Episode 6 - The Artemis Key - 6/3/17
Responding to a distress Sending from the towers of Avianas, the Knight Owls teleport into the middle of war zone of fire and flames. Rising from the center of one of the lower battlements is a fire giant, cleaving into the walls with a massive ruby axe. Wasting no time, the Owls spring to action, felling the giant and coming into contact with Captain Eres Black of the Knights of Duros.
He called them there to help track down one of their knights - Sergeant Ulf Moonshard - who left the tower but a few days ago. Knights come and go, but this one in particular took a sacred object called The Artemis Key from its vault. Shortly after constructing the contract, the towers were set upon by three fire giants, convinced that they were responding to an act of war. Captain Black contracts the Owls to locate their Knight and The Artemis Key, and return them to the towers.
The Owls attempt to track the key itself, but to no avail, and come across a curious creature staying at the towers. Her name is Jenora, and she is an enormous golden Roc. Eres explains that she is an ancient being and has given the Knights of Duros guidance for the last 40 years; she comes and goes as she pleases, but when she stays it is to give them advice for the future. With her help, they have stopped numerous possible wars from ravaging the continent.
Jenora offers her help as transport, as she is gargantuan in scale and can easily fit the group on her back. She is also telepathic, and offers great insight into the thoughts and motivations of each of the party, going so far as to offer peace to one still tormented by his own patron...
The flight beyond the mountains to the northeast would normally be very treacherous, as the group witnesses several wyverns on the way and one particular red dragon, but none feel the need to approach Jenora's encompassing form. She deposits the group onto cooled rock surrounded by volcanic rivers, taking back to the skies and sharing that she feels the Artemis nearby.
The Owls investigate and stealthily make their way into the cave system of the volcano, stumbling upon a giant's den. Some stealth goes awry, and the group is set upon by three fire giants while Arik, the Dragonborn Sorcerer, searches frantically for the Artemis Key. While the Paladin squares off against the giants, allowing the others some safety, Arik climbs inside the gigantic fireplace, discovering a hidden trapdoor of soot and ash...and within it, a glowing clockwork firearm covered in patches of green and red moss. It calls to her, and she takes it.
It then becomes a game of fleeing defense, with the Paladin knocking down giants left and right and buying time for his allies to run. But back at the mouth of the cave, another fire giant awaits, blocking their escape against a river of lava. Arik, with the strange artifact in hand, is called to the lava...and walks into, orbs of protective energy flowing around her. While the others fight, Arik flows under the lava, stumbling upon a molten hatch, which opens for her. Stepping inside, she sees the corpse of wolfen man in armor, mostly burned. She discovers that the strange firearm slides into a mechanism inside this "cockpit" and upon turning it, the machine brims to life.
Exploding from the lava flow is a Huge molten mechanical contraption of plant and fire, which proceeds to pummel the living daylights out of the fire giant. With Jenora's help, the Tall Knight and the party are carried back to the towers at Avianas, where Ulf's body is also laid down. Eres, with the help of the party, attempts a ritual of resurrection immediately...and Ulf's soul returns to his body. He explains that the Key called him to the volcano, but his presence sparked a conflict with the giant clan there; he tried to run, discovered something beneath the lava and climbed inside, but his burns ultimately killed him. The episode closes with the return of The Artemis Key to its vault, and an ancient mechanical armor at its side...
DM Notes: this session was the first time the Knight Owls went through a Resurrection skill challenge, and it was entirely optional. They did great. Also, it marks the first time they're interacted with one of my Forgotten Gods - this one being a god of Free Will; powerful enough to sever the connection to a Fiend patron and connect herself as the patron for one of the Owls so that he may know peace. :)
Episode 7 - The Gala of Ardonai - 6/17/17 (21+)
The Owls are invited to the secluded island of Ardonai, along with a bevy of market barons and noble families, to take part in a celebration in the turn of the season. In order to get there, they are given seats and rooms on one of the five ships in the Ardonai fleet - the moonstone encrusted Hyacinth. The boat is beautiful, complete with a dance floor and full buffet. The gnomish rogue has fun with the food while the paladin makes a new friend on the dance floor in the form of the Lady Elata Susurri.
At the beautiful estate, social interactions run the gamut of extremely awkward to the literal tempting of fate, as two of the Owls (Darrak the Dwarven Monk and Eli the Dragonborn Paladin) entertain a curious Tiefling with a deck of cards...and proceed to draw from the deck. Darrak draws Balance, and his true neutral nature remains the same; Eli draws Sun (increasing his level on the spot) and Flames, as he is given a psychically taxing vision of the Devil that now swears destruction upon his name. Meanwhile, another meets a curious woman of porcelain clothing and skin made of smoke. She introduces herself as Lady Lessai, and she is searching for her ward. Nikz the archer vows to find her. Good times all around.
Greeted by the master of the house and his two siblings, the guests are given a speech of welcome with raised glasses. The young man gives a rallying cry to a "new age" and a shift in the ranks. It is...off putting to say the least, yet as he downs his own wine, many do the same - while two of the Owls resist the Charm, dashing forward to knock glasses from as many hands as possible, while many others willingly down the poison.
Plans shifting, the two older siblings draw weapons and do battle with the Owls; the smoke demigod Lessai lending her blade to the fight...but she is banished before it can end. The party burns many resources to fell the two siblings, and race into the basement to find an ornate ritual altar with an open tome and full-fledged vampire to deal with. The battle is taxing and dangerous, and the vampire, cruel and angry, hurls one of the Owls through a Prismatic Wall. A smoking corpse comes out the other side, marking the first true death in the campaign. Rage fills the party, and they spend everything they have to tear the vampire apart.
They leave limping, only a few others marking the survivors of the ritual; Elata and her ward, Ursa, a handful of nobles, and a very confused young woman named Adaria. The rest of the guests...are dead.
Episode 8 - Into The Mists - 7/1/17
Though the Rooksmith, the residing council of the Knight Owls Order, is disturbed by the massacre at Ardonai, they conscript the Owls to take this woman, Adaria, home. The assignment brings them to the curious town of Bodgen, nestled in the swamplands just beyond the Grimscale Mountains. There, they meet a ferryman with a large metal freighter named Apocalypse Pablo (Apocablo for short). The strange human offers to ferry them through the mists where Adaria swears there is an entrance to the Plane of Water; where Lessai resides.
The trip is treacherous and beset by angry water treants, whom the group fights off before smashing ashore. The island is strangely flat, but an Owl discovers the illusion obscuring a gigantic stone spire at its center...and a large green dragon at its peak. Though he goes along with them, Pablo seems unfazed but unable to see through the illusion, feigning ignorance as they climb.
Suddenly, a pack of harpies attack, hastening their trip, and at the summit, they do battle with a green dragon. Stunning strike and key spells deal with the beast proper, and Adaria is left to approach a small stone circle at the peak. Thinking ahead, an Owl summons water upon the circle, and magical rainstorm forms over it, creating a portal. Adaria bids them farewell...and Pablo steps through too, saying that he'll "see them again soon."
Episode 9 - Balance and Ruin - 7/15/17 (21+)
It is the third day of rain across the entire continent of Erena, and the Owls have been summoned to stilt city of Tal'Fune to investigate the weather patterns. While there, they bear witness to a cataclysmic event.
The skies above them are torn asunder, pouring colossal cubes of civilizations into the seas of the east, and they watch a black cloud, like a swarm of blades, rip through the veil. In its wake, water flows free from its elemental plane, flooding the material world. More tears in the skies above, miles away, alert the Owls that something massive is going on...
They have little time to react, though, as a tidal wave slams into the city. Tal'Fune is unique in that all of its buildings are magical, each sprouting crow's feet and sprinting out of the city. The owner of the tavern they reside in, however, appears to have been crushed by a falling whale, leaving the Owls to pilot the tavern. While they finagle with the controls, a few climb to the roof just in time to see the colossal behemoth of shark spiraling toward them. They do battle with the massive beast and head it off their trail, but not before it takes a bite or two out of their haven.
Taking on water and learning to drive this crazy thing, the group limps their way to the towers of Avianas, now entering a planar lockdown. They arrive just in time to enter the planar gate and meet up with the Knights of Duros.
During their rest, Eres Black explains that an Ancient One, called the Riftskin, is being summoned to different planes by an Order of Chaos, called the Knights of the Shard (one of their agents being an Oathbreaker Paladin from Orlandin, Kaya Motis); manipulated into tearing holes in the elemental Plane of Water and The Infinite Battlefields of Acheron, effectively flooding the material world with creatures and magic is not equipped for. His Avian Knights have already started closing the portals, but they think they've tracked down the latest summoning circle in Acheron. It will the Owls' job to shut this thing down; Pietra Habbernathy, from Orlandin, will lend her arcane sight to the endeavor.
Teleporting through the open tear, the Owls land on a small rotating cube in an infinite golden sky...and come face to face with four Shard Knights. It is a difficult battle and the Owls use the terrain expertly, hurling Shards off the edge into the endless clouds, and holding on for dear life as the Riftskin begins to tear them apart. But they knew they only needed to buy time, as Pietra's double banishment spell takes hold upon the Ancient One, sucking it into the Halls of Pandemonium. The Owls then teleport back, but not before two of the Riftskin's needles find a new home in one of them. It takes a lot to pull them free, but the Knights of Duros hold on to the volatile needles for now.
Despite closing the rifts, the world has been forever changed, and a new age begins...
The dawn of the Knight Owls was a convoluted one. What began as odd jobs across the grand continent of Erena slowly coalesced into a discovery that would mar the very face of the world.
Prologue - Tomb of the Blue Mage (Party of 11)
A plucky set of would-be Owls find themselves in a dangerous dungeon of tricky traps and a mad wizard. In the end, no one knows who to trust and who to leave behind as the castle collapses around them...and one of their own is consumed by the Wizard's Stone.
I wonder if we'll ever see HIM again...
From the DM: This was our first test of the Knight Owls format, and based on the massive party and reception, it was something the community definitely craved. But a party of 11 is WAY TOO BIG.
Episode 1 - Orlandin of the Pale (Part 1) - 1/25/17
A young band of Knight Owls visit the industrious southern fortress of Orlandin, the city of the Pale. Orlandin is a stratified system of two main districts split into four quadrants. The port greets them with dense fog and high security, each of them being issued druidic bracelets that denote their status as tourists and threaten to explode if they overstay their welcome. Orlandin has never seen insurgents for 100 years and any internal conflict has ended within a day; the denizens whisper the name "Pale Wing" when these facts are brought up.
The heroes explore the tightly-packed slums of Lowtown, careful to keep an eye on their pockets, but put off the high society of Highborn that literally rests on top of this ghetto. The unease continues, as a few take note of tall, dark figures walking upside down under the bridges. One Owl tries to interact with these creatures, only to have a very close call involving a set of metal claws and his windpipe. In short, they are being watched.
The group must find and meet with a Mr. Silas Habbernathy, an eccentric and literate Kenku who has hired them to perform a complicated heist. They are to gather specific alchemical and magical objects from the shop of Pietra Habbernathy, his ex-wife. The Owls take the job, but many are weary of the twitchy Kenku; something doesn't seem right.
While dodging the eyes of the local nobles and causing distractions where they can, they try to stake the place out, but this is going to be hard. After hatching a precarious plan, and one of the Owls critically injuring a child pickpocket, the group comes into the graces of Pietra herself. Her presence, unlike Silas, sets the group at ease, and they learn that Silas is not to be trusted.
And lo and behold, when the Owls return to Silas, he deceives the group and injures himself, calling the boogeyman guard - the Pale Wings - toward the group. It doesn't go as planned, unfortunately for him, as the Pale Wings do not discriminate between friend and foe, and crush him first. Now, with a swarm of steampunk black hats converging upon them, the Owls just barely make it inside Pietra's shop - one of her Fireballs buying them some time. And there, they rest and wait for dawn...
Episode 2 - The Snow Witch - Frostburn (Part 1) - 2/18/17
Meanwhile, in the frozen tundra of the north, another group of young Owls are summoned by the lord of the oasis of Frostburn. The city is aptly named; it's location upon an intricate web of leylines grants it a magical warmth, like a hot spring, amidst the frigid cold of the mountain's shadow.
The Owls have been summoned by the lord of Frostburn; the stern and calculating Lothlor Kismet (Lord Frostburn to you). It seems there is a sensitive matter he must discuss with them, and after making the room private, he explains that in carving out the land to build this grand city, he had to make a deal with the Witch of the North. He was young then, and without connections, so he took the bribe...but now she has demanded her payment; when he refused, she came in the night and stole it anyway. His daughter, Sasha, and a few other children in the city, have been kidnapped.
The Owls spring into action, outfitting themselves for the extreme cold of the Grimscale Mountains, and gathering whatever gear they can. While in the city, the Paladin meets a Tiefling blacksmith in the service of Bahamut, and the two create a kinship before the group sets off.
The way is difficult, and they meet an overconfident Satyr on the way, who has laid a trap for them at the bottom of an icy ravine. Like shooting fish in a barrel, the party is beset by arrows and a Satyr with a thirsty blade that can sever limbs. But the ambush was not prepared for the spread of skills in the party, and they were quickly overwhelmed and defeated, the Rogue snagging that beautiful black sword.
They make their way to witch's fortress of ice, and do their best to sneak in. The party fans out, and discovers several children - cold, chained, and very scared - against several of the walls. A cackling voice fills the room, and the witch appears, unleashing lightning and cold upon the group as she floats above an altar. The group takes some punishment, but manages to drag her down to their level...where she shifts her form into that of a giant blue serpent. Undeterred, the Rogue leaps into action, hurling alchemical fire down her throat with the promise that she won't eat any more kids. The serpent explodes from the inside, turning to ice and melting away.
The Owls win the day and return the children, but a cold wind sets them with unease. This isn't over...
Episode 3 - Festivities and Bodyguards - Orlandin (Part 2) - 3/18/17
Pietra Habbernathy is in trouble. As the group rests in her shop, she is visited by Bartholomew Yentrin, the maker of the Pale Wings. He seems uneasy, and though he enters angry, she shuts him down easily. He pleads with her that she attend the soiree that evening held in Highborn at the council bastion, but she declines. He leaves, and she explains that she used to serve on the council, but finds most of them to be idiots with the matters of the city...except for her friend Amos Southpaw, a druidic cleric with a golden staff. She instead extends her own invitation to the group, and writes up a new contract for them to protect Bartholomew.
So the Owls prepare for a party and arrive set to impress. Interactions are awkward all around...
Meanwhile, the Half-Orc barbarian is mildly charmed by a swashbuckler in a red bandanna, and the group loses track of each other...then lose track of Bartholomew. A few roam the bastion, finding the spiral tower of Bartholomew's office. They find him unconscious on the floor, and masked figure perched on his desk - they attempt to engage the creature, but it leaps out the window, disappearing in a cloud of purple smoke before it would hit the roof. More Owls gather and come upon a half-orc woman rifling through Amos's office. She casts Reverse Gravity upon the group and attempts to get out of the room, but the ceiling is low and group is able to flank her and subdue her in seconds.
Finally, another Owl discovers a curious contact below the city - a goblin disguised like a little girl, who clutches a wooden dragonborn doll. This "girl" is mischievous, but endearing to the Owl, and she feels connected to her. But as an explosion above rocks the cavern below, the group finally meets up together to discover that the soiree is in ruins, the bastion nearly destroyed, and one of the Nine is missing...
Episode 4 - The Siege of the North - Frostburn (Part 2) - 4/15/17
As Sasha returns, Lothlor questions the Owls. Upon discovering that there was no body, he grows more manic. Lord Frostburn calls for a complete lockdown of the city and begins engaging defenses, extending his contract with the Owls to help fortify the city and prepare for a siege. The witch isn't dead, and she's very, very angry.
The Owls set to work outfitting who they can and hatching a plan of action if the walls are breached. The Rogue (Alvus) befriends a sniper in the central tower of the city; a young man names Elias, who, because of his partial paralysis, sits in a custom harness while he loads literal spell scrolls into chambers that he fires upon the reach of the city.
In less than 12 hours, war drums sound in the distance, and a march of ice elementals, led by a pair of frost trolls, appear in the mist as night falls. The Owls wage war with the cold army, and battle is fought in and around the city as elementals are launched into buildings and summoned in the streets. But as the army falls under the might of Frostburn, a cold voice echoes over the oasis. "Come and fight me, mere mortals. I wait for you to meet your demise..." The threat is real, and waiting. If they don't deal with her now, she'll return stronger than ever.
Downing a few potions and preparing for the worst, the Owls rush out to meet her in her element... And through great tactics, a shot or two from Elias, and some clutch rolls, fell her in a few rounds. At last, the witch of the north is dead and Frostburn is safe. Their contract fulfilled, the Owls are paid...and may have a powerful ally in the future.
Episode 5 - Lost Knight - Orlandin (Part 3) - 5/6/17
The Owls do what they can to help the injured in council chambers, and inform Pietra of Bartholomew's condition; the remaining Nine fan out, each warriors in their own way, and try to locate the thief from Amos's quarters. The woman in the red bandana is nowhere to be seen.
But as the Nine and the Owls try to make sense of the assault, explosions on the far end of Highborn rocket their senses. A stunned Bartholomew explains that the artifact he wields to control and command the Pale Wings was taken from him. He blames Amos, who was constructing his own version of the artifact, and "brought this on himself."
The group investigates the explosions and come upon instead two groups of Pale Wings, one group leaking blue smoke from their eyes, and another with red; the blue appear to be protecting the populace, shoving them into buildings and shutting the doors, while the red are ripping into buildings...and the blue. Pietra informs the Owls that the Nine and their guards will try to deal with the Pale Wings's civil war, and that they should find the entrance to Old Orlandin in the slums. The city was literally built on top of the old city. A remnant of their hubris to crush the past under the weight of the future.
Keeping their heads down, the Owls take the secret passage of a mischievous beggar and head down into the deep caverns of Old Orlandin...and discover it in flames, a woman with a red bandana barring their path, a small girl draped unconscious over her shoulder. A fight and a chase ensues, dodging wreckage and ruin, until one of the Owls leaps from a dilapidated rooftop and tackles the pair, freeing the little girl and starting a proper fight. The swashbuckler is an adept duelist, but is overpowered by sheer numbers, and the Owls revive the girl...who tells them of the old courtyard deeper below the forgotten city.
There, they come upon a ritual already in progress. Amos, a badgerlord, is chained to an obelisk, as it slowly drains his life force. There is an odd artifact draped around his neck, as two displacer beasts circle him. A lanky, masked individual sits perched on a slab of ruined stone, regarding the alter and waiting. A woman, clad in black armor with splatters of red and a mask split down the middle of the same hue, drags a vicious deep navy blade toward the badgerlord. With a giggle, she cuts into him...and the Owls don't sit by and watch.
The fight begins with an extreme disadvantage - they're fighting in ruins, with lots of cover, and no idea how many assailants there might be. The displacer beasts help the woman flank and eviscerate, her sword stealing the dexterity from her enemies and gifting it to her, and her flock of archers and assassins harry the group from the shadows. Many close calls, and one near-death, the half-orc barbarian is finally able to wrench the sword from her grasp and another Owl frees Amos, whose healing abilities keep the party up and moving. The tide quickly turns and the woman knight is defeated.
Epilogue: the woman is revealed to be an Oathbreaker Paladin of Tiamat; she was once the apprentice of one of the Nine, and sought to control the Pale Wings as her army in the service of the Queen of Blood and Fire. Amos's artifact, now fully operational, allows the user to control the Pale Wings by emotion instead of rules, and Amos's calm demeanor quiets the civil war. For now, they will try to police their city with a little more...empathy.