War of Fire and Ice

The Right to Bear Grudge

The strange crew was herded into the recently re-purposed drinking hall / throne room. The filth of the alleged rat infestation had been cleared away, but Rockhome was badly in need of renovation. The clan gathered around in solemn silence, prodding with halberds, faces masked with brown woolens to cover the hideous sight of their barren chins, which, now that they had reclaimed their Clanhold, the Dwarfs of Rockhome were no longer obliged to display. There was a clatter of mugs on platters and King Thrain appeared on the throne, glowering from behind a golden mask. “What is the meaning of this? Why did you who so bravely helped my clan to recover Rockhome suddenly betray my hospitality with the foul murder of my kinsman and spiritual guide? It makes no sense, but blood must follow blood! I am King and Grudgebearer of this hall and I pronounce a Grudge upon you three that I will fulfill unless you convince me otherwise!”

Zann looked down upon them all, for he floated a few inches above the ground, his whole body still thrumming from the titanic power that flowed through him. He did not know how to appease this dwarf, but he knew what he had done was right.

After some explanations and negotiations, King Thrain gave the Hold-takers the benefit of the doubt and offered them the leeway of a year and a day to bring proof of this Shadowed Chain of Chaos Dwarfs or he would fulfill the Grudge, which he now had entered in a massive Book of Grudges, inscribed with a chisel. The dwarfs then herded the Begrudged out their front gates and slammed them shut.

The Timber Vale spread out before them. They walked down a switchbacked old dwarfen cart track, which still had strategic water basins at each turn, provided by small canals diverted from the nearby cascade.

Down to the treeline they trekked, and then, amidst the soaring trunks of the High Yellow Pines, they heard a damnable roaring, and the Chaos Warpbeast appeared on the ridge above! The heroes scattered for cover and hidden places. Roke ensconced himself in the very top of a tree. The Warp Beast did not seem to detect the party with all its five ratlike heads, until Orillion threw a rock at it, which then caused the beast to feast upon that tiny giant until his companions beat it to death.

The next day, the party traveled to Gardmore Abbey, where they decided to avoid the orcs and ogre at the front gate and instead ride upon the wings of a dragon to the very top of the hillock, finding themselves staring into the ruined walls of an ancient knightly barracks.

Beyond the Mountain

The Acolytes of the Stormbringer returned to Vornhiem after their trials and travails along the Rockhome Road beneath the World Mountain. They had driven off an infestation of vermin, discovered a subterranean trading post run by a cabal of wizards (The Many Pillared Hall and the Mages of Saruun), reopened the Road, and most importantly freed the Titan called Stormbringer from the Pit wherein he was shackled for nigh 100 years. The Shaven Dwarves of the Shadowed Chain had urged the adventurers to help keep the titan in his prison, but the large one himself convinced them, especially Xan Stormsoul, that he was being held unjustly by an iniquitous cult, and so they freed him. Upon his release the titan declared that these were now his Acolytes and were now tasked with exacting his revenge upon the beardless dwarves that imprisoned him.
After spending some time debauching in Vornhiem (and browsing the Library of Zorlac as well), the group made preparations to journey through the Mountain in the interest of reestablishing trade relations between the city and Timbervale beyond.
Along the way the party was ambushed by chaos dwarves, Duergar. Though few in number, the Duergar had a rune-crusted canon that fired an immense gout of flame. It was touch and go for a moment, before they were defeated. They quickly made their way to the exit of this dark road, the Fortress at the Edge of Time.
Xan Stormsoul was nervous about visiting these dwarves with their minimal beards, concerned she may be compelled to fight them all. His fears were proved sound when he encountered Rangrim in the castle courtyard. Rangrim’s chin was as clean as ever. Xan challenged the old Priest, with the help of the Rainbow Mage, Roke, and old Carrick the Green Shadow, he slew the accursed dwarf.
But trouble had only just begun. A murder had been committed on the newly reconsecrated grounds of the Fortress and now a Trial must be had. The Acolytes did not flee, but stood their ground, certain of the justice of their actions. Luckily, Roke had already convinced one venerable dwarf of the situation, and he had become a staunch ally.
One approved, however, for Xan finds himself lightning struck, and floating in the air.

Final Struggle Beneath the World Mountain
Got something sticking in my eye...

Know, oh King that in the Kingdom’s darkest hour, the Brotherhood of Mercy braced the Trillith that animated the skeletal remains of the Dreaming Dragon in a cavern far beneath the world’s largest mountain, while undead dragons flew about. They slew the mighty beast through the swordmage Dreamz Darkblade’s gambit of leaping up to grasp the Torch that flamed in the eye of raging beast, and thus, pulling the brand from its socket, he made use of the artifact to lay waste to the fragment of a dragon’s dream.

The nightmare dissipated without a single hero dying for the cause!

Now that the Torch of the Burning Sky was in the hands of Heroes of the Realm rather than despots and dragons, they were able to win the war, and defeat the Ragasian invasion.

They responded eagerly. The halfling bard became King of Dassen. The dark elf swordmage sought to take the war into the Underdark to battle his brethren and Lolth. The Barbarian continued to bring the war to Ragasia, campaign step by step at the spear head of and Army of Liberation until he was at the very Gates of Ragos. The Wilden Druid, meanwhile returned to his feywild homeland, there to commune with the depths of nature.

In the Presence of a Broken King
The Royal Court, and Brothers Reunited

Entering a city under marshal law is a tricky business.

Go Where Eagles Dare

Wherein the heroes enjoyed the fruits of their labors, savoring the acclaim of a newly relieved town now unified by threat and determined to sell their lives dearly when the time comes…

The Dionem turned out to be a useful box for approaching the King of the Eagles with an offer he couldn’t refuse, pigs for transport. The eagles know what orcs do to forests.

Setting for toward the fortress of King Steppengard, they paused to rescue a crowd of villagers from the depredations of the Ice Wyrm. It seemed the snow creatures had been emboldened since the most recent late season blizzard…

The Froghemoth Cometh

After some mucking about with the white Omphalus (and a vision of Leska), the heroes marched up to the roof and battled the corrupted Druid Sidoneth at the edge of the raging sea! The party was immediately swamped by a rogue wave while Sidoneth cackled madly and worked his Hurricane Orb (on a stand at the edge of the seawall). The Padraig the Bard tossed out a staggering note to push the druid over the edge and ran up to battle for control of the Orb.

Sidoneth disappeared into the waves, only to be replaced by the Wrath of Dagon itself the FROGHEMOTH!!!

It was a long long fight, with monsters and heroes getting repeatedly launched into the ocean, but of course they eventually prevailed. Cue the ticker tape parades, feasts and dark tidings of the wars to the north.

It seems that Sidoneth escaped…

Put Him in the Iron Maiden
Rivers of Magma in the Pyromancer's Tomb

Padriag lowered himself into the strange tube that plunged through the flooded floor of the old cambion prison. Outside the winds and the savage tides of the hurricane battered the old stonework, but below was silent. An intense heat dried his clothes instantly even as thick steam fogged his vision. He heard a tick as some strand of twine broke and an object like a canteen fell to the floor, 30 feet below. He reached for it too late and the object struck the floor with a resounding BANG. The mists parted a bit to reveal a wide tunnel of slick black rock and a stream of pulsating liquid stone running through it.

The party gathered themselves warily in this new, eerily quiet place. It was certainly fiery enough. Suddenly the high seas and weather seemed far away. A harsh but familiar voice floated through the haze, its distance and direction distorted by the fog:

“You devils have been worse than useless. Why Leska and the Wulf deals with your kind at all is beyond my ken. We should recruit that stone skinned barbarian to ours. He already looks the part. This Dagon seems worthy. In a day or so this city will be leveled and we can pick apart the survivors. The elves arrival was a stroke of luck, eh?

And another, different but also familiar voice: “Yes, warduke, these ones are strong I can attest that destiny guides their steps, but do not discount my Lord in his cave of ice, for he will escape once again and he seeks merely to dominate the world, not destroy it. You will find that Dagon, once awakened does not share in my lord’s cares.”

“Bah, you stay here and sell your immortal soul dearly. My archers will cover. I go to continue my sport…”

The party snuck into the room, but their foes were aware. They were ambushed by Ragasian artillery and once again dueled the corpulent and bearded devil called Kazyk, the Perfidious One. The Ragasians broke and fled, but one was captured. He knew little of the tomb, only the quarters where he was billeted. The heroes played upon his soldier’s disgust for his assignment to get him to agree to aid their cause, promising death as an alternative. He warily agreed.

Passing through a makeshift soldier’s camp, and ignoring a yawning maw that offered ingress into the very heart of the Pyromancer’s Tomb, the heroes came upon a large laboratory, filled with stinking vats of brine, a spring of magma, and a shelf which featured a book both divine and terrible, the storied “Dagonomicon” upon whose cursed pages it is said that one look causes madness and worse. Other bric a brac littered the workstation as well.

Pressing further, the Brotherhood entered a second magma cavern, this featuring a large oozing portal that blazed with the fury of the Elemental Chaos. There was also a strange white stone monolith and a few doors. Then a heart wrenching scream echoed from behind stone door number one.

Within was a dour dungeon, blood spattered, a vision of every prisoner’s worst nightmare. Corpse hung from hooks on walls, an Iron Maiden stood against the far wall, and in the center, a wrack, upon which was an elven maiden, her once fair features now shredded by the tender ministrations of the Inquisitor, who bent over her, still intent to inflict one last prick before he turned to battle.

“You again! The blood has spoken that I will fall before you here, but I will take you with me, for the ball has rolled beyond this crypt. Ha ha ha!”

Mere moments later Hours was slamming the door shut on the brute, crushing him within his own iron maiden. A last burst of strength saw the Inquisitor free, stepping forward, gore gushing from a dozen orifices, he stumbled and fell. The only sound was the whimper of the elven maiden, covered in leaking scars, blind, maimed, but alive and grateful.

Hesperiana, she was called, and she had come to Seaquen as a merchant spy, she admitted, to serve as a liaison when the Shahalesti made their appearance, but she had become suspicious of the strange professor and come upon the Temple of Dagon. There she was captured by Ragasian soldiers. She clung to Blackwulf with a fierce strength. “Protect me evermore, barbarian!”

Katrina now burst into the room. She had been dealing with the rag soldiers and investigating the monolith. She had found another set of prison cells and machinery, and a prisoner. This rescued refugee was a middle-aged main named Waif who was wild eyed with terror.

“The have started Dagon’s Call! I never meant for this to happen! I found the book in my master’s tower in Sindaire after the Rags burnt it. I brought it here thinking Sidoneth would keep it safe, but the lure of the depths of abyssal knowledge corrupted him and when the Ragasians found him, he did not mind their bargain, for they only aided his own newborn desire, to raise the Wrath of Dagon!”

And what of the white monolith? The Omphalus, Waif explained, was stone that attracted magic and channeled eldritch power. It was used to magnify the power of the Hurricane Orb, and to aid in the Inquisitor’s escape to this refuge. It could be used now to restore vitality to tired sword arms, but it required a sacrifice to energy. Items of magic could be cannibalized to give greater hope against the inevitable showdown with Sidoneth and his army of the deeps.

A Perfect Storm
Windbags and High Winds

Returning to the wet streets of Seaquen, the heroes did some investigation and enjoyed some downtime.

The druid purchased a tome of rituals from Sidoneth who was very friendly and helpful.

The Bard snooped around and managed to find the mysterious Nelebekus at the Royale (he also tried out the “Best Joke Ever” on the bartender, which floored him, but he was unable to eavesdrop on the half-elf.

The group returned to the Royale the next day and the barbarian challenged for supremacy in the arena. He managed to slay the orcish champion in single combat, earning a bronze cup and two large pigs for his troubles.

Drunkenly driving a cart back to town they were ambushed in the driving rain. Ragesian archers, Inquisitor Damius the Warduke, and a lurking assassin devil attempted to end the threat, but underestimated the strength of the Brotherhood, even when drunk. The Inquisitor escaped in a burst of fire. The Shadow Devil did not, getting ripped to shreds within a cloud of darkness. Hours judged that the Inquisitor could not have teleported far and resolved to follow up on the villains mention of a ‘fiery tomb’.

Finally, the Brotherhood of Aquiline Mercy were invited to the Seaquen War Council, thanks to the recommendations of Katrina Dio Genera.

The council was full of dignitaries: magistrates, wizards, ambassadors and professors. The Brotherhood took their seats in the audience gallery, a small cove, for this was not a public forum. Headmaster Simeon began the proceedings with a short soliloquy:

“Ladies and gentlemen, you’ll pardon me if I’m brief. Our enemies are many, and we know their eyes are constantly watching. We don’t have much time for this meeting, so, even though I encourage each and every one of us to have our time to speak, I need to ask that we not get too bogged down in discussions of minutiae and other small things. “We have a great task ahead of us, and it is a task that we do not do simply to protect ourselves, but to save the lives of all our families, brother, and sisters. The new emperor of Ragesia, Leska, who proudly calls herself the Supreme Inquisitor, has set her armies to conquer all our nations. Everyone is in danger, from lowliest warrior to mightiest mage. I have vowed as my duty that I will fight against this Scourge from Ragesia, but I don’t know much about how to run a war. What I do know, though, is that we all have knowledge and skills that will be valuable in his fight. I hope that you will trust me to lead this fight against tyranny, and I will trust you to give me your best wisdom and aid so that we may be victorious. Our goal is to stop the Scourge, to drive back the armies of the Ragesian Empire, to dethrone Leska, and to ensure our families and homelands are safe. Now, I hope you all have some idea how to do that. My ears are open.”

Magistrate Messi then stood to recite the litany of problems the city was facing due to refugees, overcrowding, and dwindling goods.

Commander Xavious gave a grave but encouraging report on the state of the militia, suggesting that perhaps the refugees could become the basis of a liberation army. Others scoffed at this.

The Ambassador of Dassen declared that his king, Steppengard had not yet decided whether or not he would pursue a truce with Ragesia. This obviously worried the masters of the Lyceum for a neutral Dassen could conceivably allow a Ragesian army passage through to attack Seaquen.

Sindaire Ambassador Cranston Snord, a withered old man, insisted that his nation’s people wanted to resist Ragesia, but the politicians could not pledge their support to Seaquen and risk drawing Leska’s ire. He suggested that if Seaquen could defeat Ragesia in a notable battle, it might be enough to make a difference. As for the Torch of the Burning Sky, Cranston Snord was confident he knew where it was; just impossible to reach.

“The evening that the Old Dragon — Coaltongue — was slain,” he says, “a storm of fire opened up in the heavens over the late emperor’s castle, a place called Korstull. It’s a canyon in a broad field. Now everything there is dead, burned by months of searing rain. Sometimes the dead wander out of the storm. I don’t know how anyone could have gotten into that firestorm to retrieve the Torch, nor do I know how you would expect to either.”

Professor Sidoneth reported on the naval readyness of the harbor, admitting that the Shahalesti fleet was imminent but still undeclared.

Then the Ambassador of Ostalin spoke:

“The inestimable Khagan Onamdammin, generous monarch of Ostalin, deeply regrets that his neighbors might be endangered by the Ragesian armies, but is willing to lend his elite, fierce armies if his neighbors are reasonable. Ragesia intends to conquer your entire nation. Would it not be reasonable to trade us one- third of your land, so that you may keep the rest from the greedy, cruel Ragesians?”

At this, the council seemed poised for fierce debate. Just then a guard burst through the door to announce that unexpected visitors had flown into the courtyard and approached the chamber. Moments later a guard of Shahalesti knights entered, escorting the Princess Shalosha the Silver Princess, daughter of the Elven Emperor. All the Shahalesti are dressed in silver armor and blue cloaks, and stand tall and bright with straight blond hair and straight swords at their hips. Their leader is a pristinely beautiful eladrin woman whose eyes shine like sun on the bluest sea.

“I apologize for this sudden intrusion, but I bring a message of great importance to this castle,” said the lovely lady. She then spoke with the cadence of a memorized text:

“I come with an offer of safety and salvation for your city, and those who shelter here. As you know, Shahalesti is the shining jewel of civilization, and now the armies of Ragesia attack us. For every loss we suffer, the progress of all nations suffers. We are the only power strong enough to drive back the fires of Ragesia, but even for our greatness, victory is not assured. “My father, Lord Shaaladel, knows that some of the nations whose ambassadors stand in this very hall would like to see Shahalesti fall, for they don’t realize that in so doing they are wishing for their own doom. Even the most trustworthy here can admit that it is difficult to have faith in the leaders of other nations when the most they can do is send a few diplomats to the banner of Seaquen. Shahalesti sends a fleet. Seventeen of our ships sail now to this peninsula, surrounding it from all directions to protect it from hostilities. By this we show our devotion to the fight, and — so my father believes — we prove that it is our nation who should lead that fight. “We invite you to join with us in the war against Ragesia. Many potential allies have found their way to your city, and so we have come here to meet them. However, we will not risk betrayal on any scale, nor would it be wise for you to risk it. So we ask that you hand over control of Seaquen to the Shahalesti fleet, so that we may begin checking the purity of your allies’ spirit. Admiral Telshanth will serve as provisional governor of Seaquen—”

The council broke up in pandemonium of course, the Princess left after promising to give the town some days for deliberation.

Professor Sidoneth did not participate in the post debate bluster and left the council. Blackwolf and Driemz followed him to his house but he was nowhere to be found. Entering the house, they found a precarious seacliff trail that lead around the point to the Sea Temple of Dagon.
Meanwhile, Hours hit the books, ransacking the the library stacks of the Lyceum for hints of where the Tomb of the Pyromancer lay.

Then the hurricane hit! Towers and trees fell, people were blown away, and but Blackwolf walked nonchalantly through gale winds. It seemed that the Brothers’ exposure to the Tidereaver Tears gave them some protection for the elements! They were the only hope of Seaquen and entire harbor! Perhaps the Elven fleet was in danger, if they were not in fact behind this suspicious weather

The druid had been consulting ancient maps and scrolls to discover the drowned Tomb of the Pyromancer and when the storm hit was able to aim towards its eye.

The party entered the prison and fought a horde of Burning Bones skeletons. They then found a shaft of pure force that offered some entry below the water’s surface. A hot draft blew forth…
Tragic Escape from the Aqueduct
One step too far

And so a hero, a friend new-found was lost to the remnant horror of a people long vanished from the earth. Elias Juun the Dreaming Knight fell to save his fellows from the merciless golem of tombstones and devilwrought statuary. His final moment was not witnessed by the Brotherhood, and so it cannot be known if his final prayer to return to his Dreaming World was answered. All that is known is that he offered himself so that others might live.

Lost and aimless, the Brotherhood had wandered through the devilish and fire haunted tunnels beneath old Seaquen, swimming through water grates and attempting to reconstruct a map from memory that might help to situated their position. Blackwolf’s uncivilized instincts proved invaluable in this. Finally, a dead end was reached. Rubble blocked the water’s flow until it tumbled down a steep chute into uncertain darkness. Above, a circular shaft seemed to offer some escape. And there was a door, ironbound wooden planks swollen with moisture and some immense pressure from within.

Blackwolf shimmied up the the vertical shaft and encountered a large wooden object blocking the path, but saw some light beyond, maybe a star. He hacked at that wood until it fell away, unfortunately sweeping him down with it in a massive crash. The way was clear, but the halfling was curious about the door. The companions duly wrenched the hinges and the edifice exploded as the restrained weight of a ton of rubble spewed forth into the corridor, causing much pain.

Hours climbed the well shaft and found himself on the surface on a promontory cliff above the sea, nearby to a tall lighthouse, at the edge of town.

The Brothers decided to climb the stairs instead of Hours’ rope. They found themselves in a large basement area strewn with rubble and broken statuary. Light trickled in from a corner. Hours found a sparkling ruby diadem in another corner, the light of which mesmerized him. As he took up the jewelry the heaps of rubble heaved up with sudden vigor and formed a monstrosity of wrathfulness, a reflection of man made of the ruined castoffs of civilization. The thing moved to crush Hours, pinning him down in a corner and causing fear to come to the old Wilden’s eyes.

The Brotherhood moved to help but the thing was beyond their ken. Only through the sacrifice of Elias Juun were they able to save themselves.

The Brotherhood escaped through the well shaft and returned to the Lyceum of Seaquen. Along the way they were reunited with Driemz Darkblade, who had returned from the Tower of Timor with new and secret knowledge. He carried a slim blade with which he seemed to have formed a close relationship. Ahleena of the Torrents was with Driemz as well. She was distraught as she had just come from the house and laboratory of her professor Sidoneth who seemed greatly disturbed and had cautioned her to leave his presence, a breach of etiquette and trust that was new to the young cleric. She worried for her mentor.

At the Lyceum, the Brotherhood was happy to rest for a time and discuss with the Wizards about their researches. It seemed that the Dionem was an unfinished device meant to facilitate the control of fearsome beasts, the Tidereaver Tears meant to protect from elemental pressures, and the Book of Kreven hinted at a broad nefarious plot that endangered all practitioners of magic.

It seemed that Katrina Dio Genera had gone back into the fiery aqueduct to research the Wall of Fire. Her whereabouts were unknown.

The party did not search for her, instead recruiting one Jaunt Ellias to bring them to the house where he had brought a message to the people looking for the Brotherhood. It was a macabre looking warehouse used for the processing of fish, judging from the carts full of fish guts parked alongside the building. After some deliberation and a fruitless introduction by Jaunt, the Brotherhood surrounded the building and attacked. They encountered fierce resistance, but eventually to captive a wizard, though a halfling accomplice got away.

The wizard was called Mekong the Blusterer, a Lyceum dropout and talisman of many privateering ships who claimed that he was a great patriot of Seaquen, only one at odds with the political decisions of the establishment. Under pressure, he did admit that his quasi criminal organization had accepted funding from Ragasian factors of unsavory disposition.

Napalm Death and the Temple of Brine
Explorations of the Demon Haunted Aqueducts
The pursuit of arsonists has lead the Brotherhood into the ancient aqueducts below Seaquen where fire ruled supreme. The Fire Mage Katrina turned back to deliver the mystery to the town Magistrate and to gather tools for a ritual dispelling.

Battling with some kind of spirited ooze from the Plane of Fire reinforced Padraig’s sage suspicion that here the barriers between worlds was thin.

A collapsing ceiling drove the party north (or so the Seeker surmised) into a cool side passage where a weary attempt at rest was made upon the wet cold stones of the underground waterway.

Rest was difficult, for a scavenging mollusk happened by, questing tentacles reaching out for the limbs of Blackwolf. Another shell to be cracked.

Exploration lead to another crossroads, east towards smells and sentiments of sulfur? Or west, in salty fog, down stairs laden with the smell of rotting seaweed and encrusted with the icthyic barnacles of the stonemason’s hand.

The Brothers choose to turn west, back towards the heart of the city. Dark stairs lead down, but improbably, a draft of fresh air was smelt. An empty temple and tomb was discovered, the vaulted rooms were dedicated to placating the denizens of the ocean deeps, and it seemed to have seen recent use. Muddy spore lead the tracker through a hidden door and up a narrow stair.

The pulsing roar of the seashore was heard, for the temple abutted onto a hidden strand of beach on a great sea cave guarded by a spire of rock. Such a place could never be entered by ship. A narrow tidal beach revealed another winding stair offering egress from this oceanic grotto.

But escape was not forgone. Out upon the water a storm had gathered strength and great waves crashed against the cavern’s mouth, bringing with them creatures anathemical to the intrusion of the heathen. A swift battle with a squid the size of a horse that tried to drag Elias the Dreaming Knight into the deeps, crabs like blue horse-carts, and a man shaped thing of inestimable fishy horror left the Brotherhood of Aquiline mercy scrambling for an exit before more armies of the deep arrived.

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