Adventurers Present: Darrak (Dwarven Monk - 13); Nikz (Eladrin Rogue/Arcane Archer - 11); Eli (Dragonborn Paladin - 12); Xun Fu (Half-Orc Monk - 11); Notloc (Dwarven Cleric - 12); Brysar (Sorcerer - 7) = Party of 6.
The Knight Owls, strapped for cash and in need of something to bash, sit and wait in the roaming city of Tal'Fune for a legendary mobile city called Torkmund. The city is fabled to be run by a mysterious wizard named Sir Eron Thornwall, and is said to feature clashing titans, dangerous terrain, and legendary prizes - the most of which is a single item from his Platinum Vault, said to house items collected from every Age of Io.
The Knight Owls Order knows of the tournament, named Eron's Might, and urge the Owls to participate. AND, if any of the Kihon, the remnant children of the Espers, show and attempt to cause havoc, to stop them with extreme prejudice.
A Big Entrance
Torkmund arrives, striking into port with pomp and showmanship. As lines form toward the island city, bridging the gap to the entrance is an enormous turtle's head. The creature is ancient; gargantuan in size, with crustacean, coral, and sea life finding homes upon its gigantic belly and limbs, or hanging under the edges of its shell.
Like a folding pop-up book, the city opens from the shield atop the shell of the beast, fireworks and light cascading around its towers. The shops open with pizazz and the tickets get punched. The Owls, with Darrak's elephant Kegstorm (Keggy) in tow, begin to make their way toward the kiosk and punch their tickets for the strangest cruise they've ever seen...
Round 1 - The Boorish Luck
After suiting up with some curious rival businessmen, the Owls make their way to the telescoping tower in the center of the island. Xun has already scoped out the arena, taking note of the tapestries of previous champions of the Phoenix Ash, the most recent being a "Renka Habbernathy." The first round is a good ole' fashioned monster fight with a troll, a blue orc, and a very ferocious Ice Ogre. Despite being pummeled with rocks, the Owls, and the other assembled combatants, make short work of the beast.
Round 2 - The Kerberus Cup
The next morning, the Owls assemble in the second coliseum level prep room, where they find their other combatants still waiting. A pair of elven twin rangers, a wily halfling bear rider named Copper, a tumbling twin duo of gnome rogues, and a curious young man with vibrant amber hair - a large orange and tan fox cuddled up with him as he meditates.
Without warning, the doors lock and the room begins to flood rapidly, pressing each combatant up to the ceiling. But before drowning can occur, the gates spill open into a flooded arena. A well-timed water walk keeps most of the allies out of the water, instead running atop it. Good thing, too, as the rags within the water begin to shift and move with menace and something pulls one of the rangers under water.
Dancing lights under the water illuminate the coiled form of a massive electric eel... So Notloc casts Control Water and parts the seas, pulling the water away from the two eels as they begin to suffocate, and forms two walls of water on either side of the arena. The rags hover in the water, waiting. Despite the eels growing new legs, they are easily dismantled while free of their watery terrain, one being torn asunder by Copper's voraciously adorable bear, Kubo.
Then, from the audience beyond the walls of water screams ring out as entities burst through the watery wall. Landing and scrambling toward the assembled warriors are...audience members, with spider-like legs and pincers protruding from their forms. "Don't kill them!" Eli calls out, and the large team bands together to sub-due each new foe with mercy. Meanwhile, the assorted rags floating in the water spiral together, dancing about with spinning blades and begins cleaving into the group, but with a few well-timed strikes, the Owls succeed in shredding the creature...its form shattering into a pile of snow before being washed clean by the water sloshing back down into the arena.
At the close of the fight, all are directed to a slow set of clapping hands from the director's box...
The winners of the second bout are invited to meet Sir Eron in his director's suite, and the Owls, along with Copper, the young man, and two gnome tumblers oblige. What transpires is an ever-evolving conversation where the wizened man seems to allude to knowing quite a bit about each of the assembled, or at least much more than he should. He stresses that he has always been interested in the "unique," and is pleased to see so many, so rare in this particular tournament. Everyone leaves quickly, unnerved by the experience...except for Xun, who, as the last to leave the room, turns and asks Sir Eron about the Espers.
The door slams shut. And locks.
Xun, not frightened, listens to the man. It is clear that he knows quite a lot about Xun and his allies, referencing distinct details from the battle with Narizguun, and from previous adventurers; details he should not be privy to. He understands the awakening of the Espers in recent times, and knows full well of the existence of a Kihon - a child of born of raw elemental energy - somewhere in their midst. "Be careful, boy. I have eyes everywhere..."
Eli, among others, is not pleased that Xun had this conversation, but the half-orc returns before Eli and Nikz can knock down the door. They find the others in the arena, the large fox bounding up to the young man and leaping up to rest its hulking form on his shoulders. The young man seems definitely strong enough to handle this...and Nikz spies the fox speaking to the man. The man responds, "Don't worry. I won't let him take you..."
Xun and company begin to wonder what has happened to previous champions, and asking around is met with some confusion. Most of the populace is under the impression that the champions have returned to their homes as heroes...but Nikz finds an alternative opinion in the form of an awakened onyx cat named Asa. In the trade of a clockwork crow to play with, Asa reveals that the previous champion is STILL HERE, as a janitor in the arena.
Alarmed, Eli, Nikz, Darrak, and Notloc make their way back to the arena while Xun and Brysar recover their abilities. A few denizens remain, cleaning eel bones from the cracks in the stonework, and one in particular catches their eye. In robes of fine silk and filigree, tufts of white and black feathers sticking out, they see a larger, meticulous Kenku pulling a piece of spine from between two stone plates and pocketing it. The Owls present immediately recognize the creature's features and feathers; that, coupled with the name Habbernathy on the champion's tapestry waving above the peak of the arena, links him directly to a Pietra Habbernathy - a powerful wizard ally of the Owls in southern capitol of Orlandin.
The creature, when confronted with this fact, is confused, and requests that they leave him alone. The assembled Owls try to reason with him, mentioning Pietra's name...which doubles him over in nausea. He screams for them to leave him alone, sprinting toward the door. Darrak stops him with an axe in the wall ahead of him, the four Owls doing their best to calm him down. They ask him what happened to him - he says he's been here his whole life, his name is Kai, and they should back off, as he summons a Fire Bolt. Their insistence pays off, somewhat, and "Kai" at least listens to them, writing it off as humoring the insane.
They try to point him to his own banner, but as they look at it, the name has changed to a "Duncan Sunstone." Perturbed, Notloc looks at the banner through his Pale Wing Scope...and the letters are jumbled, ever-changing. Suddenly, Kai reachers out and deftly dismantles the Scope, refitting it with a new copper wiring, allowing it to telescope distance. He hands it back and asks where Notloc got it. At the mention of Orlandin, a voice interrupts them from the Director's Box.
"That's enough, Kai." The familiar deep baritone of Sir Eron carries easily into the arena. "Let's make sure these adventurers have rest. They have a big day tomorrow."
"Yes sir." Kai bows to Sir Eron, and promptly leaves, despite Darrak's insistence that the wizard is controlling him. As the young Kenku leaves into the tunnels, the Owls check the banner once more, and it reads "Renka Habbernathy."
Jumping the Gun
Brysar, around 1am, is awoken by flames catching under his door. An instinctual ray of frost sends the flames arching and coalescing into the center of his room. The flames become a large amber fox, who tilts its head at the Sorcerer.
"Hello." Brysar ventures.
"Hello." The fox responds in common. "What do you think of Sir Eron?"
"Uh. Not quite trustworthy."
The fox nods, grinning. "Good. Tamarack and I may make a break for it tomorrow, during the match. Maybe you could come too; bring your friends. Tamarack may with to go through with the Ash, but I do not think whatever is in that vault is worth our freedom. ...You seem...good. Sleep well." And with a flurry of flames, like leaves in the wind, the fox wisps back under the door, leaving Brysar in his exhausted confusion.
Uncertainty lingering on their psyche, the Owls gather after they've awoken, just before dawn, and discuss what they know. It's clear that Tamarack (the young man) and the fire fox are rare creatures indeed, and even they are unique in their own rights, and with the new information on Renka, no one cares about winning this tournament. They hatch their plan A) go to the match, watch for the fox's signal, snatch Renka, and get the heck out when they see an opening...and they're prepared to go through Eron if it comes to it. While they close this discussion, Nikz spies movement under Notloc's bed...a pair of red eyes and matted fur...and snatches it.
Nikz pulls a struggling, mewling rat from under the bed. "He has eyes everywhere..." Eli mutters. Darrak punches the rat and it, like an exhale of breath, disperses in arcane smoke. The group sinks in the realization that their whole plan was probably overheard by SOMEONE...
Brysar suddenly remembers that Find Familiar has a range with which a caster can see or hear through the creature (100 feet), and Eli, remembering Sir Eron's detailed cane, casts Locate Object upon it.
75 feet to the north...and moving.
Wasting no time, the Owls crash out of their room and chase after the retreating wizard as he polymorphs into a hawk. Greaves of haste, dimension doors, and some quick thinking later, the Owls, with Tamarack and the fox joining them, chase Sir Eron to the arena...and find it filled with an audience, each wearing the face of the old wizard. He rises from the silent audience, exclaiming that he has not had a band of warriors that could test him so well...and as he speaks, his form elongates and contorts into that of a Drider.
The fight is devastating on multiple fronts as Kai returns to defend his master and the Owls must contend with a foe they do not wish to hurt. Powerful spells like Disintegrate, Finger of Death, and Meteor Swarm are hurled onto the party, but Tamarack and his fox are there to heal and augment the abilities of their new allies. Late in the fight, the wizard has had enough, and banishes both Eli and Darrak to separate planes of existence, leaving Xun, Brysar, Nikz, and Notloc to finish the fight on their own. Tamarack notices that Renka appears not in his right mind, and uses his Power Word Sleep to subdue him, taking some of the pressure off, but it is Xun who lands the killing blow by catching an arrow shot from Nikz and jamming it into the thorax of the creature. The Drider explodes in arcane energy, leaving no trace of Sir Eron behind, and Minxy, the fox, retrieves those trapped in other planes (only Darrak by now).
Nikz summons his portal into the Feywild bank, and everyone piles in, just as the Hobgoblin guard begin to rush into the arena. Tamarack gives a salute, then a rude gesture, and the door closes...
Session close at: 2:30am
Casting MVP by Brysar. Well done.