DM Note: Based upon the events of Episode 9, the world has entered a new age, as dictated by the 13 Loremasters of the planet. Something cataclysmic has occurred that has changed the world forever... Welcome to the Age of Io-Shar.
Episode 10 - Consequences - 7/29/17
With the Order spread out with coastal threats, the Owls are pushed toward an inland village called Orkastone to investigate the pieces of ruin landing near the city. Upon arriving, they are greeted by the village militia, headed by Captain Anduin. Anduin explains that they believe there is a rogue elemental nearby that has grown angry. The Owls are to follow its trail of ruins and stone, discover its intentions...and put it down if needed. They will follow, but at a distance.
The Owls do as they're told, but are apprehensive as to killing an elemental, no matter how feral. The journey is littered with fragments of stone and citadel, strewn with shreds of red cloth and blade scrapes dug into the stone. Half a day's journey takes the group to a village hamlet; dilapidated buildings, dead crops, and the broken spiral bricks of ruined windmill. And there, rising from the spiral, with trees and moss running down its shoulders and back, is a massive earth elemental. The Owls watch as the Elemental turns to face another lumbering presence cresting the far hill as it charges toward the village; a huge hill troll with a greatsword, a red tattered tabard trailing behind him.
The two behemoths engage in a tussle in the streets, and Owls help, careful not to attack the elemental. In the midst of the fighting, the Paladin (Eli) spies a little girl calling out to the Elemental, who responds to her directions...and protects her. The troll is defeated, and the Owls watch as the Elemental returns to rebuilding the windmill's tower. By this time, Captain Anduin and his hunters arrive, and the Owls explain that this creature is actually defending this village from whatever lies beyond the hill. Anduin is perplexed, explaining that all that resides over the hill is a flooded dwarves chapel.
While the Owls prepare with a short rest, Eli sees again the little girl...walking over the hill. At its nadir, she turns and catches his eyes; with a glint of gold in vision, she sprints over the hill and out of sight. Eli cannot shake the pit in his stomach, and follows; the rest of the party jumps to attention, and pursues Eli. The paladin is drawn over the hill to a sprawling, flooded ruin with a stone bridge leading to a whirlpool...a little girl standing at its threshold.
Eli approaches cautiously, and a low chuckle emanates from around the girl...as something invisible clutches her and a deep voice cuts through the night, "Eli Drakothar. I swear death upon you and your kin...unless you give up your soul now, and come with me to the hells." At the center of the ruin, emerging from a pillar of fire, stands a devil lord; he cracks a whip of flame and darkness, and a cleaver-like sword adorned with many runes. While the girl screams, a pit devil appears around her, tugging a chain and leading an infernal hydra out from behind a wall. The battle begins...and Eli dies.
And while the others fight on, Bahamut and the devils fight for control of the paladin's soul. Only through his own indomitable will is Eli able to push the devil from his mind, forever becoming a champion of Bahamut (and gaining a boon in the process). Together again, the team banishes the hydra, destroys the pit fiend, and decapitates the devil lord named Utugrava. As for the little girl, she is offered a place in the church of Bahamut in the city of Diskana, which she humbly accepts.*
Episode 11 - Into The Underdark - 8/26/17
The Owls respond to a request to investigate the strange red moss that now grows over what was once the Ashburn forest (burned down sometime in the 3rd age of Ren). Their curious findings discover a spiraling cave entrance of winding paths and flowing water. It leads them to an underground oasis, where they come across a large pool of water.
Something moves in the water, and the group spies a tiny green dragon wyrmling. Those that speak draconic reach out and talk to the creature. It seems...confused. While others ready themselves for a fight, they continue to talk...and the dragon continues to grow, rapidly maturing in the water. As it grows, the paladin sees in him not the evil he expects, but instead a choice; seizing the opportunity, the group offers the choice to be good and, through some great role-playing, demonstrates what that means. So, as the green dragon continues to grow, his aura changes to that of a good creature...and he takes flight, climbing toward one of the tunnels.
Convinced that this was a bad idea, several owls start to travel deeper inside, and come across the gigantic husk of a black dragon skull. Until it moves...blue lightning crackling along its tongue and rivulets of new flesh forming along its head. It claws through the earth, chasing the group back to the oasis. Everything it touches turns to decay, and it unleashes stormy hell upon the group. As the cave begins to crumble around them, they turn and fight the gargantuan creature, even as it destroys the floor it stands on. And as the Owls, with the help of a returned-now-ancient green dragon to dig them out, deal the killing blow to massive creature, the crumbling floor gives way and each spy a cruel temple of red and black banners and paint below...a quest for another time.
Episode 12 - Cloak and Dagger - 9/9/17 (21+)
There is a traitor among the Knight Owls, and we must find out who.
The Owls are invited back to their roost, the Rooksmith, where it orbits the skies of Io in its perpetual rotation. Within the grand council chambers, the group watches from the balcony...and decides to pick a fight with two of their own. When the smaller of the two begins to yell "traitor", he is silenced...and all of them are teleported to the brig of the Rooksmith. There, they meet the head of security: Warrick Umbra. Both groups are able to plead their case, and Warrick doles out punishment where needed, instead keeping a close eye on both groups; no one is to be trusted in this difficult time.
...Turns out the Owls' suspicions were correct, as during the night, the Tenrook (the high council of the Knight Owls) are attacked, being hurled into an astral plane projection by one, while the other attempts a resurrection. While in the Astral illusion, the Owls do battle with another of their order as he successfully resurrects (using the shared life force of the party's dwarven monk) Kaya Motis, of the Knights of the Shard. They do battle with her once again, hurting their monk in the process, and with the help of another Owl not trapped in the illusion, escape back to reality. It turns out the big brother in the duo was being charmed, so he is forgiven...while the other, and his resurrected beloved, are executed.
The Tenrook are forever grateful, granting their heroes further boons. The halfling demigod, Keddigan Slitspire, is not so impressed, and leaves on his own in the night.
Episode 13 - The Abyss Temple - 9/23/17
After discovering that the gigantic dracolich that they fought in the upper crust of the Underdark was once a dragon lord named Narizfal, The Storm Glutton, the Owls are sent back to investigate the temple they spied at the conclusion of the fight.
What they discover stretches beyond comprehension.
They face an endless factory of champion fighters, all wearing the same armor, and wielding the same weapons. Deep within the temple, they uncover and destroy a complex arcane mechanism of perpetual Simulacrum - constructing another deadly guardian the moment another dies, turning to snow and dust. While breaking the mechanism, they are set upon by two ogres armed with potent magical gear. The ogres wear strange black and red warpaint...and their eyes have been gouged out. Despite this, they seem to have been blessed with arcane sight and senses, and talk of a draconic master.
The ogre guardians prove to be quite a match for the group, but they push them back, deeper into the citadel below...only to be met a second temple rising through the stone and earth below, as an unknown ritual draws to a close. This new spire pierces the first floor of the first temple, driving some Owls to fall through the cracks. Stepping out of the new gate is a bronze-green dragon hybrid. He addresses the party as "meat," and a dynamic fight begins.
Through some distinct stunning strikes, and a clutch moment of both druids wild shaping and summoning 4 tigers, a torrent of 10 tigers rain down upon the dragon. Despite a double breath weapon, it's hard to avoid that many pounces, and the dragon is quickly subdued...but not before the Owls realize that this thing was just the diversion.
A gigantic black dracolich, frothing with acid and toxic lightning, flies past their fight, instead unleashing its breath to melt through the earth above. This new threat bores through the dirt and stone with ease, flying into the night sky...
Episode 14 - A Thousand Hands - 10/7/17 (21+)
In just one month, the skies have grown dark after a creature long-thought dead was risen from the Abyss Temple under the earth. He is called Narizguun, the Devourer of the Divine, and carries with him a strong of dragons...
Legend and lore bring the Owls into the service of Seeker Malfurik Scalebane, another Knight Owl on solo reconnaissance. Malfurik invites them to the city of Exian to meet with its matriarch, Lady Medivh. The two seem to know each other quite well, and Medivh commands a great deal of arcane and planar knowledge, though the Owls are skeptical of her complete intentions. Despite this, Malfurik seems to trust her, and that's enough for Eli and the others for now.
Medivh grants the party passage to the Elemental Plane of Fire, where Malfurik has tracked a dragon he believes to at one point to have belonged to Narizguun's first storm. They are transported some ways away from Mal's intended destination and in trying to grasp their bearings are set upon by wyvern riders...which they make short work of. However, the pale drow archer, Nikz, has been receiving strange dreams and messages - some conflicting with others. He is given distinct instructions, however, not to trust Mal or his choices, as they will undoubtedly lead us down a path of destruction...
A few hours journey and the Owls crest a hill into a dormant volcano cairn. Inside, a scarred silver dragon picks apart the flesh of a white dragon while a band of fire giants secure a diamond prism, something smoky and serpentine moving inside. As the silver dragon begins tracing runes with the blood of the white, the Owls spring to action, opening fire and blade upon the dragon and its giants.
During the fight, a few keys are revealed. First, that the serpent of air and smoke in the prism...is a dragon spirit. It means no one harm, but is easily confused. Second, as Mal breaks the prism and takes the spirit within, Nikz is given a conflicting message...and opens fire upon his ally. Suddenly, ranks break as the party tries to discern what's happening, and the dragon gains the upper hand on a few of the party, hurling them into rivers of lava. While deflecting arrows, Mal does not fight back, instead opting to rescue those in the lava (demonstrating immunity to the element). Nikz, sensing the party turning on him, drops the attack, and Malfurik checks on him (which Nikz uses to steal the Dragon Spirit from him).
A tad confused by the sudden attack, but forgiving, the party returns to Exian and plans their next move.
Episode 15 - The Godkiller - 11/11/17 (21+)
While on a patrol mission in near the central region of Erena, the Owls stumble upon the remains of an adventuring party. As they prepare the crushed bodies for burial, one begins moving. They watch in alarm as breath returns to the man, and he sets his snapped bones back in place and rapidly regenerates his burned flesh and clothing, bits of earth rising to fill in the cracks. His allies stay dead.
He reveals his name to be Ord, and that he had a mission... But he cannot remember it. His clothes, the Owls notice, are of a style they haven't seen in literally hundreds of years. The insignia upon his clasp is of an old kingdom in southeast; it was called Brimshire, but it fell at the close of the second age. Since that time, the castle grounds have been overrun by undead and a thick, dark swamp of deadly vines and toxic, acidic fog. They now call it The Dreadmire.
Ord is not surprised that he survived the attack. He and his fellows were a much bigger group before, but they've been running for some time from a lurking creature. Seems each time it finds them, it crushes him and then a few others...but he always gets back up. The paladin understands that Ord might be revenant, cursed to fulfill a purpose before he can actually die. Without knowledge of what he needs to do, a taxation of dying so many times, he has little hope of finding peace. He does, however, feel a pull toward the center of the continent.
Geography tells the Owls that he is drawn to a place called The Barrens. An earthen spike seemingly driven into the center of Erena, surrounded by a moat of lava. A single bridge spans the gap, but there is no door. It is one of the mysteries of the world. Nonetheless, the Owls take it upon themselves to get Ord there, and then to travel to The Dreadmire, and see if there is anything that will help them in their fight against the storm.
On the way, Ord plays with a ring he carries around his neck. The Owls recognize it as a Ring of Mind Shielding...and that a soul already resides in it. This alarming discovery sets the party on edge, and as they make camp, Nikz reveals another bombshell: the Dragon Spirit he took is now a literal pet for him. She is a Spectral Dragon, and each time she is summoned, her element type changes. Her name is Koriasaka (Kor, for short) and though she is amiable to the group, Eli does not trust her, warning Nikz that Malfurik will not be happy. Meanwhile, Ord and another Owl, Roze, bond. She gains some insight into his torment and he is surprised to learn that his pilgrimage has lasted nearly 300 years. It seems each time he comes back, he loses more of his memories, and all sense of time.
When the Owls reach The Barrens, they are greeted with nothing...until Ord moves to the edge, staring into the lava. Without a word, he takes the ring from his neck and hands it to Roze...then steps over the edge. Instead, his body is lifted up toward the peak of the spike, greeted by a cloud of black smoke. His body disappears, and the Owls are left alone, continuing their journey toward the Dreadmire. There is indeed a soul inside the Ring, and it begins to visit Roze in her dreams. The resident is named Kincaid Slitspire; the halfling king of Brimshire, who died fighting a dragon who could devour the holy energies of his paladin guard. He remembers building something that could stop him, but he attacked before it was ready. Roze quietly promises to bring him home.
But when the Owls arrive, they must wade through the acidic swamp, and dredges of mindless undead that flank the walls of the castle. Within, they discover the castle grounds ruled over by two minor liches and undead giant. Drawn to the center of the courtyard, Roze has visions of the pure lake that once flowed in the center of Brimshire...and is attacked as she wanders. Her allies rally to help her, and a deadly battle is waged. But at the end of all things, the Owls again rise victorious, as Roze breaks the slab of stone covering the lake, before plunging into it herself. The act purges the aura of death and decay inside the castle, and brings Kincaid back to the land of the living, and have purified the castle of Brimshire.
Episode 16 - Whispers - 11/18/17
While taking a much needed respite, the Owls are suddenly approached by Helaku Kadeem, one of the Council of Nine in Orlandin. He contracts them, along with his own contingent of adventurers, to help locate a missing comrade: Keddigan Slitspire.
Their journey takes them to the far north, near Tidespear and Io's Edge, to the mechanical city of Brakfall. With them is Striga, a tiefling paladin of fate that insists upon following Eli into battle. Right off the bat, something feels amiss about Brakfall, as the group destroys a slaver with a band of gnomes at its entrance. They explain that they were captured from Mooncrest (Striga's hometown) to be sold here. Instead, Striga sends them back to Diskana, where a guildhall waits for them under the protection of Bahamut.
Inside Brakfall, the group takes refuge with Helaku's uncle. The man is kind and hospitable, but Helaku seems distant and curt with him and the rest of the group. In the night, the Owls sense a shift in the basement of the observatory...and awaken to find it aflame, two fire elementals unleashed upon them. They fight where they can, but they realize this is a battle of constitution, as choking smoke begins to fill their lungs. Striga does his best to keep the party together, but it's the druid, Riswynn, who finds an alternative way out. A subterranean river. She lassoes her allies to her, then wildshapes into a giant alligator, and goes swimming.
The tunnel launches to party into the air beyond the reach of the mountains and rocketing toward the bridges of Tidespear. Riswynn spies a familiar group sprinting along the bridge, and deftly shapes into herself, and then a giant eagle, maneuvering her allies to drop in a cascade before Helaku and his band. The council member seems unhinged, almost giddy, and attacks the party, gloating the whole time.
This isn't a fight against a monster or two, no, these are seasoned adventurers with power sets that rival our heroes, and it is hard won. Seeing his options dwindle, Helaku uses Power Word Kill, but his spell's target is moved, as Striga falls lifeless instead. A nearly failed Revivify brings him back while the party decimates Helaku...but he is happy to die now, before his master rends the world in two.
At which point, the violet-clad Wavebrand surround the group...before being called off by a halfling with clawed greaves. Keddigan Slitspire greets the party. He needed to go missing to draw out the traitor (from Episode 12). We also learn that Keddigan is Kincaid's brother...and that they desperately need to talk.
Episode 16.5 - Interludes
Kincaid and Keddigan weren't always demigods. Late in the second age, they were taken by two gods they know to be Crowdark, the Lawmaster, and another called the Forgemaster; their task was simple, forge a weapon that could kill a god. They did it, but they don't know how to find it; that purpose was given to another called The Many.
The Many is a god of balance and neutrality, with agents (called Hands) that "sleep" until they are needed. Lore and research reveal that there are sometimes individuals who are aware of their influence and can resist or manipulate such power. These are called "Broken Hands."
Further research and insight, as well as exploring the memories of Kincaid, reveal that The Barrens house ancient artifacts from the first battle with Narizguun, including an ancient airship - called an Esper ship - powered by elementals. They are able to contact the Warden of the Barrens - a Warforged named Koda the Wise. Koda invites them with haste to undergo the Trial of the Barren to "win" the Seed of Oblivion, a gift left by the gods as a fail-safe. He judges that this is as good a time as any, and to hurry; danger knocks at his door.
Episode 17 - Sheathe - 12/9/17 (21+)
While under duress from a plethora of dragons already under Narizguun's control, the Owls are invited into the dimension of the Barrens. Their arcane shields won't hold for long, so Koda brings them immediately to the Trial Keep of seven crystalline spires. There, they play chess with a dragon, choose empathy over combat, and choose to break a pendulum rather than sacrifice one of their own. And as the walls fall and a vicious umbra of a gargantuan dragon barrels toward them like a wave of death, they decide which of them will carry the Seed of Oblivion... Nikz.
And as the Barrens fall to a wave of undead dragons, the Owls rise from the ashes in a ship powered by elemental rings and turn toward the storm that has split the sky before Tidespear.
Episode 18 - Into The Storm - 12/16/17 (Season Finale)
Armed with an ancient airship powered by sentient and very angry elementals, the Owls charge into the storm... And do epic battle with smoky umbra of Narizguun and an army of undead dragons. The fight is big, loud, and catastrophic for the ship, and even as the umbra is destroyed, the ship is torn asunder and the Owls are flung into the clouds below.
Each impacts in a different part of a forgotten, frozen island, and there waiting for them is the true form of Narizguun, the Devourer of the Divine, and the real final battle begins. Nikz passed the Seed to Eli, who summons the god-killing greatsword and cleaves into the ancient dragon lord with conviction. But when he teleports to three others tear them apart, Eli sends the Seed to another...who sprouts black and white wings upon wielding it, and plunges the blade deep into the dragon...purging him from existence.
The dense magic of the dragon storm bursts, dispelling the fogs beyond the central continent, and the world expands.
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.
An Earned Respite...
The Tenrook and Talonguard are most pleased with the triumphs and tribulations of the Knight Owls over these past six months. The organization as whole has had more internal struggles than in the past, but through the actions of a few, traitors were exposed and eliminated and the Tenrook is confident in the organization's ability to not only recover, but become stronger than ever.
The Tenrook, in honor of the powerful deeds done by their members, have offered the following decrees:
1) In celebration and recognition of outstanding conduct in the dawn of a new age, we allow each Knight 1 year of respite from their Owl duties. Each Owl is free to pursue their own work, but keep their annual salary (100 platinum)..
2) Those imparted unto the Skypiercer shall be granted a boon; treasure, artifact, something else; please discuss with your sources what you would like.
Player characters have 1-year in game time to do something. They will message the GM with what they'd like to accomplish, and we will work together to create a narrative that could be shared (with permission) here as an Interlude segment. They will also plead a case for their boon; like a present for a fantastic year of epic content. (This is, and always will be, OPTIONAL. It is NOT a requirement of play.)
Fate of the Esper Ship...
Upon returning to Tidespear, Anai'Stra'sana does not dismount the Skypiercer with the rest of the party. It appears, at least for now, that the creature has laid "claim" to the vessel. Each dawn, it calls lightning into the vessel's conduits, and through an odd form of purring, appears to be reconfiguring its circuits.
Loremaster Edwin Gola has attempted to address the creature, but has been met only with an inscription...burned into the stonework at his feet. It took him weeks to decode it, but it reads:
"You do not own me. I faced the dragon without my sisters, and it pained me. Let me find them; then we’ll talk of this…’transportation’."
For now, the Skypiercer belongs to no one.
The Seed of Oblivion
The battle now won, the Seed returns to its Sheath, Nikz. However, summoning it is...problematic. Though Nikz tries, often it does not form. His mark remains on his palm, but he wonders if the sword will be needed in the future, or if his time has passed for now.
Eli and Alvus, however, take note of a mark upon each palm that held the sword. It appears to be a simple tan ring, with two lines of different lengths bisecting at their ends. It is more of a tattoo than anything else, and as time rolls on, a lighter hue of skin tone in the center of this "clock" appears, framing an upside-down hammer...like a pendulum.