Yaja - Human / Grave Cleric
Glib - Kenku / Arcane Trickster Rogue
Boljek - Hobgoblin / Samurai Fighter
Torrent - Tiefling / Tempest Cleric
Eld - Half-Elf / Archfey Warlock
Atavan - Human / Mastermind Rogue + Ollie III, IV
Arha - Half-Orc / Oath of Vengeance Paladin
Mittens - Tabaxi / Champion Fighter
Party Level: 5
Braving the scorching heat of the central desert, the group slogs through their third day of travel heading west toward the Howling Mountains, to investigate the strange sounds emanating from the dormant volcano at Haldur's Peak. While driving their tireless ox, Geno, Torrent notices a strange circle of calcified shards of amber dotting the landscape. Eld investigates it and surmises it to be very sharp, but brittle, like a hardened residue. Snapping a few shards free, and setting up camp, the group discovers through some experimentation that the amber is EXTREMELY flammable.
While on watch, Torrent and Arha notice something strange. A quick wind steals their breath from them, and as Torrent reaches out a hand into the darkness...SNAP. Something rushes by, snapping her wrist! The party is awakened with her cries of pain, and Yaja uses her eyes of the grave to notice a shred of undeath just beyond her sight, somewhere in the dunes beyond. Glib is surprised to find the silver thread of his Alarm spell cut, and dispelled... Everyone becomes on edge, ready for a fight, but nothing comes their way.
They continue forward cautiously, taking note of Haldur's Peak. Arha recalls that, according to Dyren, giant clans used to rule these mountains, but none have seen giants for some time. With Yaja pushing her divine senses forward, trying to track the entity, the group finds themselves at last (after 12 hours of travel)...back where they started?
Indeed, a silver thread, making a circle around an encampment lays before them, but something feels...off. They look back toward the mountain, and it is no closer. However, the silver thread...is magical. Crossing it engages the same Alarm spell in Glib's head. Eld experiences an Eldritch Blast from himself, despite the others watching him shoot himself. Weird stuff. Meanwhile, Arha notices something moving in the center of the campground, and reaches out to discover a ghostly horse, that gallops into the dunes... So she mounts her own horse, Raven, and rides toward the peak.
As the others attempt to follow, and the sun begins to set again, Arha finally draws closer to the mountain...and Glib casts Longstrider, sprinting toward, like a road runner, to catch right up to Raven. An eerie plain of sand and bones lay before them, more deposits of amber shards littering the landscape. The ghostly horse drifts behind a stone further away...
Meanwhile, the sand ahead of them, like a wave of knives, erupts toward them, claws slicing out from the sand, before burrowing beneath the earth...sending spikes of amber spearing out; angry, sharp bits of crystalline residue left behind wherever this thing dives. A deadly battle begins.
As the team begins to gain the upper hand with the Wight...another appears near Eld, slicing into him. Atavan, pleased with Ollie's contribution to the fight, investigates behind the rock. There, amidst a cornucopia of amber blades, are three corpses. Two adventurers and a horse, all sucked dry of their life-force, looking like melted wax.
With Eld losing rapidly to the second Wraith, the group dispatches the first, rushing back to him, but not before he is grappled and impaled (GASP) upon an amber spike. And just as things grow dire for him, he is saved by an invisible champion, striking through the veil with flaming swords and carving the Wraith in two. "I'm back, guys! ...Who's that?"
New Allies and Wax Statues
The group is introduced to Mittens, a monster slayer that has been tracking the Wraiths for about three days. Happy to have new friends, the group travels with her and she reveals that the day time in the desert tends to mess with creatures's orientations and memory, threads of errant magic manipulating time and experiences. After a short introduction, summoning Ollie IV, and exchanging names, the group investigates the bodies impaled on the amber, discovering two magical items that were not affected by the wax: A Ring Of The Ram (given to ______), and a Blinkback Sandknife (given to _____). As night draws closer, the sun setting upon the desert, Eld casts Magic Circle to protect the group. While they rest, the group tenses as tendrils of ethereal smoke begin to emanate from the corpses. The tendrils manifest and clarify into a beautiful, ghostly horse, and two riders, one mounting while the other runs alongside. They nod to the group, grateful and free of the Wraith's hold on them, and ride into the night sky.
Midnight strikes in the cold desert, the moon high in the sky, and the party stops abruptly as a loud and low sound rattles through the carriage: a howl. And, as the sound settles, seemingly hundreds of softer howls answer it, all rallying around the shadow of the mountain. As time crests around 3am, the group finds themselves in complete shadow, and approaches the enormous mouth of a cave at the base of Haldur's Peak.
A growl stops them in their tracks, as dozens of yellow eyes bob toward them. A massive winter wolf pads out, shocks of silver rolling down its back in cold shards, like ice. Eld tosses an amber shard toward it, telling his allies to fire upon it (they are very explosive) if the wolves... Nevermind, the big one pads up and takes the shard, bounding into the cave. Meanwhile, four others stalk forward. Convinced this is a fetch quest, Atavan hurls a mushroom...which one wolf eats...and flops over, very happy.
As the others mitigate the wolves approaching Mittens (who has perched on a rock), the group easily pacifies the pack with their remaining mushrooms. Inside the cave, the mouth tapers to three tunnel paths: one slopes up, another down, and another straight. Still injured and tired, they flip the cart and form a barricade of protection as they rest, Mittens taking watch. The wolves return, many lazily moving as they recover from the mushrooms, and disappear down the two side paths. One very large silver-back squeezes past the cart, its eyes glinting as it sees Mittens...but both hear a high whistle, just on the edge of their hearing. Its ears turn, and it dashes down the central path, ignoring the group completely.
Master of the Volcano
Mittens listens down the tunnel intently and hears someone speaking giant, seemingly to the wolf. Then another sound - the padding of paws, this time with a little jingle. With a growl, it deposits a heavy metal chain, then bounds back to its master.
The chain itself is only a few links long, and the edges appear to be melted. With a shrug, Mittens throws it in her pack, while Atavan sends Ollie IV down the tunnel, discovering a dug out forge with live lava flows and a curious minotaur striking away at an anvil. His features are strong, but recently scarred, and Atavan recognizes him as one that he and his fellows fought in the forest ruin. As Ollie returns, the party plans; handle the wolves first? Investigating the side paths illuminates them to the fact that one path leads to a den of 30 wolves... The other to a den of the alphas. They opt to instead block the pack with the cart, as a low howl sends both dens into a frenzy. Glib and Ollie sprint ahead stealthily, and emerge into an empty forge, beckoning the party to follow. Glib heads to the heavy door on the other side, as a set of barks and howls of sonic force rumble through; the thunder damage obliterates Ollie...
The group rushes into the forge, grabs a few javelins, regrets leaving Geno by a pack of wolves, and heads toward the heavy door on the other side. Mittens and Glib listen closely to hear a pleading minotaur, "I'm sorry, they haven't come back yet. It's okay, I can take care of them. ...I can take care of them." A large roar, and the minotaur dissolves into pained anguish and tears as something massive growls nearby. Angry primordial speech emanates through the cavern: "My brother is dead. Long live the new king. If my Other will not respond, then I will take the throne for my own. Step aside, minion, and prepare for my Dominion."
Heading down the corridor, Glib goes invisible and slinks into the base of the volcano to see 1) a gibbering, crying minotaur with a set of golden cleavers on its back and, 2) a gargantuan two-headed wolf with magma fur that grows out from its ruby-studded chest. A tail of pure flame, impossibly long like a volcanic scorpion, looms threateningly overhead. With wolves filling the tunnel behind them, Torrent draws first blood and this enormous primal creature sounds the attack.
The minotaur stomps his foot, engaging Haste, and prepares his chained cleavers...and recognizes little Glib, who killed his brother, overcome by berserker rage. Meanwhile, the primal creature unleashes magma breath up the hallway, laying waste to the hiding party. Arha and Torrent tag team collapsing the back end of the tunnel to make short work of the wolves, and the party does their best to get OUT of magma breath formation. Despite a rough start, Glib outmaneuvers the enraged minotaur, closing the loop. Boljek and Mittens do their best to harry the creature while Eld discovers his true calling: Ray Of Frost. In similar fashion to Ursano, with rubies crashing down, the group deals the final blow to the ancient being, its body turning to ash...and the volcano begins to erupt.
A Little Help From Our Friends
With rising fiery death, Mittens spies an alcove about 15 feet up that exits the volcano base, a stone peninsula jutting out. On the pedestal, a small pack of wolves watch the party; two silver-backed dire wolves, a Hell Hound, and another giant wolf, seemingly covered in plant matter. Judging that they have little choice, they rush to this exit. The silver-backs and hound leave out the opening, but the one made of leaves...changes into a tall, alien form with long, toned limbs and dark, tight skin, the skull of a giant on its head. It points to the exit; the party members say thank you in each their own way, but Eld in particular feels something strange about the creature.
With lava rolling behind them, they sprint out the other side of the volcano, the other wolves also darting free. And as the volcano erupts, the party feels a howl in the distance, far to northeast in the frozen tundra. The wolves listen and run that way into the scorched forest...
Session closed at: 1:05am
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Kurama - Half-Elf (no longer cursed) / Circle of the Moon Druid
Glib - Kenku / Arcane Trickster Rogue
Boljek - Hobgoblin / Samurai Fighter
Torrent - Tiefling / Tempest Cleric
Eld - Half-Elf / Archfey Warlock
Atavan - Human / Mastermind Rogue
Arha - Half-Orc / Oath of Vengeance Paladin
Party Level: 4
Beaches and Mushrooms
Coming ashore onto the white sands of Pulaka beach on the eastern side of Iliya, the group sets to work looking like merchants and scouts (as a ruse to lure whatever might be ambushing the scouting parties), a few picking up the curiously smooth rocks that litter the landscape. Constructing a cart of empty boxes and barrels, Boljek begins hauling the wagon into the dense jungle, with Kurama pushing his senses out ahead.
After a few hours of travel, Kurama hears the distant bubbling and popping ahead. Slinking ahead with Glib, the group discovers a bubbling purple river running between several batches of giant mushrooms. While investigating them, Kurama takes notice of a pair of yellow-rimmed eyes staring at them in the bushes. He summons an apple, and tosses it into the bushes, glimpsing the beak of a young owlbear as it flashes out and grabs the apple. The druid communicates with the creature while the rest of the party catches up, and learns that the river of bubbling purple is dangerous to walk in, but creates these tasty mushrooms. Clearly an adolescent, they learn that it was separated from its mother, who ran west further into the forest, where bones hang from the trees.
While they talk, the creature, using its claws like a pair of shears, clips one of the mushroom tops from the mildly acidic water, chomping down on it...and feeling euphoric. It then wanders to the east into a dense and dark sub-canopy. After a little deliberation, the party follows it.
The Fungal Forest
The river spirals under the foliage ahead and the group passes under the dusk canopy, emerging into a sprawling, tight forest of gigantic mushrooms and fungus. Arha hears something big fall in water ahead, and rushes toward the sound...only to find the Owlbear, still enjoying its high, rolling around in a small pool of crystal clear water. While the others look for a way back out and around the river, Kurama and Eld notice the mushroom tops that loom overhead periodically exhale hallucinogenic spores...which Torrent promptly inhales, and joins the Owlbear in thoroughly enjoying life.
All is not safe, however, as Glib notices movement in the dark, and he and Atavan sneak forward to discover a large Minotaur slinking through the stalks. With a spray of smoke from its nostrils, its golden eyes settle on Atavan, and it begins ripping through the mushrooms and stalks, readying a net for the rogue. Arha tries to communicate to the Minotaur that they mean no harm, but it seems bent on doing harm to Atavan. The group, with Kurama using his broach of telepathy to confirm, ready themselves to avoid capture...while Torrent struggles with euphoria.
The Minotaur did not realize what it was getting into, and even with its superior defenses, it is quickly overwhelmed, two arrows from Glib and Atavan transfixing its face, and its form falls limp into another pile of mushrooms. And as the body falls, another puff of euphoric spores fall down from the canopy. Boljek quickly loots the body, as the group realizes the longer they stay here, the harder it will be to resist the spores (Eld grabs some mushrooms on the way), so they make their way back out on the other side of the river.
Torrent, using her battleaxe to bushwhack, cuts through the brush and foliage to form a space for the group to set up camp and rest a bit. A storm rolls overhead, and Kurama notices the sound of crunching leaves, like footsteps getting closer. He addresses the figure, which hesitates and begins staking out the camp. The fire flashes blue, then green, then goes out. Kurama druid crafts the flames back and there, maybe 3 feet from him, is a figure.
Adorned in rags that obscure worn and rusted plate mail, twigs and leaves that stick out between the rivets, and a helm that totally obscures the face, this thing stands stoic in the center of the camp. A wooden and steel shield is slung over one shoulder, with a great sword lazily sheathed over the other. Kurama asks if they have trespassed on its territory, and in response, another heavy impact resounds behind the camp, deep within the woods; a fair of enormous yellow eyes glare out from the trees, a low growl shaking the ground. "Trespass. Judgement." Bigger than any bear they've seen, the fires flicker once more and both are gone.
Recovered, the group cuts their way to the minotaur camp, discovering numerous totems of bones, trappings, maps, axes, and several bodies nailed to trees (they resemble the soldiers in Gotha). Also there, they discover, interrogate, then liberate the little Kobold servant named Scruff. He explains that the THREE minotaurs serve a recent master named Ursano, and Boljek cites the reference as a primal spirit. After capturing the mama Owlbear, Scruff sent the child away, which endears him to the group.
With his help, he guides them toward Ursano's ruins, where the minotaurs will undoubtedly stop by. As they approach, however, a cyclone of terrible wind and intense rain begins to sap their strength, and the sonic damage knocks out Scruff more than once. Finally, they emerge upon the ruins; an ancient temple amidst a broken stone city. And as they cross the threshold, time slows...
The Bear Knight
Lightning streaks in slow motion and the rain falls as if time were slowed to an inch. And there, at the end of the cobblestone path, stands the Knight. It demands a duel, single combat or dynamic together. At first, Boljek offers himself, but the others quickly turn over to the idea that they are always stronger together. The decision made, the Knight calls his TWO minotaurs, and lightning strikes the temple's peak behind him, calling forth an enormous bear, a wreath of emerald shards and hardened stone adorning its neck and shoulders. The fight begins.
One very tough fight later, the Knight is defeated, Glib takes out a minotaur himself, and Boljek attempts to go toe-to-toe with the primal spirit of Ursano himself...this was a poor choice, but with single targets falling, the group finally begins to out-maneuver the Knight and his warden. The emerald pieces now free, and the spirit banished, the Knight is finally killed.
But at the peak of the temple, a sarcophagus sits, tendrils of incense floating lazily from within. Tearing off the cover, the gang discovers the remains of something odd, twisted and layered into some sort of summoning ritual. The remains are that of a young Wendigo, the group believes, and they finally destroy it.
They retrieve the baby Owlbear, giving him a home on their boat, and dispose of its mother's remains, found in the stone circlet of Ursano.
Just as they leave, though, Boljek spies a set of eyes watching them. Across a deep lake beyond the ruined temple, perched on a slab of a grander ruin, sits a wolf adorned in matted leaves, a strange pair of antlers on its head. Their eyes meet, and it bounds into the broken castles beyond...
With the Umbra of Narizguun destroyed, and the undead dragon purged from existence, the world has changed. The arcane storms that had cloaked the seas beyond the continent of Erena have dispersed, illuminating slumbering isles and ancient ruins. What threats or allies lie beyond in this expanded era? The Owls will have to find out...
Episode 1 - The World Beyond - 2/3/18
Sent to investigate a castle of crystalline spires on a cold tundra of an island, the Owls stumble across an ancient world. They meet a little girl named Eilir, who possesses the powers of an earth elemental. She seems trustworthy enough, but leads them into a trap to pull them into becoming stone soldiers to fight a war...that no longer exists.
The Owls destroy her body, leaving behind a pulsing stone heart. Though a few wish to finish the job, it is a kindness that they spare her, instead taking the heart back to the Tenrook.
Episode 2 - The Tragedy of the Espers - 3/10/18
Something has risen from the depths of the Aether beyond Io's Edge; a floating city, with shards of crystal through it, and ruins on top. The Owls fly to it with the help of their tamed Roc, Vixx.
Inside, they again witness a place lost to time; a city built for a purpose - a tool in a war long lost. They are ambushed by the castle's guardian, a ronin swashbuckler illithid named Batale. Batale is a creature of honor, looking for his death, but he won't make it easy. Convinced that the Owls are yet another dream or his latest haunting, he grants them hospitality and they learn of the war of the Espers and what they are.
All life came from the Nexus; gods, demons, the forgotten, ancient ones, and prime elementals. It is the elements that bore the Espers - true children of the Nexus. Their alliances were betrayed, and each new alliance brought more death, more pain, and when they traveled to the central continent, they were attacked. When Narizfal arrived, their airships fell and their cities sank into the darkness. Batale has been kept alive by the castle, but just like Eilir, has a lot of difficulty accepting the timeline.
He brings them to his master, whom he even admits he is concerned for, and she, Toryana Snowfinch, seems pleasant enough, but upon sensing the eroding Eilir in Riswynn's pocket, instead insists that they all die. Batale blocks the way and the Owls fight for their lives...but Batale pulls his punches, and uses illusory magic to feign death before going invisible. It seems that Toryana was controlling an ancient contraption called a World Engine, and upon Riswynn destroying it, the island begins to collapse.
Snowfinch seems unhinged, crazed, and mentions her "friends" in the Aether. This alarms everyone, and Batale drives his blades through her, now convinced that she is not his master. The island collapses, and the group begins to plummet toward the terrifying Aether, but before the dark tendrils can grasp them, Vixx appears and snatches them to safety.
Episode 3 - The Tournament - 4/7/18
While Eilir and Batale come to terms with their new paradigm, the Owls are contracted to attend a singular and rare event, the Eron's Might, held on the roaming turtle city of Torkmund.
Stopping off in Tal'Fune, the Owls become familiar with the city and take part as best they can, but after the first two rounds and meeting Sir Eron Thornwall, the Owls are concerned. They begin to investigate and discover that all previous champions never left Torkmund, and instead seem to serve Thornwall himself with different names. The most recent champion is a Renka Habbernathy (Pietra?), and the crew sets to work to find him. They do, but he has no memory of such a name and seems keen to protect Thornwall.
At the next dawn, the party decides to turn on the wizard if it comes down to a fight to the death or if he tries to "collect" anyone, but their planning is cut short when Nikz locates a familiar - someone was listening. But arcane knowledge reveals proximity, and the Owls instead spring to action, chasing down the wizard through the streets of Torkmund and right into the final arena...where the wizard transforms into a drider archmage.
They barely defeat him, his body exploding and leaving no trace. And as guards swarm the arena, the Owls enter the Feywild and head home.
Episode 4 - The Aether - 5/5/18
Batale, racked by nightmares of his Eye (his master) calling out for him, contracts the Owls - then leaves ahead of them - to travel into the Aether and help him locate the real Toryana (not the doppelgänger they fought on the island).
The Aether is a terrifying place full on intellect devourers, mimic hallways, temporal rifts, doppelgängers, and giant spiders. They locate Toryana in an ancient spider's den, as well as a second Batale...whom the actual Batale kills after he is also freed by the Owls. But at least someone got momentarily eaten by a spider.
Episode 5 - Knights of the Round - 6/2/18
While studying at the Tenrook, a group of young Owls notice strange activity in the cemetery, and investigate. They see a man drop a curious contraption...that pulls the stone slabs of the graves together to form a golem, which promptly attacks and covers their escape. They defeat the golem with enough time to piggy-back onto the spell, and find themselves in the Feywild, defending a bear spirit and a crow spirit from the same man with a lantern, and an angelic creature also with a lantern.
They save the bear, who grants one of the Owls a bestial boon, but lose the Crow, and manage to critically wound the angel...which the man then rips the heart from, before opening another tear and stepping through. The Owls follow, and find themselves in a giant clockwork mechanism, a flowing portal beneath them, and a suspended home above. As the portal grows, the Owls try to make sense of the contraption, while others explore the house. As the "clock" tolls, two forms appear in the home; two beautiful children; movement upstairs, a daughter, knocking on mom's door, only to find her dead inside...but then the body rises, black veins pulsing all over her body, she bites the daughter, who also changes...
Meanwhile, the others locate the man, turning cranks inside a suspended cage. Arcane displays show pockets of the world, scrolling back and forth through time. Before they know it, creatures have been pulled through the portal, climbing up the metal walls and leaping onto the house. Instead of killing him, the Owls are able to convince him to stop, that he'll lose his family anyway if he doesn't act...and the man ends up sacrificing himself to stop the clock. His wife and his eldest daughter are lost, but the two youngest children are saved. When asked where they are, they say that daddy worked on the Artemis Clock, and he would use it to save the world...
Episode 6 - Tower of Gendris - 6/30/18
Another pack of young Owls respond to a tower descending from the clouds. Sitting in front of it, on a rocking chair, is an emissary of Gendris, who asks them to enter so that he might collect data. If they refuse, he shall lay waste to your cities.
Begrudgingly, the Owls step inside, and are put through three possible futures, culminating in fighting the future self of one their own. They are fed possibilities in grand conflicts between gods, in and out of time, and shown the possible crossroads of their choices. They leave more confused than when they entered.
Episode 7 - Blink - 8/11/18
The Owls attend to an afflicted town in the center of the mountains, keen to heal whatever ails them. Their medicinal checks reveal that the populace had been poisoned by powerful pronged darts that imbed themselves in the flesh and slowly drive them mad. One of the afflicted that they save, a tenacious little girl, reveals that she spends some time at the large willow tree at the edge of the city.
Investigating the tree reveals that more than one person would hang out there, and the matriarch of the hospital speaks poorly of the local lizard folk tribes. Further evidence: a discarded blowgun, claw marks, and a few buried needles. The Owls track a few lizard folk on the mountain side, and, with the girl's help, are given an alternate entrance. The matriarch, frustrated by these attacks, contracts the Owls to eliminate the remaining lizard folk.
But inside the secret entrance, the Owls don't find a fight. Instead, they find a smaller lizardfolk; a pacifist, who has collected correspondence with their old chieftain, and evidence of payment to his tribe. He shows herbal packages of poison, and recipes... The matriarch paid his people to make hers sick, then paid you to kill the rest of us. The lizardfolk asks for the girl, but she's back in the hospital/mansion...and he takes off after her.
The Owls follow, but cautiously, as they take notice that the town is now dark, all but one light on in the mansion. They enter as quietly as they can, and the matriarch happily pays them for their initial work, listens to their report, and then dismisses them...but one notices a small hand reaching out of the dresser and pulls it open to reveal girl bound and gagged. The matron then transforms into a Marilith and attempts to make quick work of the Owls. She almost succeeds, but sorcerers are clutch for tying down vicious enemies.
It is revealed that the Marilith was using the affliction to slowly pick off the village folk to feed her life force. Shame on her. The clues were there all along; blink and you'll miss it.
Episode 8 - Ceremony - 9/15/18
Eli Drakothar and Elata Susurri hold an awesome wedding celebration, but the reception is crashed by four unwanted guests (Oathbreaker Paladin of Tiamat, Drunken Master Monk, Celestial Warlock/Sorcerer, Drow Princess Assassin) hell bent on killing him and kidnapping Elata. As each dies, they say, "Thornwall sends his regards."
It appears the wizard they killed was only his Simulacrum.
Episode 9 - Ghost Story - 10/6/18
The young Owls return to do battle with a set of minor liches in a burning town...and they are all killed.
Awakening in the land of the dead, the Owls figure out that the strange cleric and leader of the town is instead feeding an old Jabberwock through a fake tree of life. They cut him down to size.
Episode 10 - Thornwall's Shadow - 12/1/18
A sudden coordinated strike at every major city mobilizes the Owls in force, and they do battle with another set of three unique and vicious combatants. Two deaths are suffered in the fight, and the Owls limp back to the Rooksmith. Resurrections are costly, but they are successful. Before they can rest in the library, the Rooksmith is torn asunder by a dragon turtle, transported there and tracked.
The Rooksmith is decimated, still clinging to the arcanum that keeps it afloat, and the Owls do battle with semi-ethereal creature while having stone slabs hurled on top of them. It is defeated and they are able to flee, but their headquarters are in ruins, and as they fly away, they witness what has begun its march north...
A gigantic mechanical city on the back of an ancient turtle.
Episode 11 - The Hammer Falls - 12/8/18 (Season Finale)
With no time to lose, the Owls rush to the northern capitol of Frostburn once more, and ready their defenses. But before a plan can be made, Torkmund arrives early, an army of dreadnought giants leading the charge.
They go with Plan C, and teleport into a shop that Nikz knows well. Turns out not everyone is down for declaring war on the world, and the shopkeep forgets they were there, instead allowing them passage into the sewers.
While they navigate below, they come into contact with one of the Kenku watch crew, and a tight fight breaks out. When they climb back up to the city streets, they are again ambushed by the local militia, and as the fight begins to sway in their favor, even as Owls drop dead, a ray of pure fire cuts through the battle.
Now ducking from building to building, sending illusory clones to draw the fire as needed, the group finally makes it to where the arena once was, taking their time to scale the spire of earth and reach the peak; a flooded courtyard with a tower at its center, and no one in sight. Caution washes over them, even as they feel the turtle reach the edge of Frostburn and the screams of many citizens under foot. A voice addresses them, as two wingless dragons emerge from either side of the tower and a Storm of Vengeance forms above them. Now, the real battle begins.
Eron Thornwall is a wizard, and a strong one at that. Meteor swarms, storms of hail and fire, disintegration rays, and fingers of death; two Owls die permanently in the 10 rounds of combat, with many more close calls, but one by one the dragons reveal their true forms and are cut down, and the Owls finally scale the tower to tear into the wizard. But it doesn't take long to crush a city, and even as they drive their blades into Sir Eron, he smiles - broad and pleased. "How long do you think it will take...for your sins to catch up to you? You have only existed for as long as you have because I have allowed you to do so. ...See you soon." Thornwall's body sinks through the blade with no blood...only water and ice, as his Simulacrum melts away.
And the Knight Owls are left with a hollow victory. Frostburn is destroyed. The ancient turtle seemingly has no master, but the damage is done, and this dangerous enemy still lives...
Season 3? 50 years later...
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.