The War of Horrors

Skoulos the Undying
Death takes its due from the party.

After their harrowing entrance to the Black Spire’s caverns, the party paused to rest in a seemingly-secure corridor. Mark, Turnkey and Bishop kept watch as their non-warforged companions slept fitfully in the omnipresent, surreal glow of the alien lichen. But when they awoke, Jak, Ruz and Sokos seemed more harried than rested. They related a strange, shared dream, wherein a silver-haired woman with mirrored eyes foretold a dire prophecy:

In the coming battle, none made of flesh may prevail. Two must sacrifice themselves for the good of all.

Ket remained quiet, listening to the story as if it were news to him. When asked if he had shared the same experience, he vaguely remarked that he had dreamed as well. His comrades respectfully declined to press him for further details, but they all eyed Tyrant warily.

With their wits and their skills replenished, the party returned to the Bone Gnawers’ pit. After studying the pendulum traps and the glistening spire-hives, they opted to skirt the pit’s edge and avoid both hazards. Unfortunately, despite lashing themselves together in groups of three, the slick, narrow ledge presented more of a challenge than expected.

More than a few of the mercenaries slipped into the bone pit, which prompted the gnawers to swarm and attack each time. Scrambling from the pit calmed the swarms each time, but a couple of the would-be spelunkers frequently slid into the chasm, sometimes pulling their comrades along with them. This gave the gnawers ample opportunity to attack — and, at one point, invade Ruz’s clothes. But despite their fits and starts, the group eventually made its way to the far side with a minimum of bites and slashes.

When the adventurers forged forward, they discovered an odd room. A tiled mosaic lined its walls, depicting the Daelkyr War in lurid detail — minus the daelkyr’s eventual defeat. The screaming visage of a tortured man adorned the floor, and a glowing sword hovered conspicuously above its gaping mouth. Ruz felt convinced that this blade could, in some way, help defeat Skoulos and Malikai. He didn’t know why. He just felt sure.

When Jak grabbed for the (illusory) sword, everybody suddenly felt quite unsure.

The screaming face on the floor yawned wider, and a swirling vortex sucked the party into a nauseating void. When they emerged from the other side, they found themselves scattered to the far corners of a vast, semi-natural chamber. High platforms of rock with hand-carved staircases served as their arrival points. Each plateau bore an arcane design composed of countless writhing, green protrusions. Those trained in the healing arts noticed the bumps bore a startling resemblance to villi. Those untrained in healing simply found the fleshy things repellant.

Stepping out of their respective glyphs, the party members gawked in awe at a cyclopean ziggurat rising from the cavern floor. Above it, a massive globe of living, fibrous material blazed with emerald light. It shined like a miniature sun, illuminating the field of broken skeletons and detritus surrounding the pyramid.

Whatever force had teleported them into the chamber had also relieved them of their weapons, save for Ket, whose symbiont could not be separated physically from his body. In desperation, the group searched through the ancient corpses until they discovered a motley assortment of suitable weapons, ranging from decrepit javelins to an ancient, enchanted glaive of the Dhakaani Empire. They also found an iron coffer with 79GP inside it, but survival took priority over money.

As the adventurers quietly foraged for equipment, they kept one eye on the pyramid’s apex, where Malikai stood distractedly over a pale, chitinous mass. The object looked like something resembling a sea creature’s clutch of eggs, or possibly those of a cockroach. It was large enough to hold twelve men stacked two wide and two deep, and pulsated softly before a massive stone throne.

ARISE, GREAT SKOULOS!” bellowed Malikai. And then, with a startling disregard for his own survival, he plunged an odd syringe into his chest. Four arms lifted slowly from the device’s sides, and its cylindrical chamber filled with blood. The heroes could wait no longer — if they didn’t strike soon, Skoulos might rise from his vile sarcophagus.

Metal doors flew open randomly on the zigurrat’s tiers, disgorging cultists who had been partially transformed into insectoids. A pitched battle ensued across the pyramid, and despite Malikai’s best efforts, the tide of battle turned against him.

Malikai cried out as a well-aimed javelin throw dislodged the needle from his body. He struggled to embed it into his flesh again, but a follow-up melee attack knocked it free. It clattered down the steps to the ground, where Bell grabbed it and ran far, far away.

With no hope of retrieving the infuser to awaken Skoulos, the crazed cult leader attempted to defend himself. But reinserting the agonizing probe repeatedly had left Malikai weakened and ill-prepared to fight. The party made short work of both him and his half-baked abominations. Quickly, they searched his body for any other daelkyr “surprises,” yet found little more than a wand focus and an ornate dagger.

But when Skoulos’ would-be champion fell, another thrall of the daelkyr — Ket Ahman — rose to take his place. Ket’s bond with Tyrant had, little by little, compromised his judgment and motivations. At the moment after Malikai fell, the symbiont twisted his mind sufficiently to pick up the partially-filled infuser and thrust it into the ghoulish casing.

Although the artifact’s chamber didn’t contain enough ichor to fully restore Skoulos, it certainly possessed enough to wake him. Slowly, the dread archmage rose from a thin slit in the cocoon’s skin, spilling gallons of blueish ichor as he emerged. The fiend rose to a height nearly twice that of a human, and his body was adorned with symbiont armor. His long, flowing cloak terminated in writhing tentacles.

Effortlessly, he shattered Bell. Turnkey and Mark grappled him, but even two heavy constructs found it difficult to restrain the aberration. Tyrant’s voice rang triumphantly in the mercenaries’ minds:


When Tyrant lashed out at the party using a whip-like growth, Ket committed suicide to spare his friends from further harm. Eerily, the silvery woman’s dream-prophecy sprang unbidden from their collective memories:

None made of flesh may prevail….

Horrified, the remaining party members exchanged meaningful glances with their warforged friends, who nodded solemnly and tightened their grip on the archmage. Turnkey and Mark steeled themselves against Skoulos’ lashing tentacle strikes to buy their comrades time. The others hurriedly grabbed their purloined weapons from the throne, where the teleportation trap had apparently deposited them earlier. In their haste, they also grabbed a small selection of long-forgotten offerings to Skoulos.

With heavy hearts, the fleeing party members collapsed the pillars supporting the cavern, then retreated through the arcane teleporters. As the last of them stepped into the rippling circles, heavy chunks of falling basalt crushed the pyramid’s apex. A moment later, the survivors tumbled through space into the sunken keep’s courtyard.

Where once they were six, now they were three. Half their number had perished in the effort to spare Punjar from the Plague of Skoulos, and to save their friend, Lil Paw, from a hellish fate. They had no idea if their quest had been successful yet, but they hoped so. Something good had to come from all that death and horror.

Numbly, the weary heroes gathered their wits and headed to Sagatha‘s tower. They had to check on Rhiannon before heading back to town. In fact, she might be the first indicator of their mission’s success… or failure.

Experience earned:

2,000 XP total (333 XP per player)

Equipment gained:

  • Iron coffer, containing 79GP
  • Quiver of six javelins
  • Falchion x 1
  • Wand implement x 1
  • +1 Dhakaani Glaive x 1
  • +1 Lifedrinker Bastard Sword (obsidian blade) x 1
  • +1 Magic orb (ruby) x 1
  • +1 Amulet of Protection x 1
  • +2 Dagger w/ ornate dragon hilt x 1
The Abomination Vaults
Horror surges from the depths!

After last session’s events, the victorious adventurers proceeded up the scaffolding and into the cave’s mouth. Searching the mist-choked cavern revealed two items, the first of which was a backpack containing a letter:

The appointed hour draws nigh, when the Undying One will bend to my will, and the mysteries of the unknown world will at last be revealed. We shall not invoke his name for fear of drawing his wrath, or worse, the unity of his age-old foes. Therefore, as in days of yore, he shall remain unnamed.

The Curse — long have I heard it whispered among the degenerate swamp folk, but now I see that it is much more than their foul breeding practices. It is borne by the Spire that imprisons Him, and by those foolish enough to invoke His name. But the Curse also brings power, albeit at obscene cost. But when was it ever not so?

The (burned smudge) is mine now. It is a simple thing of dried clay and mud, easily overlooked and forgotten. To think, herein lies the power of destruction; mastery over the One.

Spider eggs and maggots squirm beneath my skin. It smells of rot, but to my senses it is the perfume of triumph. The time for ascension is upon me, when the planes will align and I shall remake the world according to my will.

He calls, and I must answer.

The party also discovered a strange incense censer. The eerie fog permeating the Great Black Salt Marsh seemed to originate from the metallic device, and something about the cavern’s miasma unnerved the party. I know a secret, teased Tyrant, and now, so does HE! Ket had become accustomed to the symbiont’s psychic rambling, and did his best to ignore it.

Pausing to study the cave itself, Jak discovered a secret door — the counterpart to one that collapsed into rubble long ago on the opposing wall. Opening the concealed passage allowed the omnipresent blue-green mist to spill into the concealed space, where it slowly tumbled down a spiral staircase.

Ket explored the passageway beyond the collapsed door. An eroded set of stone stairs ascended to a short hallway with an exposed spike pit. Ket, however, knew better than to take the trap at face value. He tossed a burning torch to the pit’s opposing side, and its weight slightly tilted the floor, revealing a second, hidden pit beneath a trap door.

By now the fog had started to irritate the throats, lungs and eyes of all but the warforged adventurers. The enclosed, poorly-ventilated cave concentrated the formerly rarified vapors until the party could no longer ignore them. Scrutinizing the mist more closely, they spotted gossamer, writhing fibers coalescing within the haze, which attached themselves to everyone save the group’s constructs.

Disgusted, the affected heroes attempted to shave the fibers from their bodies and stanch the billowing gas. Ruz muffled the device with his bedroll and some rope, but something living inside the censer protested with a piercing shriek. The bone-jarring sound instantly dispelled any lingering curiosity regarding the device’s contents. As the censer rocked back-and-forth beneath the makeshift binding, the party beat a hasty retreat into the depths.

Phosphorescent lichen grew on the stones and walls below, casting a green glow just bright enough to reveal shapes and shadows, but not details. At the stairs’ terminus, a number of options presented themselves. A pair of hammered bronze doors seemed the most obvious avenues to explore. One bore the image of a man clutching at a chest wound as blood poured from his heart. The other displayed the likeness of a splayed, screaming skeleton. Above both hung a metal disc emblazoned with the symbol for Xoriat. The dread glyph suggested neither door led to a pleasing reward. But before the group could make a decision, a nauseating, ochre-colored slime oozed from an overhead chute.

The blob coursed toward the party, determined to ingest them whole in its mindless pursuit of sustenance. Together, the stalwart mercenaries battled the monster until it split into two equally-fearsome copies. Both halves expired in a gush of protoplasm when the warriors struck them down.

With the immediate threat behind them, the party took time to examine their surroundings more closely. Inspecting the chute revealed a discreetly-concealed shelf with two keys: one of blood gold with a ruby set in its bow, and the other of bone with an emerald-set bow. Their search also uncovered one more important discovery: a secret door adjoining the stairs’ landing.

After a protracted discussion, the group opted to explore the landing’s hidden passage. Following it took them to a vast chamber ringed with hammered metal doors, similar to the ones they’d seen in the previous room. Each portal bore the ominous mark of Xoriat. At the far end of the space, a massive frog idol loomed in the lichen’s sickly light. Its deformed features reminded the party of their harrowing encounter at the sunken gatehouse.

With surprising boldness, they cracked open one of the doors. Strands of thick slime stretched between the door’s edge and its frame. Behind the hammered bronze, a veined, red-and-purple membrane pulsated. Its lurid appearance shocked the mercenaries into slack-jawed silence for a moment… until a single, sharp claw sliced the vile skin from top to bottom. Foul ichor gushed from the wound, followed by a ravenous daelkyr insectoid.

An unspoken signal passed between the creature and its slumbering kin. The other insectoids burst from their chambers eagerly and surged at the hapless adventurers. During their initial defense, the party made several alarming discoveries. First, the aberrations moved with surprising speed. Second, striking them in melee combat prompted an immediate response — a retaliatory expulsion of poison. Third, striking at the insectoids in close combat carried the risk of disarmament; if the attacker missed, the monsters quickly used their hook-tipped claws to toss aside the assailant’s weapon.

The team had perhaps become too accustomed to melee combat, and had little ranged power to counter their foes. Without support from a mage, warlock, archer or other specialist, defeat seemed inevitable. But when death loomed near, something strange happened to Jak. He froze in place, and his eyes glowed brightly with a silvery, white light. Astonishingly, the insectoids also halted during this unexpected event, providing the party with a delay sufficient for a retreat.

Grudgingly, the mercenaries withdrew back into the passage through which they entered, leaving Ruz’s boar construct, Bell, to bottleneck their path. When they reached the secret door, Ket attempted to reverse his earlier lockpicking effort and re-lock the passage. Alas, it is often easier to unscramble an egg than to un-pick a lock, and his crude tools damaged the mechanism irreparably.

In a panic, the party ran for the pair of bronze doors they saw earlier. But once they crossed completely into the room, a hidden trap triggered; a thick, stone wall dropped down behind them, and the ceiling started to descend. With little time to spare, the group needed to make a decision between the Door of Blood and the Door of Bone. Hesitantly, they selected the emerald-and-bone key, slotted it into the matching lock and turned it.

Everybody rushed through the door, and an instant later, the ceiling came crashing down behind them. Backtracking wasn’t possible anymore. Worse still, Bell was lost to them, although Ruz could rebuild him with time. Only one option remained: following the hallway to its end.

After a short walk, the group emerged onto a high ledge above a bone-filled pit. Pale, alabaster stalagmites rose from below, but closer scrutiny revealed their true nature: hives, teeming with centipede-like aberrations. The vermin trooped between the bones and the columns, chewing up discarded remains and then depositing a thick, white paste on their colonies. None of the creatures took notice of the party, but the weary explorers suspected that might change if they entered the pit.

A nearly-silent swoosh, followed by a gust of air, shook everybody from their morbid observation of the bone gnawers. When the party studied the dark abyss ahead of them, its more perceptive members spotted bladed pendulums swinging through the air, each spaced carefully between the hive towers. Years of trial and error had likely taught the monstrosities where to build, and so the traps posed little threat to their colonies.

The weary heroes, however, had much to fear about their new predicament….

Experience earned:

300 XP total (50 XP per player)

Equipment gained:

  • Rations (one week)
  • Wineskin (half empty, filled with weak wine)
  • Silver daggers x 2
  • Hand axe x 1
  • Leather pouch x 1
  • 12 GP
  • 2 PP
  • Small rubies x 2 (worth 15 GP each)
  • Bone scroll case
  • Letter (see adventure log for text)
  • Blood gold key with ruby-set bow (worth 100 GP)
  • Bone key with emerald-set bow (worth 50 GP)
Cult Of The Dragon Below
Is the maiden a victim, or a monster?

After defeating the aberrant amphibians guarding the front gate, the party advanced carefully through the unearthly fog. As the party inched toward the looming Black Spire, the miasma took on a blue tint. Drums thundered ahead, and distant shadows resolved into distinct figures: a chanting woman in robes, an elven maiden tied to a crude altar, throngs of squalid cultists and a horrifying half-ogre pounding a drum with leather-wrapped femurs.

Based on the shouts and chants ahead, the group learned that the half-ogre’s name was Hiatha, and the dagger-wielding woman was Ursula. Ursula sang praises to Malikai and Skoulos as she cut deep, bloody symbols into her victim’s flesh. While the witch gleefully sliced and rambled, the mercenaries struck decisively and caught the cultists off guard.

With admirable speed and efficiency, the party slew many of the squalid brutes before they could even react. However, that didn’t stop Ursula from countering with a devastating (and disgusting) counterattack. Her jowls swelled like a bullfrog’s cheeks as she unleashed a torrential spray of blue-green bile teeming with fibrous, black worms.

Jak barely dodged the deluge, but Turnkey took an unhealthy dose directly to his face and chest. Fortunately, despite their fibrous, livewood understructure, warforged lack humanoid organs, tissue and flesh. Once the worms squirmed past his outer plates, they discovered nothing familiar to corrupt.

When Hiatha and Ursula seemed close to defeat, the witch pulled a disgusting, fleshy whistle from her cleavage and blew into it. The gruesome device issued a piecing scream, summoning more cultists from a nearby cave. Even more shockingly, a crazed, filthy dwarf astride an enormous crocodile emerged from a nearby sunken tower.

With her reinforcements at hand, Ursula pressed the battle anew. Although the witch wielded a formidable daelkyr artifact — a pulsating, black orb that drained the life from her foes — she and Hiatha soon fell alongside her degenerate minions. “Avenge me, Sagatha!” she cried to the dwarf before sinking into the muck. Her death grip crushed the unholy sphere to a pulp, spilling its black ichor into the swamp water.

Sagatha did his best to battle the party astride his fearsome war crocodile, but the group quickly pressed him back to the decrepit tower. He blew a simple, steel whistle of his own, and two more crocs stirred from the structure’s brackish inner pool. His reinforcements fared no better than their master, and they all perished swiftly under the heroes’ assault.

Caked in gore, the party paused to survey the battlefield. The warforged members of the troop explored Sagatha’s tower and its pool. Since their race doesn’t breathe, they easily marched into the murky depths and located a hidden treasure chest on a chain. Meanwhile, the remainder of the group helped the elven maiden on the altar.

“My name is Rhiannon,” she declared in a tremulous voice. With the chaos of battle now behind them, the party discovered to their horror that she was missing an arm. When asked about her circumstances, the elf responded that she had been abducted from her family’s home in the dead of night. The cultists had subsequently tortured her mercilessly, carving her flesh both for amusement and to feed their abominations. Suddenly, the piece of jewelry the group found inside a crocodile took on sinister significance.

However, the most chilling discovery was found inside Rhiannon’s wounds — more of the infectious, blue-green filth that Ursula and Paw spewed on their victims. In all likelihood, the unfortunate elf would soon transform into a ravening monster. If the party defeated Malikai, she might be spared a fate worse than death. But in the meantime, keeping her close posed an unacceptable risk.

Without explaining the nature of her affliction, the adventurers persuaded Rhiannon to hide in Sagatha’s squalid lair atop the half-sunken tower. The dwarf formerly made his home in the rafters above the crocodile pool. Flea-infested furs, an oil lamp and a smoked warthog carcass were the only “luxuries” to be found, but a thorough search of the grimy quarters also revealed two bolt cases and three filled wineskins.

Rhiannon didn’t seem thrilled about her lodgings, but without an armed escort, she had no way to return home. The party vowed to return her home as soon as possible, but defeating the cult took priority for the time being. Without further delay, they departed the watery tower and slogged toward their desination: a menacing cave far below the Black Spire.

Blue vapors drifted menacingly from the rocky opening. With more than a little trepidation, the group climbed the scaffolding leading into its ominous maw….

Experience earned:

1719 XP total (246 XP per player)

Equipment gained:

  • Chain mail x 2
  • Spear x 1
  • Serpentine ceremonial dagger (10 GP) x 1
  • Potion of healing x 1
  • Hide armor (size L) x 1
  • Spiked shield (size L) x 1
  • Morningstar x 1
  • Improvised glaives (valueless junk weapons) x 24
  • Warhammer x 1
  • Crossbow x 1
  • Bolt cases (20 bolts each) x 2
  • Filled wineskins x 3
  • 210 SP
  • 90 GP
The Sunken Moathouse
Beware the gate and its aberrant guardians!

After an awkward night’s rest on the log bridges, the party ventured deeper into the Great Black Salt Marsh. A short slog through the muck brought them to a half-sunken moathouse, once used as an outpost for the city of Punjar. After exploring the crumbling ruin’s perimeter, the adventurers discovered a deadfall trap obstructing the only non-obvious entrance: a wide gap in the fortification’s decaying walls.

A debate followed, and the group decided instead to walk through the moathouse’s neglected front gate, which now lay on its side in the swamp water. Unfortunately, the direct approach provided a perfect opportunity for the ruin’s guardians — six aberrant, giant frogs — to assault the mercenaries. Using the gatehouse’s murder holes and their long tongues, the tentacled amphibians dragged the adventurers up to the ramparts, grabbed them and tried to consume them alive.

The monsters proved horrifyingly fast and sturdy, and those caught within the frogs’ maws discovered that the misshapen beasts delivered a devastating bite. A prolonged battle followed, but the party emerged victorious… barely. Yet the conflict wasn’t without its rewards.

Ket Ahman discovered a small coffer made from living, organic material. Its texture and color resembled cockroach chitin, and its muscular hinge reminded him of an oyster. After examining the object thoroughly, he discovered that the strongbox’s ridges concealed tiny bristles. Acting on a hunch, Ket cut his finger and rubbed blood into the bristles, which surged to life on contact.

The casket opened, revealing an oyster-like interior of red, velvety flesh and a pale, maggot-like blob in the center. Ket reached out for it, mesmerized, and wrapped his hand around the repulsive, fleshy mass. It flowed and grew, changing shape as a voice resonated in the ranger’s head.

What would you have me be?

As Ket pondered the question, the image of a shortsword coalesced in his mind’s eye. The blob followed suit and shaped itself into a dark parody of his imagination. It transformed into black, barbed blade with cruel points and a grip lined with the same bristles found in the coffer’s ridges.

My name is Tyrant, the weapon announced psychically. Ket knew at once that he’d found a daelkyr symbiont. He and the blade were bound together forevermore, and nobody could ever steal the weapon from him, no matter how much he might later regret his bold decision to accept it.

Once Ket finished his dark bargain with the symbiont, the party scouted inside the walls, using the marsh’s omnipresent fog for concealment. They could hear screams and drumming ahead of them, and see the vague glow of torches burning in the haze. Cautiously, they approached din. As they drew closer to the cacophony, they could barely discern the silhouettes of several people standing in a semicircle — and one large, hulking, obviously-inhuman brute.

Experience earned:

750 XP total (107 XP per player)

Equipment gained:

The Daelkyr Corruption
An ancient evil taints the city of Punjar.

After their night of drinking, gambling and strange encounters, the party returned to their flophouse apartment on Rat Catcher’s Row. Lil Paw had stayed home to care for Jak, who still remained largely homebound after his head injury during the The Last War. Ket Ahman placed his strange trophy — a clay idol — on the nightstand and went to bed, planning to examine it more thoroughly in the morning.

But Ket’s prize held a secret inside. A secret he would have preferred to leave at the tavern. A secret that slithered free in the night.

The sound of breaking clay startled the party from their slumber. When they investigated, they discovered the statue’s pieces on the floor. Suddenly, Jak bellowed for help from the back room he shared with Paw. Everyone rushed into the squalid, dank space in time to see something slither past the helpless gnome’s lips and down his throat.

Paw convulsed violently and began developing reptilian and amphibian traits. He also started spitting a blue-green ichor replete with tiny, black worms. Healing spells did nothing to halt his transformation, and the group had to bind and gag him for both his own safety and theirs.

Helpless, frustrated and desperate, the mercenaries embarked on a cross-city race to the Temple District, hoping that the clerics of the Sovereign Host could help their friend. Although the senior members of the order were able to slow Paw’s degeneration and contain him (both by holy magic and the use of restraints), they lacked the ability to cure him.

Father Theodorus, head of Punjar’s Sovereign Host enclave, researched the situation and recognized the idol as an artifact of the Daelkyr War. Specifically, the idols were employed by an ancient half-daelkyr wizard named Skoulos. Skoulos used the idols to forcibly conscript humanoids for his bloody campaigns during the Daelkyr War.

Skoulos’ army slaughtered spellcasters all across the Shadow Marches thousands of years ago; he viewed their abilities as a threat to daelkyr supremacy. During this long, bloody purge, he confiscated books, scrolls and holy artifacts from his victims and sealed them inside the Black Library at his spire, which still looms over the Great Black Salt Marsh to this day from its ominous, rocky perch.

Recently, Theodorus has heard rumors of a cult forming in the marsh, led by an enigmatic man named Malikai. Theodorus suspects the group may be a Cult of the Dragon Below that serves the daelkyr. The party’s tale about their odd evening at the tavern only confirmed his suspicions. “If there’s a cure for your friend,” he mused somberly, “it undoubtedly depends upon stopping these fiends.”

The adventurers agreed to enter the marsh on their friend’s behalf and hunt down the cult, although they truly had little choice. During their stay at the church, more reports of strange idols and infected townspeople reached the clerics. Without intervention, Punjar might fall to an ancient epidemic of evil, and after that, perhaps all of Khorvaire.

As a gesture of support, Father Theodorus used his considerable holy power to heal Jak’s injuries and return him to duty. He also agreed to supervise Paw’s care while the group pursued their quest. After a brief stop at their apartment and the Souk to equip themselves, the stalwart band marched out into the swamp.

Before the party had even entered the deepest part of the marsh, they were beset by six large crocodiles lurking beneath some log bridges. The enraged animals jaw-locked the mercenaries’ legs and tried to drown them beneath the bridges. Fortunately, the warforged members of the group didn’t require oxygen, and others managed to fight their way free from the brackish depths.

Five of the monsters died by the party’s blades, but one escaped back into the depths, possibly to return later. Bleeding, tired and wet, the group opted to rest for the night before pressing onward into the foggy reeds and deep bogs before them. However, there was one small, literal silver lining to their dark day: a jeweled armlet discovered inside one of the gutted crocodiles.

Experience earned:

625 XP total (89 XP per player)

Equipment gained:

  • Jewel-encrusted armlet, inscribed with the name “Rhiannon.” (Value: 40 GP)
The Day of Mourning
Heroes fall as a nation dies in fire and fog.

After rescuing Lord Major Bren ir’Gadden and his aide, Aric Blacktree, from their dolgrim captors, the party took a pause to heal and rest. But as the group recuperated, a large section of the crumbling tower collapsed, injuring both Jak and Lil Paw. Worse, the rubble trapped them within a ruined stairwell, and the team lacked the means to free them.

Although the injured party members appeared stable, losing two able-bodied soldiers would have ordinarily left the unit at a severe disadvantage. Fortunately, fate smiled on the mercenary band. Earlier on the battlefield, they had been separated from two of their newer recruits — Ket Ahman and Turnkey. Combating the dolgrims bought time for the missing troops time to catch up with their comrades. The new combat roster now consisted of:

As the reunited unit considered its next move, an unexpected turn of events derailed their nascent plans. “BRING US BREN IR’GADDEN!” demanded an unseen woman outside the tower. Carefully, the group peered outside and discovered a host of Emerald Claw soldiers — most of them undead.

Mallora, a green-robed necromancer with a haughty disposition, repeated her demand, along with a promise to spare the party in exchange for ir’Gadden. Bren ordered the party to disregard her ranting and attack. Wisely, the group decided to trust their commanding officer rather than a mob of dubious, death-worshipping zealots. Without hesitation, Mallora ordered her two lieutenants (both of them living) and her eight zombie rotters (all of them quite dead) to slaughter everyone except Bren and Aric.

The necromancer’s forces ultimately met bitter defeat on the battlefield, yet despite the party’s need for support at several key points, Lord Major ir’Gadden suspiciously abstained from fighting until the very end. In fact, he seemed ready to flee whenever defeat loomed over his men. The frustrated combatants questioned their leader about this later, but ir’Gadden insisted his intent was benign. He explained that protecting his addled aide and keeping vital information out of Karrnath’s hands took priority over front-line combat. Nobody in the party felt especially convinced by his threadbare rationale.

Recriminations were quickly forgotten, however. As the fray with the necromancer raged, an ominous change transformed the sky. Arcs of lightning traced across burnt orange clouds, and an unnatural fog rolled in across Saerun Road. A chorus of screams marked the mist’s passage, followed by abrupt silence. Bren and the party watched with breathless horror as the Battle of Saerun Road yielded to the Day of Mourning. Stunned, the party struggled to understand the catastrophe unfolding before them. Then two horrifying revelations struck them like a warhammer: an entire nation had been wiped off the map, and no citizen of Khorvaire would ever sleep soundly again.

Two years later, in 996 YK, the group still struggled with the horrors they witnessed at Saerun Road. Scarred by their experiences, they took work as underpaid mercenaries in the decrepit city of Punjar, deep within the Shadow Marches. Jak and Paw continued to suffer from head wounds they acquired when the tower crumbled, and spent much of their time languishing in bed.

Those weren’t the worst injuries the group sustained during the Last War. Sometimes, when the party encountered a situation reminiscent of their war days, they experienced a post-traumatic anxiety attack. Their condition remained largely manageable, yet worrisome.

One evening, at the height of summer in the month of Lharvion, the group decided to distract themselves with a night of gambling and drinking. They went to an out-of-the-way tavern in the The Souk — The Unsleeping Eye — where they played Three-Dragon Ante with a local. The disheveled, half-crazed man rambled about a number of strange things during the game:

“‘Ware the Black Spire. There was a keep there once, but the swamp’s done gobbled it up! And it’ll do the same to anyone foolish enough to go poking around….”

“The swamp folk ain’t right. They’ve all been bred with the frog-things. Half are monstrously strong, and the rest are just demented and crazed! My brother had a run-in with one once, and it tore his arm off at the socket!”

“Skoulos the Undying is just a story used to keep the wee ones out of the swamp. The real threat is the swamp folk, with their war drums and unholy rites. They’ll call up something wicked, just you wait!”

(The crazed man sang this next part.) “Oh, there’s a keep at the foot of a black stone tower in the heart of the swamp. Hasn’t been occupied for longer than even gran’father remembers. Probably sank long ago….”

“I’ve heard tale of a boy named Malikai poking around the spire. Handsome one he is, and trained in the dark arts. Got a heart just as black as any devil, too. He’s wrong in the head, worshipping things that ought not be spoken of….”

“There’s a mad dwarf living somewhere in the swamp. He lairs with crocodiles, and they answer the call of his bone whistle. If you ever hear three high-pitched keenings, beware — your death is at hand!”

“Don’t know much about Skoulos the Old, but I’ve heard stories about his minions. Every one that crossed him was stripped of flesh, and their wounds filled with eggs, larva and maggots. When they rose up the next full moon, each was a shambling thing of vermin, worms and worse. There’s an army of them beneath that black spire, waiting to march on their master’s call!”

Partway through the game, the rambling madman ran short on cash, so he persuaded the party to accept a strange clay idol as currency. It stood approximately a foot and a half tall, and was fashioned in the image of a monstrous maiden with a woman’s lower half and a fishy, unsettling torso. Its cyclopean face bore a single ruby in lieu of eyes. Although the unwholesome sculpture disturbed the party, Ket seemed fascinated by the gruesome thing. Grudgingly, the group accepted it into the pot.

Ruz abstained from the game, choosing instead to people-watch from his seat at the bar. He noticed that many of the patrons, if not all of them, shared the same odd features as the man playing against his friends. Something about their eyes reminded him of fish, and a few had subtle webbing between their elongated fingers. Khorvaire boasts a wide range of races, many of them monstrous in origin, and so Ruz initially dismissed their appearance as an ethnic trait. Yet their attitude and ever-vigilant stares continued to pluck at his curiosity throughout the game.

A few hands later, the scraggly gambler tossed his remaining money into the pot and wandered off, seemingly unconcerned about his losses as he hummed tunelessly to himself. Once more the party wondered if they should keep the statue, but Ket’s growing obsession rendered any debate futile. Besides, the oddity provided a welcome distraction from the group’s usual malaise, and the gemstone set in its inhuman face looked valuable.

Drunk and flush with cash, the group made its way home for good night’s rest. Tomorrow they could hunt for new work, and maybe answers about their unusual prize….

Experience earned:

  • 704 XP total (117 XP per player)

Equipment gained:

  • Scale armor x 2
  • Heavy shield x 2
  • Flail x 2
  • Crossbow x 2
  • Crossbow Bolts x 30
  • Green robes x 1
  • Bone quarterstaff x 1
  • 330 GP (gambling winnings)
  • Clay idol x 1 (gambling winnings)
The Ruined Tower
Meet our heroes, circa 20 Olarune 994 YK.

Our story begins on 20 Olarune 994 YK, during the frenzied peak of The Last War. A small unit of soldiers embarked on a rescue mission near Saerun Road, just south of the Brey River. Their commanding officer, Lord Major Bren ir’Gadden, had been taken hostage by Cyran forces. Bren’s aide, Aric Blacktree, also went missing with him. Bound by duty and friendship, the stalwart unit risked their lives to enter the field of battle and save their commander.

The unit consisted of six highly-skilled recruits:

Together, they managed to track, interrogate and deduce their way to the kidnappers’ lair — a ruined tower overlooking the battlefield. Although they entered cautiously, a pack of hatchling kruthiks attacked them on sight. Worse still, the kruthiks seemed to serve a pair of formidable dolgrims. A pitched battle ensued both outside and inside the tower.

Combat raged between the opposing forces for some time. Partway through the melee, the group spied something unusual inside the tower: a Draconic Prophecy Mark. The mark radiated from deep below the tower in an eerie, circular pattern that pierced stone like a pane of glass. Within the mark, Aric Blacktree languished in a stupor, chained to the wall by his sadistic captors.

When only one bloodied, beleaguered dolgrim remained, it retreated to the Prophecy Mark and threatened Aric’s life if the unit didn’t retreat. The group refused, but Bren called out from an unseen corner with strict orders to leave. Nonetheless, the party remained undeterred… even when the dolgrim shot an arrow through Aric’s arm.

Jak made clever use of his combat skills, and the dolgrim met a gruesome end inside the Prophecy Mark. Aric survived, although his prolonged exposure to the mark left his wits addled. Quickly, the group freed their commanding officer and his aid, then settled in to lick their wounds.

As the group studied the Prophecy Mark, its message resonated in their minds:

Seven at the brink of desolation stand as one against the tempest’s roar.

Experience earned:

  • 598 XP total (99 XP per player)

Equipment gained:

  • Light shield x 2
  • Club x 2
  • Crossbow x 2
  • Crossbow Bolts x 35
  • Manacle key x 1

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