometimes appearing out of nowhere. The ettercaps used webbing to entrap the heroes, particularly Lux. The spiders used venom and powerful bites to slow and poison.

In the end, however, they won the battle, although not without a cost. Thorn was seriously wounded by a spriggan’s magic, only to die of his wounds shortly thereafter. Cora attempted to keep him alive, but the injuries were too severe.

The party recovered a wooden chest, in which were found two gemstones and the book Glade Whispers, Cora’s quest. They also found black and grey leather armor on one of the ettercaps, which was given to Ophelia.

Next: The Tomb of the Subtle Prince
Previous: Proximo’s Villa
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Proximo's Villa
Lux Chainbreaker's Quest

Their work in Ahgram done, the party deliberated about their next move. They knew that Proximo’s villa lay to the southeast, and they suspected the Fane of the Redcap to be south of Ahgram. From the few clues she had, Ophelia estimated a rough southwesterly direction to the Tomb of the Subtle Prince, but she had not yet unlocked the puzzles of Desert Shadows.

Thorn suggested a loop from southeast to south to southwest, allowing Ophelia time to figure out the code in the book, and the others agreed. They set out for Proximo’s place at once. Lux reminded the party that the primary goal was to recover the armor of General Decius, but he also wanted to free the enslaved gladiators. A rough plan was drawn up after they scouted the layout of the complex.

Ophelia and Thorn waded into the river to approach from the water. While Ophelia crept to the gate to admit the party, Thorn made a sniper attack on the wall guards as a distraction. Once inside, the fight was intense but never in question. Between Freya’s powerful assaults and Cora’s radiant attacks the guards had little defense.

Thorn and Lux were not quite as fortunate. While Ophelia used both stealth and skill to free the imprisoned gladiators, Lux (hampered by his heavy armor and need to await Ophelia’s lockpicking expertise) waited at the villa residence’s main door. Thorn, cut off from his friends by a narrow alley, was being attacked by two guards and suffered extensive wounds.

Once the residence was opened, the party was met with guards and an enormous, hulking figure, wearing the armor of a hoplomachus. He identified himself as Proximo Lanista. Instead of joining the fray, however, he directed his men to hold the doorway, shouted commands and jeering at the party.

Once the guards were done, Lux squared off against Proximo and tried to keep his attention. This allowed Ophelia to creep behind him and land several devastating blows, even as Cora and Thorn peppered the behemoth at range.

Despite a grueling battle, Proximo was finally felled. Lux found the keys to the armory and discovered the longsword of Decius and his breastplate and helm.

Next: Fane of the Redcap
Previous: Palace Intrigue
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Palace Intrigue
If You Can't Beat 'Em, Outwit 'Em!

Late at night there is a knock at the door. A hooded, cloaked slender figure with brilliant green eyes asks (in a feminine voice) to speak with the group. She offers a single emerald earring – as her proof of identity, she says, and as payment for their time.

Once inside the room, she removes the hood and veil, and she introduces herself as Thala. She has come on behalf of a great personage who has taken an interest in them, and has come to arrange a discrete meeting.

The party is brought to the Shrine of Corellon through back alleys. The gate guard ignores them completely. Once inside the shrine, they are introduced to the wealthy lady from the market, who is Lady Sasaela the Gentle, the Second Wife of Abu Hazam al-Khas, the Caliph of Ahgram. She is joined by the blind beggar (and former Legatus) Valarius Davo and Sister Melasiel of the Shrine of Corellon..

She tells the story of General Decius Gladium Sicerem, who served the former Caliph of the city of Ahgram loyally for over two decades. Seven years ago they won the battle of Martok against the southern orcs, but during the fighting the Caliph had been struck with a poisoned weapon. Before he died, the Caliph named General Decius as his heir to rule Ahgram, rather than his cruel wastrel of a son, and the Lady’s own husband, Abu Hazam.

As the army returned to the city with the Caliph’s body in state, a party of guardsmen intercepted them and arrested General Decius for the murder of the old Caliph. He was captured and enslaved, and since then nothing was known of his fate… until recently.

Valarius picks up the tale, explaining that a small corps of loyal soldiers sought out Decius’ whereabouts. It took some time, but a new gladiator in the arena was creating quite a stir. The soldiers recognized the General’s fighting style at once, and learned that he belonged to a trainer called Proximo. Sadly, before they could act, Decius was slain in the arena.

She feels the Caliph must be punished, but she needs their help.

Her plan is complex, but it will depose the current evil Caliph and his dangerous vizier Atia, restore the rightful heir to the throne and clear the name of a great hero.

To accomplish it, however, will require subtlety and misdirection. First, the heir – Sasaela’s son, Mahmoud – must be secured outside the city in a safe location. Second, the surviving communiqué between Atia and Abu Hazam must be retrieved from the Caliph’s things. Finally, a loyal member of the Caliph’s Guard must be found who can work with the palace guards.

Thorn volunteers to bring the boy to safety. He accepts the help of Valarius and his men.

First Objective: The Letter

The letter is believed to be in the Caliph’s locked private chambers, which is usually guarded. There are several possible approaches that can be taken to achieve the goal:

Ophelia led Lux and Cora through the palace by stealth, having crept in through the harem (aided by Lady Sasaela). Once inside, they crept through the hallways up until they reached the upstairs hallway leading to the Caliph’s office.

Ophelia then climbed a tapestry to walk along the beams over the guards’ heads. She quietly opened the transom over the door, slipped inside and secured the latter. After rejoining her friends, they moved to the next objective:

Second Objective: Loyal Guards

The heroes decide to approach Octavian Steel-Eye, the Captain of the Guard to obtain his help.

Octavian is wary, but listens patiently to the heroes. He reminds them that they are complicit in a treasonous conspiracy, and that if their plan fails, they have guaranteed their own execution. He says he would join the rebellion, but such a risk requires an incentive. In this case, he requires Lady Sasaela’s hand in marriage and her assent to his becoming Regent until Mahmoud comes of age.

After some discussion, Cora agrees to his terms. They then return to the harem to deliver the news to the lady.

Optional Objective: Retrieving the Book

Knowing that Ophelia requires a book from the Caliph’s library ( Desert Shadows), Freya volunteers to take this task. To slip by unnoticed (being too large to sneak easily), she borrows some clothing and veils from the harem.

Without much drama, she found her way to the library, discovered the book and returned.

Conclusion

With all the evidence in their possession, Lady Sasaela, Captain Octavian and the party entered the chamber where the Caliph was consulting with the city’s elite. Sasaela laid out the proof of collusion between Abu Hazam and Atia to implicate General Decius in the murder of the old Caliph, the document in which the old Caliph declared Decius to be his heir, and documents showing that Mahmoud is actually Sasaela’s son, but by Decius rather than Abu.

With the Palace Guard behind the Captain, Abu was exiled from Ahgram, Mahmoud recognized as the new Caliph, and Lady Sasaela recognized as regent. She also announced her imminent marriage to Captain Octavian.

Once things settled down, Lady Sasaela thanked the heroes for their efforts and informed them that they will always have a home in Ahgram.

Next: Proximo’s Villa
Previous: Ahgram
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Ahgram
The Jewel of the Desert

As they stroll through the markets, the heroes briefly encounter a wealthy woman with her retinue. She has two armed guards and a plainly-dressed woman with her, and her rich clothing and emerald earrings mark her as an important personage.

Not far off is a reputable inn with rooms for the night. The prices are reasonable, the rooms comfortable and secure, and it’s not far from the main gate.

Lux

Continuing his quest to recover the goods of General Decius Gladium Sicerem, Lux is aware that the current Caliph of Ahgram came to power seven years ago. The former Caliph had commanded Decius to rule, but the General was charged with murder and enslaved. This is where the trail ends.

  • The City Guard and most of the armed forces in and around the city dress in Roman styles, rather than the more desert nomad dress of the locals. Most of the commanders, too, bear Roman names, even though the majority of the forces have local names.
  • Most people, if asked openly about General Decius, will be evasive and try to get away from the conversation as quickly as possible.
  • One old, blind beggar finds the man who was asking about the General and takes him aside. He shows the tattoo of a Legatus of Ahgram on his arm, identified himself as Valarius Davo and fondly remembers Decius as a great man. He tells Lux that Decius was sold to a gladiator company owned by a man called Proximo, and fought in the arena as Blood Dancer. He hasn’t been seen in a couple of years, but if anything of his remains, it will likely be at Proximo’s villa, outside the city.

Cora

Having found two temples to Corellon vandalized, she must determine the fate of the shrine in Ahgram. She seeks to return the book Glade Whispers to the Citystate, but is not aware of anything that may have been taken from Khal.

  • The Shrine of Corellon in Ahgram lies in the Palace District, which (when she arrives) is closed off, the gates shut. Sounds of a battle may be heard, and the gate guards look worried. They know no more than the characters.
  • After about an hour (with crowds growing outside the gates, questions flying) the Gate Captains come to the door. Addressing the crowds, they explain that the City Guard fended off an attempted attack on the Shrine of Corellon. The attackers have been killed or driven off, and the area is now safe. The gates are opened, onlookers swarm, and life goes on.
  • At the shrine, Sister Melasiel is happy to show Cora the Shrine, and to show that no serious harm has been done. She explains that the attackers were elementals called Spriggans, twisted nature spirits. They are known to be servants of a shadowy figure known as the Queen of Air and Darkness, a mortal enemy of Corellon.
  • Sister Melasiel does not know much about the Spriggans or their mistress, but she does offer the library to Cora and her friends, if desired. Here they find a legend of an ancient shrine to the Queen called the Fane of the Redcap, only about twenty-five miles distant.

Ophelia

Knowing that the book (sometimes called Desert Shadows) she seeks is found inside the Palace of the Caliph, Ophelia must find some way to enter this heavily-guarded compound. Not only is it in the most secure district of Ahgram, but is itself the most secure building in that city.

  • The city’s beggars are looking out for a female Tiefling at the behest of Mehut Shadowscale of Khal. If they have not already met, Valarius Davo presents himself to Ophelia and offers to “sell” her a “valuable necklace” – a scorpion amulet, similar to the one carried by Qasim, back in the Citystate.
  • Ophelia meets the guildmaster, Hecate, and her Reader. They tell her that they will find a way.

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Previous: Caravan Skirmish!
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Caravan Skirmish!
The Battle at the Oasis

Desert.jpgTwo days of unremitting heat, biting sand-flies and hot, duty winds out of the cool breezes of Khal’s port lies a small oasis. It is here the heroes take a break in their travels just before midday, perhaps to nap during the high heat, water their mounts and prepare to push on.

They awaken to see a dusty caravan arrive from the south. The caravan master hails them and begins arranging for his mounts to be fed and watered, and his guards begin preparing tents to spend a few hours resting during the heat of the day. Just as they are about ready, a shout from the men gets the guards scrambling. A raiding party approaches!

Despite the heat and fatigue, the party split up to take the attackers — tribesmen mounted on camels. Ophelia skirted the watering hole to engage on foot while Lux and Thorn mounted up to meet the enemy. Cora guarded the camp with ranged attacks while positioning herself to heal her friends.

The battle was hard-fought, the tribesmen assaulted the heroes as well as the caravan. One of the guards, a statuesque warrior with a greataxe, seemed to be holding the attackers at bay and preventing any looting until she was overcome.

In the end, with Cora and Thorn badly hurt, the party won the day. They gathered new mounts and helped the unconscious warrior, who asked to join the party. They agreed, and Freya became the fifth member.

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Previous: Khal
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