Scattered Jewels of Southsea

Session 6: Experimental Vault 23
In which a mist is troublesome, two teams are dispatched, the city is left behind, a variety of chasms are discovered, a delta is found, a bridge is crossed, a door is opened, mechanical men are fought, a collar is found, and many things are named.

“I have gone to find Wind,” read the note. Gwen was disappointed but not surprised to find it when she returned that morning to the rest of the group at the Lusty Lion; she knew Relic had a strong sense of duty and would go to whomever needed his help most. But she would still miss him.

The next few weeks were a flurry of activity as Anton put itself back together again. Gwen and Finneus and Amatharn and Withervine were often called in to help with this or that; most of the direct threats had been dealt with, but there were still a few cases where a group of warriors was called for. Mostly there was simply destruction and general disarray.

So a week after the Upheaval when a paige arrived it was nothing new; by now most of the city was somewhat familiar with the group and called on them when needed. But this was a summons from Elder Arcturus, which meant it was a problem larger than some odd bug or fiend.

They arrived at the Elder’s house later that evening and waited in the lobby. Mateus was there, as was Emton; each of those groups had been fulfilling a similar role in the aftermath, and it was not uncommon for paths to cross. But whatever the Elder had planned was obviously important if all three groups were summoned.

“Anton is starving,” the old man began as he swept into the sitting room. “The gate was fixed and we can get supplies into the city, but the fields outside are not what they used to be. A devilish mist hangs to the ground and a malaise follows it; you’ve no doubt seen it settle into some parts of the city of late.” The nodded; the stuff was easy to spot. “And so I have two tasks that need doing: we need someone to head to Ceris and determine if they can provide us with more food. And we need someone else to go to Tierm and discover if they are behind this dreadful mist.”

Finneus looked at the assembly. Emton was undoubtedly the leader of the Canaries, and Mateus was the field commander of the Lightbearers. But for the third, unnamed group he belonged to, no leader could be reliably determined. Their membership seemed to shift every day, and whoever spoke first was the voice of the group at that time. He decided to be that voice now. “We have some experience down in Tierm; it may be best if we venture that direction. Mateus, I trust, can secure the grain shipments?”

Mateus was not sure if he had just been told he was doing the easier job or complimented on his manifest ability to do it. “We would be more than happy to go to the seat of Pelor.” Emton smiled; he was setting his group up, as much as he could, as the defenders of the city, and he was happy to stay and get more face time.

They set out the next morning. At first there was nothing more than the long, ancient road and the ever-present mists. But roundabout sunset the road simply vanished. In the space of about fifty feet the bricks began to have spaces between, and the spaces grew until the road was no more. Pressing on through the plains the next morning, they began to see rifts in the ground; huge scars that grew wider and wider until they came at last to Withervine’s Chasm, which Finneus named on the spot when Gwen denied making it. Some hundred feet across and with a dangerous-looking river at the bottom, they decided to veer east toward the Lightbearer’s Monastery, but they soon found themselves on a brand-new coastline with jagged cliffs and large, mesa-like islands. Gwen’s Delta could have been navigated, but there was no way that Nathan was going to make it down those cliffs, so back to the west they went. Two days march found them at Amatharn’s Tunnel, where the chasm’s river went under an arch that spanned the ever-thinning chasm. As they walked across the rock bridge they noticed an odd pair of doors set into the south wall of the chasm, and decided to investigate.

Gwen, having the most experience with mysterious doors in the middle of nowhere, was lowered down the cliff face on a rope by Amatharn. She attempted to discern the door’s markings and to make use of a small contraption on its side, and was eventually successful, but the effort took most of the day. Inside, Finneus extracted an Everburning Torch from the Bag of Holding on his belt. He gestured at the walls, which were inscribed in Primordial: “Experimental Forge 23”. More disturbing, the ground seemed to have been heavily trafficked very recently. This was a place of unimaginable power that had seen use. They moved further into the complex to see if they could find out more. As soon as they did so, the walls lit up. The system was aware of them.

The staging hall was in the center, and when they approached a cart-sized metallic contraption spun a mask toward them asked for identification. “Gwen Firebrand,” the Genasi said.

“Invalid user!” the box squawked, and sparks flew from it. Two warforged dropped from pods at the top of the room and advanced. Amatharn, ever quick on her feet, ran forward. She took up a spot in the center of the action, trying to draw attention away from her more vulnerable comrades; she was no Relic but she would do her best. Finneus cheered her on, his words causing the metal men to stumble close enough that she could swipe at them. Swinging around the fray, Gwen found a small panel full of levers that seemed to control the cart-sized Warder. Withervine opened his jacket and withdrew a tangle of vines, which he threw onto the Warder. They grew instantly to cut the battlefield in twain with a huge thorny wall. Everyone began throwing warforged into it. But the machines kept appearing out of hatches and hidden doors, and soon Finneus was behind the thorn wall, surrounded and being shot at by the Warder. Amatharn was forced to fall back and Withervine was pinned against a wall and a ledge. When Gwen managed to cut the power to the Warder things quickly got better; one by one the contraptions fell, and the group stood, hurt, amidst the pieces.

Finneus, as was his wont, sang a song. For this occasion he sang his own song, about his life on the farm and his unrequited love for the barmaid in the town pub. He sang of her heartbreak as the travelers would leave her, and his heartbreak as she refused his advances. He sang of her finally leaving, and of his own decision to go out and see the world to prove himself as interesting as any man. The tune was sorrowful, and they all counted the number of allies they had counted friends and had now lost, and they all set in their minds that they would go forth and prove they were worthy of those who had come before them.

They climbed the stairs and found a control room. A large desk was set near a window looking down into the staging hall, and this time the identification of “Gwen Firebrand” was met with a “Are you a Remnant User?” Not knowing what that meant but not one to pass up the opportunity, she said yes, and the arcane brain inside the walls began to talk to them. “Welcome to Experimental Vault 23,” it said, “I apologize for the mess; we seem to have had some intruders.”

They convinced the brain to tell them all about its 900 year history, to provide a map of the Rookhold Mountains where it believed itself to be located, and the locations of the other forges it knew of (but had long ago lost connections with). The system was persuaded to reveal that the working 900 of the 1000 warforged units in the vault had been taken by “Remnant User Derick” not a week before, and that the forge was currently able to maintain systems but unable to create new units. Finneus fabricated a security breach and got access to images of Derick and locked the system to Gwen’s user with a passcode of “Geneva Epsilon Alpha Zeta.” And the system told them about the Treasury.

The Treasury was on the other side of the staging area, and contained some modest coffers and a large locked chest. The arcane brain gladly opened it when asked, and inside was a metal band large enough to be a Collar. Gwen held it close and saw a rune inscribed on the side. “There’s some Primordial here. Tenacity, it says. And then this looks Dwarven.”

She handed it to Finneus, who squinted and nodded. “Stalwart. Next to that is Elven, where it says ‘Sentinel’, and then ‘Vengeance’ in Abyssal. And this last one is unknown to me. Anyone?” He showed it around, but no one had a clue. “Let me consult my books.” He reached into the tiny bag on his belt and withdrew a large tome, and then a set of goggles and a vial of some greenish fluid. He poured the fluid into the goggles, looked up a few numbers in the book, and then put them on to examine the words again. “Ah yes,” he said, “I should have recognized the corruption of Supernal. It’s Draconic. It reads ‘Punishment’.”

Gwen took it back from him. She rolled it in her hands, looking over each word again. “Tenacity, Stalwart, Vengeance, Sentinel, and Punishment.” She put a hand on either side and spun it between her fingers. Then, with one swift motion, she slid it over her head and around her neck. She collapsed to the ground immediately.

The others gathered around. The Genasi was always curious, but most didn’t expect her to be so brash. They huddled down and tried to revive her, and when that failed they checked her vitals. She seemed fine, and so they found themselves waiting. In a moment she was shifting, then muttering, then opening her eyes. Finneus leaned over from the spot on the ground he’d taken next to her, “How’dya feel, lass?”

“I feel well. Quite well. Stronger, even.” She sat up, “I feel great, actually. I feel like going and beating down some guys.” She stretched and then stood up.

Withervine arched an eyebrow, “You look better.” He pointed at her arms, which were suddenly larger. “Like you’ve been working out in your sleep.”

Gwen patted herself down, “Yes, I feel it. Like I’ve gotten an infusion of something.” She put a finger on the collar and drew it along the smooth curve. “I can hear it talking to me. Just barely. It’s a whisper in the back of my mind. It’s teaching me, I think. It wants me to go out and use this. And I want to. Let’s go make some trouble.”

New Questions

New Quests

  • Go to Tierm to find out if they are the cause of the Mist
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Upheaval Survivors

You might live here in Anton
You might live way out there.
I mightn’t know you from Adam,
But there’s something we both share.

We both lived through the night
When change was all about
We both lived through the fright
The Upheaval and the doubt.

We saw the world shift and boil
We saw the skies redraw
We saw our centuries toil
Slip into history’s maw.

But we share one more thing
A trait that links us close
We still have breath to sing
And that’s what matters most.

This world is new;
oh, that is true,
And indeed so are we
But what is made out of it is up to you and me.

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Steward
Finneus has a burden he'd rather not bear

I had recognized Elder Sexton as soon as we saw him. He had a reputation, and I was unsurprised that the darker rumors I had heard proved true. When I snuffed out the darkness that animated him, I knew it was a mercy to him and the world. I felt no compunction about snatching the little Orb he had so desired, along with the contents of his pockets.

But I’ll admit that the Upheaval gave me pause. The timing was just too perfect; a dark wizard and a tainted general die mere steps from each other, and then the world ends? I’ve been around too long to chalk that up to coincidence.

But I had a more immediate burden to bear; that little Orb needed a history and I needed to decide its future. I set out to find the former and use it to create the latter. I started, as was appropriate, by fetching Nathan from the camp outside the city.

That task was no simple affair. I quickly discovered the oddities of this new world, and passed by too many an opportunity to do a little good. But I needed my supplies and my bearings, and once I had them I could set about my work.

Sexton Manner was my primary point of interest, but all alone I was no match for the imps in the ruin. So I set out to find the only fighting force I knew was in the area; Withervine, Bluce, and the odd assortment of hangers-on (including Gwen!) they had amassed. From the Town Square they were easy enough to track, and a few coppers in the right hands led me to the Penny Ante. I should have guessed: everyone always ends up at the Penny Ante.

I directed them to the Elf Quarter and watched the ensuing battle, sad that I could not yet trust them with the burden in my pocket. When they set off for the gate I set off for the Town Archive, and found what I needed: the story and picture of the Black Eye of Anton was too perfect a match to not be the trinket I carried.

I would be a great fool to put down here anything about what I did with the Eye, and as I am not a great fool I shall avoid doing so.

But suffice to say I was there at the gate when Tennon arrived to fix it, with the others in tow. I will need help if I am to find a more permanent solution, and these few have at least proven themselves worthy candidates. Let us see, now, if they are worthy allies.

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Session 5: Fixing the Gate
In which a rest is taken, a forest is invaded, a battle is met, a will is bent, a monk is delivered, an audience is denied, a gate is fixed, and an old friend is found.

It was nearly six in the morning when Tennon was ready to go, and everyone was exhausted. Most were pushing toward twenty four hours without sleep, and they had seen a dozen battles since they’d last seen beds. So while it was true that there was not a moment to lose, the decision was made to find shelter and have a few hours rest.

“How shall we get over to the Elf Quarter?” Gwen asked idly as she sipped a dark tea the next morning. The wreckage if this part of town made it impossible to find a proper hotel but trivial to just make camp in the rubble, which they had done.

“We might be able to swing through Town Square directly and avoid any other entanglements.” Amatharn said.

“But what of the forest in the north?” Relic asked. He had no need of morning comestibles but enjoyed sharing a campfire with friends. “If there are people there in need of aid we should provide it.” Gwen smiled into her tea; she liked how forthright Relic had become, how direct a line he drew between principle and action.

“I would be interested in the forest as well,” Withervine said, "to discover if it is another feywild incursion or” –he smiled at the thought– “the Northern Forest fighting back against the urban invaders.”

Tennon looked gruffly on as the discussion progressed. He knew he had a task ahead of him and wanted to get to it, but knew from the stories he had already heard that the city was too dangerous to travel on his own. He needed these people to escort him, and he needed them to get his tools, and he needed them to make the city safe again. These were areas outside his expertise, and so he sat quietly, wishing he could be of more help.

With no dissents, they set out to the north to find where the trees began. As they progressed everything seemed to become more and more overgrown: vegetable gardens were waist-high; trees were as thick around as towers, even the flowerpots on windowsills had vines shooting out, covering whole houses in flowers and giving the area a bizarrely beautiful multi-hued feel.

And then they turned a corner and there was no more city; just the Northern Forest. In between trees they could make out the ruins of buildings, and they spotted a fountain submerged in a small pond. A mighty oak had a wagon clutched in its boughs, held tightly forty feet off the ground.

Peering into the dark woods, the creaking of moving wood the only sound before them, they wondered what became of the buildings that used to be in this section of town, and the inhabitants therein. Just then, a tonsured man in green robes tapped Withervine on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” he said, “but I do wonder if you could help me find my way to the Temple of Melora, which used to stand not two blocks that direction” and he pointed into the woods.

Withervine looked at the man skeptically. “Are you aware of what’s going on around here?”

He tilted his head back and forth,“I know that this forest wasn’t here when I went to the market last night, and I know that a great many things have appeared, but I also know I have a backpack full of provisions for the Brothers in the temple and I need to get back home.” He paused for a moment, then looked surprised at himself. “Oh, excuse my manners: I am Brother Verdant.”

Withervine shook his head slowly, then gazed into the woods, “These trees are typical for the area. We’re not looking at a plane shift here. But obviously the trees aren’t normally destroying buildings at quite this rate.” He strode under the canopy an everyone followed him, trying to keep up with his elven pace. “I see some difference in the soil between those places where,” he pointed, “the trees have overcome pavement and foundation, versus those places,” he pointed the other direction, “where the new trees brought new ground along with them.”

Tennon saw a great opportunity to build anew. Verdant saw a great opportunity to let the world heal.

Now Gwen was pointing at the ground, “These paths follow along the old roads, roughly. That meadow used to be a square. So navigation might yet be possible.”

Withervine shook, sprouted feathers, and took to the sky as he became a small bird. He surveyed the surroundings, located the temple dome, and returned to the party to point the way. Soon they were standing at a row of yew trees so thick they could not cross. Relic hefted himself over, and from the inside was able to find a cleft large enough for everyone to squeeze through. Relic gathered everyone together, “Knowing how well received we have been elsewhere, we should be careful as we approach.”

The temple looked nearly untouched. The remains of the road were still outside, and a small portion of the wall had collapsed, but the great dome and all the towers were still in perfect condition. All was not well, however; banging on the door were three large, shaggy forms, and a beautiful woman was behind them, riding a giant ant and calling out to the people inside.

Relic’s caution was rewarded; there was enough time to move into defensive positions before they were noticed. Gwen conjured a Punishing Eye in the gate, and when the giant shaggy creatures charged, pinning Relic into the gate, the Punishing Eye made them regret the choice. Amatharn flitted behind and flanked, but the leaner one plowed straight through the vampire and the warforged, ending by barreling into Gwen. Withervine called forth vines and pinned him to the ground, but his terrible howl drove Gwen next to Relic and into the claws of the others.

Amatharn finally felled one just as the woman dismounted and sent the giant ant into the fray. To make a bad situation worse, the woman then sang a bewitching tune and caused Relic to hit Gwen twice, with each blow a perfect swing. Amatharn took down another of the shaggy beasts just as the woman threw a small flower across the field. It hit Withervine and the elf staggered back, then slumped on the ground asleep. Relic, meanwhile, had come to his senses and was trying to keep the ant away from a staggering Gwen. When the woman tried to run, Amatharn dissolved into a cloud of bats and dragged her back into the fray. Gwen landed the blow that killed her, a moment after the ant fell for the final time. The last shaggy creature attempted to run, but Withervine cut him down.

“Sasquatches,” the elf said, poking at one with a boot. “And a Spring Nymph. All of this world, though ancestrally of another.”

Relic was apologizing to Gwen, “The song seeped into me; I could not control myself.” Gwen was nursing the two large gashes in her arm and trying to sound as if they hurt less than they did as she forgave her creation. Withervine was now examining the Nymph.

Brother Verdant emerged from behind the tree he had used as shelter and walked toward the door. Tennon kept back; there was no telling what was inside.

As if on cue, the door swung open and a smiling man poked his head out. “Brother Verdant! We were wondering if you would find your way back! And with friends of the best sort: those who help strangers in need.”

Brother Verdant ascended the stairs, “A lucky find, Brother Aarin.”

Relic was pleased to hear that. Amatharn stepped forward, “And are you still in need? Or have we eased your troubles enough for the day?”

Aarin did not miss the implication, “Oh, you’ve done wonderfully, and I shall thank you with some of the money from our coffers if that is what you wish.”

“You are aware,” Gwen said, “That the forest has destroyed the entire Temple District?” She hooked a thumb behind her.

Aarin’s right eyebrow peaked. “Of course.” He paused, and then realized that more was expected of him. “Isn’t it lovely?”

“Followers of Melora,” Relic sighed, shaking his head.

After obtaining their reward, they started west. They took the north road above the Belltower, and moved into the Elf Quarter via yet another route. They came to a high estate wall with a person on top dressed in a white tunic; emblazoned on the front was a left-hand fist sable in a sun argent. The symbol was the Lightbearers‘, Fenrial’s band of anti-Defiler guerillas. When they rounded the wall– guard watching attentively the whole time– and reached the gate, two more people dressed in the same tunics stood at the ready, one of whom Withervine recognized from nights spent around a campfire on a long trek north with an army at your back: Mateus.

“Settled in already, are we?” Withervine asked.

“No thanks to you and your–” Mateus looked around, “You seem to have found different company. Let’s hope they’re a better lot.”

The elf sighed. He was used to people not especially liking him– his job was not exactly glamourous– but he preferred they dislike him for the right reasons. Sunder had killed Fenrial without any help from him. “Sunder acted quite alone, I assure you.” He neglected to mention that he had known she wanted to do it. No use muddying the waters further.

Mateus did not look convinced, “Your assurances are not worth much in my book right now.”

Relic tilted his head, “We have spent the last few hours roaming this city helping people, fighting intruders, and trying to fix a broken city gate that could starve the town. Does that count for nothing in your book?”

Mateus pursed his lips, began to speak, and then thought better of it. “A broken city gate, you say?”

Relic had geared up for a fight and wasn’t ready for the change in direction. “Uh… yes. The western door is off its hinge; Tennon here is going to fix it.”

Mateus glanced behind him into the manor grounds, “Kelund will likely wish to hear about this.”

“Kelund?” Relic asked.

“Our leader here in town.” Mateus blurted out before he thought better of it, “He was second in command until last night, when Sunder gave him an unexpected and undesired battlefield promotion.”

Amatharn stepped forward. She didn’t think the elf and the warforged were the best face for the group in this situation. “We would appreciate being able to tell him all about it.”

Now it was Mateus’ turn to be unprepared for a sudden change. This woman was quite a bit more likable than the other two, and he had a fresh grudge to hold. “I don’t seem to think that’s very advisable. The last time a group of adventurers got close to my leader it didn’t work out too well.”

Now Gwen stepped forward. “You can’t think that every lot of people who are trying to make this world a better place will treat you the same. I’ve been in town for years; my membership in this group should speak to its quality, I think.” Mateus was getting annoyed at this parade of interlocutors, but his fellow guardsman had mentioned this one when the group had first turned the corner. She was a merit for them.

Withervine looked around, “Why exactly do we want to meet Kelund? Mateus here can deliver a message; we have other things to attend to.”

Relic ignored him. He didn’t want to be thought of as a bad influence. His minds’ eye returned to Anton, a History, and he scanned it for references to these Lightbearers. “Have the Lightbearers always been servants of Pelor?” He asked just as Amatharn began to tout the many things they had seen and the information they could provide.

Mateus shook his head, “I see no reason to speak to any of you anymore. Please go away and leave us in peace. I have had enough of your nonsense.” He motioned to someone inside the grounds, and when they strode forth he strode away.

“Didn’t need to go in there anyway.” Withervine said as he turned and left. No one was happy to have alienated these people, but there was nothing to be done about it now.

Another block in and they came to Neydis Manor, still standing behind its privacy hedge. Tennon walked in nonchalantly and pointed to his tools in the yard. They were huge, but Relic dutifully stood in the center and loaded them onto his arms. “We have a gate to fix and a city to save,” he said when the last bag was placed and he began south.

They tried to avoid Via and the Fey forest in the Town Square, but the side road they took ended abruptly in a quick-flowing river nearly sixty feet across. They walked east up the banks back to the spring and took Via the rest of the way down. As they approached they saw Finneus sitting near the gate, lute in hand and a tune on his lips.

Finneus portrait

“Well that took ye long enough, did’n it?” he smiled.

“Where have you been, then?” Gwen asked. Relic was busy putting down his load, and Tennon was inspecting damage.

“Oh, here and about.” he swung his arm in a wide circle, “Been keepin’ tabs on you lot but been quite busy m’self.”

“Finneus, is it?” Relic asked when he was unencumbered. “I am Relic.”

Finneus shook the warforged’s hand, and pointed from Gwen to Relic and back again. “Relic? The Relic?” he seemed impressed when Gwen nodded.

Amatharn patiently waited her turn to introduce herself. “Hello, madame.” Finneus bowed, “I am pleased to meet your acquaintance.” He looked around and frowned, “Where has Bluce gotten off to?”

Withervine shrugged, “He fell into the mists surrounding the Belltower. There was no body– we looked– so we assume he survived. He likely went after Sunder.”

Finneus nodded and shrugged, “Makes as much sense as anything does. Rinkle saw Sunder leave earlier, to go rejoin the army outside. But he didn’t mention anything about Bluce.”

“Finneus,” Withervine interrupted, “Do you still have that Orb you took from the Defiler? It’s rather important.”

“The Black Eye?” Finneus said, “No, I don’t have it with me. It’s not a thing you like carrying around.”

Withervine nodded. The bard didn’t seem to be understanding. “What have you done with it?”

“Well first I determined what it was, and then I put it somewhere safe. And before you ask, I’m not going to be telling everyone; it’s not something I’d like to be found again.” He strapped his lute onto Nathan and turned back to them.

“How did you determine what it was?” Gwen asked. Finneus was trying to get someone to ask for a story and she had no problem being the one to do it.

“Well first I checked Sexton Manor, but had to get some help with the infestation surrounding it,” he smiled, “I appreciate your doing Jil a favor in that regard. I then suspected the Orb’s origin and went to the Town Archive, where I was able to find this page that I believe you are missing.” He reached into his pocket, withdrew an illustration of the Eye, and handed it to Relic.

Relic placed it into his book and read the caption. “See article?”

“Aye, a lovely little tale. Of course ye all know the gate precedes the city, and that the city has but one gate. The reason why was that Eye. It leveled entire armies when they came, and protected the city from all comers. But eventually– about two hundred years ago– they Eye started frying’ random travelers. The mayor at the time plucked it out, hid it where no one would find it, and then summarily disappeared himself not a month later.”

“But somehow,” Gwen said, “The Defiler found it. What did he want to do with it?”

“Exactly what he did do with it, I think: he summoned a load of demons and tried to bring Anton closer to the Abyss. He likely thought he’d benefit from that arrangement somehow, but I’ve no idea why.”

Amatharn didn’t know this fellow from Adam, and so she had been watching him closely the entire time. But nothing in this story seemed wrong to her, and much of it fit exactly with what they had discovered.

“So now you’ve hidden the Eye and… what?” Relic asked.

“Oh, I intend to destroy it; it’s a foul little thing, corrupt through and through. But no means are currently at my disposal, and so I wish to join your forces once more to begin the search.” He gave a flourish and a ridiculous bow, held it for long enough it became comical, then arched an eyebrow, “If’n you’ll have me.”

He waited for a denial, then stood and smiled, “You’ve all done a great amount of good within these city walls, but there is a lot more world outside than in, and I reckon we might find some good to do out there. What say ye?”

They all exchanged glances. The world had changed, and so had they. But now it was time to make the best of it.

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To save Anton!
Its the perfect place to be

Relic portrait

I could think of a wide variety of more mundane places to have woken up. A rarity to see my friends, but this town is proving to be full of more and more oddities. Demons, devils, elementals, wraiths, fey creatures, monstrous spiders. These aren’t your typical city-dwelling threats. I’ve seen my fair share of threats in the past, but not nearly so many as within a normal town as this one. This town is full of danger since the world was turned upside down.

Its the perfect place for me to be right now.

Adventurers across the world go out and seek danger. They smite threats across the world and ensure the points of civilization stand strong throughout the world. Now the threats come directly into Anton itself, and the safety of hundreds is in jeopardy. My friends and I have seen an entire ocean smashed into the city walls, a rampaging forest throughout cheapside, and even a portion where the entire earth seemed to smash into buildings. Everywhere we’ve gone people have been in need of help. I can only hope that we got to as many citizens in need as we could.

We’ll help everyone in need, there’s no doubt about that. We can’t let anyone come to harm. But I can’t help wonder, how all of this happened in the first place. How the world seemed to have shifted so suddenly. How visitors from across the planes are all now present in this once-normal town. Hopefully we’ll be able to find answers soon.

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Session 4: Broken Gate, Doomed City
In which a statue is unidentiable, many spiders are slain, a basement is discovered, a gnome is rescued, an old tale seems interesting, a forge is found, and a dwarf is unearthed.

As they come closer to the broken city gates, they spotted the Lusty Lion Tavern, a four-story affair for the well-to-do traveller. The Tavern seemed to be in perfect condition, even though the buildings on every side had been flattened. A crowd was gathered out front, and Turly the innkeeper was addressing them and asking for forgiveness: “I have no idea what’s going on, either! But I can assure you my tavern is kept clean, and those giant bugs were not there this morning, just as that monument there was not!” He pointed to a spire across the way, upon which an unidentifiable blob of long-worn statuary rested. This did not seem to quiet his guests.

Relic tried to make an investigation of the statue in question, but it was just a lump of stone that vaguely resembled a person. It looked as if it had seen a hundred years of torrential rain.

Withervine was asking the small innkeeper what kind of bugs they had seen. “Huge ones,” he said, holding his arms out wide. “Eight legs each and fighting mad! They got this poor woman good,” and he gestured at a nearby lady in torn gown, blood on her calf.

Gwen stepped forward and offered a bandage and an understanding smile. Her many hours of hospital work were evident to all, and the angry mob calmed down a bit now that someone was doing what they considered the “right things.”

Relic gestured inside, and the other sin his party followed him. The lobby to The Lusty Lion was spacious and swanky, with a large fountain and a huge chandelier dominating the main room. A restaurant to the north was quiet, and a waiting room to the south appeared so as well. Relic led the inspection swiftly, moving the group in a tight formation that barely flinched when the first spiders jumped out from under the waiting rooms’ couches.

At first it seemed that this was to be a quick battle involving no exertion and lots of crushed exoskeletons, but the little ones seemed to have a poison that made the big ones’ bites hurt more, and soon the entire party was pinned in the midst of a swarm of arachnids. When another jumped into the middle Gwen decided to drop one of her clockwork bombs, and when it went off the battle finally turned. The little ones began to fall, and soon the big ones were flanked and outnumbered, then dead.

A quick search of the hotel revealed no more spiders, but did find the beginnings of nests in the basement. When they reported their conquest to Turly outside, Gwen noticed that the buildings around the Lusty Lion had a pattern to them: each was leaning away from the inn, and the inn had encroached onto every neighboring lot. The inn had grown, somehow, and Turly confirmed it: “There’s three extra windows on each floor!” Giving him an escorted tour revealed new tables in the restaurant, new rooms upstairs, and an entire new basement beneath the kitchen. He happily paid to be back in control of his inn.

Money in hand, the next stop was the city gate. The fact of the damage was evident from afar, but the extent of the damage was visible only here, at the base of the great gates. Each gate was designed to swing back and forth on a pair of massive hinges, but the top hinge on the west gate was torn off its bearings in the quake and was now wedged firmly into the east gate. There was a crack where the two meet big enough for a person to squeeze through and escape the city, but there was no chance that enough food was going to get through that crack to feed everyone inside. The gate was going to need to be fixed or torn down pretty quickly.

Gwen eyed the west tower, her mechanical knowledge tracing the gates’ mechanism into it. A nearby building had collapsed and covered the base with rubble, though, and the door inside was inaccessible. “We need to get in there.”

Relic and Amatharn got to work moving the rocks aside, and with robotic and vampiric strength made quick work of the job. Soon the door swung open, and Gwen stepped inside and found a grumpy little gnome who identified himself as Rinkle, the Gatekeep. “Thank you lot; I was beginning to get lonely.”

They filled the gnome in on the changes in the city, and though he at first questioned their sanity he quickly came to believe them.

“How do we fix the gate?” Gwen asked. It was times like these that she couldn’t decide if fixing people or things was the priority.

Rinkle inspected the damage. “I’d imagine Tennon would be the one we need. He replaced the hinge on the east side not a year ago. He’s up in the Temple District, near the East Wall.” Gwen nodded; she had dealt with Tennon before.

They turned to leave, and the gnome smiled, “If you see the Black Eye laying about you could bring that back and really fix the Gate.”

“The What?” Gwen asked.

Rinkle shook his head, “The Black Eye of Anton. It’s been lost for a long, long time. They plucked it out many years before I came here, on account of it frying people.” He wiggled his fingers and pantomimed a beam flowing from his eye outward.

“Was it a part of the gate?” Relic asked.

“Yes, it was…” he pointed up, then shook his head and squeezed out the crack between the gates. He pointed to the apex of the arch, where a small round hole sat empty. “It was there, but they plucked it out. I don’t know the whole story, but they have it in a book in the town archive.”

“You mean this book?” Relic said, withdrawing Anton, a History from his bag.

Rinkle scowled. “Yes, that book! What are you doing with that; it belongs in the archive! Go put it back where it goes!”

Relic flipped through the book, but he found no reference to the Eye. “I guess we know which page is missing.” he said to the group.

Rinkle was covering his brow and squinting. “How many of the army is still out there?” he asked, peering south, “These glasses do me no good at this distance.”

Despite the dim light Amatharn had no trouble seeing the camp on the hills quickly being broken down, and reported as much. “I should best stay away from the Raven Queen’s Army,” she said, before anyone could suggest an approach be made.

“Have you seen anyone from the army coming into town?” Gwen asked Rinkle.

“From the army?” the gnome replied, “I really couldn’t say, but there have been a couple dozen people come in and out of the gate these last few hours. Looking for someone in particular?”

The question went unheeded; there was already talk of the best way to get to Tennon. Most groups would head up Via and make their way through the Temple District, so as to avoid the purse snatchers and muggers in Cheapside. But no one was going to be snatching or mugging this group, and there was still the matter of the slum where the suspicious character from the Penny Ante had fled. They made their way into Cheapside.

It was well after 2am when they came across the marked building. Withervine made sure it was the same place, and then Relic knocked on the door. When there was no answer, Gwen tried the knob. When it swing open easily, Relic called inside. When there was no answer, Gwen pushed Relic inside. And that’s when the screaming began. “Get out!” she screamed, over and over. Small items that came to hand were thrown at the Warforged, and eventually he  relented and moved back outside. He tried knocking again but the woman merely kept screaming at him to leave her alone. Everyone joined Amatharn in walking swiftly away.

As they approached what used to be the eastern wall of the city they saw that the changes here were of a particularly destructive sort; the slope of the ground had shifted, and a great many of the buildings in this district were split in two by the change. The cobblestone roads here were not filled in, and there were large gaps where new land had sprung into existence, giving the ground the look of an old patchwork quilt.

When they got closer to the wall it became evident that it was not exactly a landslide that had torn down the wall and caused the devastation: the mountain seemed to have grown outward and slammed through the wall. The ashlars were spread about the area, thrown from the wall by the force of the mountain’s attack.

They were marveling at the destruction when they came across a very well-dressed dwarf. She was pacing back and forth looking panicked, and her eyes were darting about as if she’d lost something. Withervine quickly identified her as Elder Geela, and Amatharn quickly found that she was looking for the forge she owned with her husband, Tennon.

Finding the forge amidst the destruction proved difficult: the buildings in this part of town were badly damaged, and there even seemed to be some shifting of the ground around where things used to be. But eventually they found the sign for the forge, and some digging revealed that Tennon and his workers were safe inside, albeit buried alive. Excavating them proved more difficult than finding them, with the whole building nearly collapsing in on itself on two different occasions. But eventually each dwarf stepped out into the starlight and headed home.

“We were actually looking for you,” Amatharn said.

“The gates are broken,” Gwen nodded. “And Rinkle sent us to fetch you to fix it.”

Tennon looked tired, but nodded, “The trouble will be that my tools here are in no condition to travel, and many of them aren’t even here at all.”

Gwen knew the importance of the right tools. “Do you know any other sets that would suffice?”

Tennon thought, “I was building a staircase in the Elf Quarter at Verdant Manor. I should have what we need there. If you could escort me I would appreciate it. But please let me speak with my wife for a moment before we depart.” He retreated and spoke quietly to her for a few moments, then returned. “Let us be going. We haven’t a moment to lose.”

New Questions

  • What is the story of the Black Eye of Anton? Where did it come from? Where did it go?

Answered Questions

  • The Upheaval seems to have made the Lusty Lion bigger, in addition to the other things its done.

New Quests

  • Fix the City Gate so that Anton won’t starve
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Session 3: Lucky, Lost, and Left
In which a forest is spoken to, a bell tower is ascended and repaired, a little boy is rescued, a gnome explains his jovial disposition, and a great many four-leaf clovers are located.

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They trundled down the road, heading toward the city gate. Relic tried to recall something he had heard long ago. “Correct me if I am mistaken, but Imps are devils, not demons, correct?”

“Correct,” Withervine said, “Straight from the Nine Hells they come, pushed out by anyone wanting their space. But usually there’d be someone pulling from this side. A bad sign.”

“The sudden appearance of devils is never a good sign,” Gwen said.
Amatharn looked around at these new friends of hers. They weren’t the sort to judge, and she was attempting to return the favor. “I think what Relic is getting at is that they’re out of place, just like everyone else, but they’re yet another point of origin.”

They had arrived back at the Town Square. There were still people milling about, even though it was now well past midnight. But the widespread destruction hadn’t seemed to knock out the streetlights that illuminated most of the green, and so people stood, sharing information from around the town as it became available.

“And here again, another point of origin,” Withervine pointed. “These are Hiding Trees; they’ve no business growing here. They’re not to be found in any forest on this world, and are rare enough even in the Feywild where they’re native.”

“So the Feywild is here,” Gwen said, pointing into the darkness the trees seemed to hold back. She jabbed her thumb over her shoulder so it pointed behind her, “And the Nine Hells were back there.”

“The Iron Tower came from the Elemental Chaos,” Withervine put in, eying the structure. He was a student of Nature but also of cities, and yet that thing was simply alien to anything he had seen.

Gwen nodded, “As did the elementals in Cheapside. But the homunculi at the Observatory were here already.”

“But that demon was not,” Bluce said.

“The planes seem to have crossed,” Withervine said. “Bits and pieces everywhere.”

“What other planes are there?” Relic asked.
Gwen thought. “We’ve seen Feywild and Elemental Chaos, and the Abyss, which is a part of the Chaos. The Nine Hells is part of the Astral Sea, but we’ve yet to encounter the Shadowfell, which is dark and dreary.”

Relic pointed two blocks north to the Bell Tower, “Dark and dreary like a mist-shrouded tower?”
Amatharn followed his gaze, “Yes, that darkness seems familiar. We should investigate.”

And so they turned from the forest and ventured north. Soon the Bell Tower stretched above them, its black stonework showing off its polish nicely. The top was cloaked in dark, misty clouds, and as they watched a spark of ball lightning made the whole of it glow eerily for a moment before fading. At the base of the tower was the door, standing slightly ajar, creaking on its hinges. Out in the street was a body, and from the looks of things it got there by falling a great distance. “It is cold here,” Bluce said, “but there is no wind.”

“Cold as the grave,” Amatharn nodded, eyeing the pool of congealing blood around the body.

Gwen put a hand on the vampire, “I knew him a bit. Ferrin, an engineer here in town.” She looked up into the mists, “The question is if fell or if he was pushed.” She moved up close to him, inspecting the body for signs of fight. When she found none she pulled him to the side of the road and covered him in his cloak.

“A terrible way to die,” Relic said, “Not that there are any good ones.”

Bluce was peering up the tower, “The mists seem ready to strangle this place; to drive the life out of it. They seem to have begun already.”

Gwen pushed open the door and inspected the handle. “This wasn’t broken into.”

“But there is something odd about this place all the same,” Withervine said. “We should investigate.”

Gwen took a step inside, felt around and found a torch. The inside of the tower was lined with a wooden staircase winding its way up into the darkness.

“And there are mists inside as well as out,” Amatharn said, pointing up.

Withervine tilted his head, “There is something moving up there. Cloth, perhaps. But there is no wind.”

Bluce was already at the bottom of the steps, waiting patiently. He gestured to the staircase, “Relic will take the fore and I the aft.” And up they went.

It was six flights up that they attacked. Within seconds of each other two silvery wraiths swept through the party from opposite sides, tearing souls as they walked right through each person. Then they flanked the group and cackled, a terrible sound that echoed terribly in that dark, cramped stairwell. When the tiny wisps of darkness floated down a moment later and began to burn people with the pure darkness of their being things went from bad to worse.

But Relic and Amathan were able to hold off the wraith in front while Withervine and Bluce kept the rear intruder at bay. Gwen juggled potions and tossed them to whomever had a need, and suddenly the front wraith fell with a scream of terror, dissipating into the darkness. The rear wraith again swept through the battle line, that terrible laugh accompanying the soft rending of souls, and then he flew straight up to the next landing.

Relic simply charged. He had dodged the last attack and, being in front, was not blockaded by another body on the all-too-narrow stairway. A solid blow made a sickening crunch, but the beast was still standing, its cruel smile still glowing slightly in the darkness.

Bluce was behind too many people to make it all the way, and so attempted a leap across the chasm to the opposite side staircase. His fingers came within inches of his destination, but he fell down into the mists and darkness.

High above, Relic was twirling around dodging the little black slips of darkess, and the wraith got away from him. It roared past Gwen and Withervine, but each managed to sidestep his charge. Amatharn caught the glowing thing and tore it apart, her teeth sinking into the shadowy form as it disappeared. And as its roar faded, the tiny wisps of darkness flitted out of the walls.
They looked immediately for Bluce, but no one found any trace of him, dead or alive. “He will return,” Relic said. “I know from personal experience that falling down dark chasms is a survivable experience.”

A battle-weary Amatharn took this opportunity to make use of the conveniently-placed corpse at the bottom of the tower.

They trundled back up the stairs and into the top. All around was machinery and brass bells, ranging in size from a foot across to ten feet across. But all the machinery was quiet; the bell tower was not counting time. In the middle of the room sat the ghost of a youngish-looking human, looking away from them. They all immediately recognized Ferrin.

“When the world shook I was near the window.” He said, when asked. He appeared confused, as if he was trying to focus on too many things at once, “The tower moved and I fell. I remember falling. I closed my eyes before I hit. When I opened them I was here.”

“Perhaps he has unfinished business.” Wtihervine offered.

Gwen nodded and looked at the ghost, “Did the Bell Tower mean a lot to you?”
He looked up at something, then back, “I think so. Quite a bit. I am– was– the bell keeper for a number of years.”

Gwen walked over to the still-open tool chest lying on the floor, “Then perhaps I can help you fix it.” She saw a great many pieces strewn about, and one particular gear with a missing tooth and a crack through it. She looked about and found a fully-formed twin already in place in the machinery. “I see you’ve already made the repair; now it is but a matter of reassembling.”

Ferrin shook his head and closed his eyes, trying to shake a thought loose, “Did I? Yes, I recall that. We could put those pieces back in place. That should do it.” He began pointing out the parts needed and where they belonged. His struggle with understanding his new place in the universe hadn’t seemed to shake his understanding of the machine.

Gwen wrenched the last cog into place and threw a lever; a nearby crystal spurted and began to glow, and all around gears began to turn. A clapper hit, and then another, and the room filled with music that had to be echoing across the town. A beautiful, sorrowful song, and Ferrin smiled to hear it, “This was always Tara’s favorite,” he said, “she’s probably hearing it now. Can you make sure she heard it? Please?”. And then he faded away, and was gone.

“‘And you can find her three blocks away’ would have be nice” Withervine said.

“There was a waitress named Tara in the Penny Ante” Amatharn said.

Gwen nodded, “And an Elder Tara Cavendaw on the council.”

Withervine had already begun down the stair. A dog’s tail had sprouted from his behind and soon the rest of him followed suit. He picked up Ferrin’s scent and began to trace it back to its origin. When he headed into the Elf Quarter and to a stately mansion Gwen smiled, “The Elder it is.”

Withervine knocked at the door first, with the others attempting to put themselves between their awkward friend and anyone who might answer. A fair-haired elf opened the door and looked puzzled, “Do I know you?”

“There is no easy way to put this, Madame,” Withervine said, “But we have some bad news about Ferrin: he fell from the Bell Tower and is dead. We apologize that we bear such news.”
It was evident that this news came as rather a shock to her, and it took her almost a minute to reply. “I knew that things were bad all over the city, but I had heard the bells and thought… are you sure?”

“Quite sure, Madame.”

“So you saw…”

“Yes, Madame.” Withervine nodded, and a tear rolled down Tara’s cheek.

“What was your relation,” Gwen interrupted, “if I may ask?”

“We were engaged,” Tara said. she wiped her face with her hand but it was no use. “I’m sorry. I’ve sent my servants out to find all I can about the city’s fate, and I knew things were bad, but I had never expected this. It all seems so random; my house has nary a scratch but next door is leveled.”

Relic nodded, “A great many people have been harmed in this event. It is up to us to find out what happened.”

Tara looked around the group, "I wish you well. If you need my help you have it.”

“Thank you, Madame.” Withervine said. “We shall take our leave of you, now.” He turned to leave and she looked relieved to close the door.

“We found the Shadowfell.” Relic said, “And it was as gloomy and despair-inducing as I’d heard. Where to now?”

“The only trail we have leads to the Gate.” Gwen said, “The Defiler was interested in it and that means we should be, too.”

With no dissent, they all began the walk back to the Town Square, and were soon standing beside the Hiding Trees. Withervine stood at the edge of the forest and tried to ask its intention, but the trees seemed rather as confused about the whole situation as anyone else. So the elf just pushed his way in. The rest followed.

The darkness was immense and immediate. The canopy above blocked the stars from view, and even the purple glow of the Southern Nebula was blotted out. A torch was found from a backpack, But before it could be lit Withervine had taken the form of a large, walking mushroom and was happily trudging further into the trees. The rest followed, with Amatharn taking a wide berth from the fungus.

They came at length upon what would be a clearing if it had an opening above, but as this was just as canopied as the rest of the forest it amounted only to a wide spot in the trunks. In the middle a small boy was sitting, crying. When he spotted the giant mushroom he screamed. But he calmed down quick enough when comforted, and once his Antonian origin was established he joined the troop for the walk out of the trees. As soon as the trees gave way to the roadway beyond, he spotted his house and made a run for it, throwing a thanks over his shoulder.

Via was particularly changed; nearly half the buildings that were there before were now rubble, and nearly half of the buildings that were there after weren’t there the day before. The styles varied wildly from door to door: an old Anton butcher shop was next to what appeared to be a lean-to built out of slate-grey stone, and next to that was an impossibly delicate building made out of glass windows with the faintest hints of stonework holding it together. The road, which was already wide enough for a good-sized parade, was now nearly three hundred feet across, but that distance seemed lessened by the tufts of trees that had sprouted up randomly across it. In the far distance they could see the massive city gates. The west gate had come off its top hinges and was leaning heavily on the east gate.

They wandered down Via, taking stock of the storefronts. A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker; an alchemist, a goldsmith, a moneychanger. Then they came across a row of nice little buildings covered in a thick layer of snow, which was slowly melting in the summer heat. A gnome stood outside, looking up and down Via, a huge grin on his face.

“You,” Gwen said, “look happier than one would expect.”

“Why should I be sad?” the gnome said, “I find a new world outside my door and am happy to see it!”

“Where are you from?” Relic asked, with a feeling that this question was going to become an even more useful part of any conversational arsenal.

“The Feywild; the sad and desolate bits. Frugg is my name; I was the court jeweler for the Prince of Frost.” Everyone knew enough to be impressed by this.

“And you’re glad to be here in Anton?” Gwen asked, an eyebrow crooked.

“Well,” Frugg said, “the Prince is not exactly a nice person, so I am quite happy to find myself freed of his patronage, yes. Anton, did you call it?”

Gwen nodded, “Yes; I’d imagine you’ll be a nice boost to the local economy.”

Frugg smiled, “I wouldn’t doubt it, though I think I’ll need to find some new clientele. I should head in and tell the others, though. I do think we’re free; for some reason I know the Prince is far from here.”

“I would like to thank you, sir. Gwen said, “So far you are the first visitor to the city that hasn’t attacked us.”

They continued South. Halfway down Via a small hill had formed on the east side between two shops; the hill was about twenty feet high and covered in clover. Out of the top a spring was busily gushing water out, and from there it trickled down the side of the hill and across the street to the west, in a quick-flowing river perhaps twenty feet wide, with ample banks on either side for walking. Withervine sauntered over to it, bent down, and started pulling clovers up and into his pockets. “They’re all four-leafed,” he said.

Each of them took one, and continued south toward the Gates.

New Questions

  • Where did Bluce go when he fell in the Bell Tower? 3
  • Anton’s Gates are off their hinges.

Answered Questions

  • The Upheaval seems to be a confusion of the planes
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Awakening


Relic portrait

Bluebooks

I have no idea whats going on. Its an oddly familiar state of mind for me.

Last thing I remember, Captain Harrin and I were plummeting down into the dark. At least that seemed to have succeeded. ‘sWithervine presence at least confirmed that. But after that, all darkness. And then waking up in that arcane tomb. Tomb may be harsher, but that’s what it seems to me. A large chamber where I got to reside when I thought I was dead.

But there I was. Not dead. Not yet. And surprisingly with Gwen hugging me, overjoyed to see me. It had been too long since I saw her. I still remember her presence at my creation, her voice speaking to me as my mind and body were priced together. I was still groggy, but it was too good to see her again.

A sudden stir of the air was the only warning I had. All my instincts returned as I grabbed Bluce and tumbled to the ground. I thought myself lucky to see Gwen, but Wind as well as unbelievable. I almost thought I had died to have seen my friends in all in one place. But I still breathed, and the world seemed alive with.. something.

After a brief catch up, I learned that my friends were on a mission. They had picked up a new ally as well, a dark young girl. I trusted them all and knew that whatever task they had, their cause would be just. Even if I had no idea what was going on, at least I knew my friends were with me again.

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Session 2: Fire and Hellfire
In which a fire in Cheapside is put out, a sportsman is encountered, some shady characters get away, a passel of Imps are scared off, a true nature is revealed, and yet another mystery is discovered.

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“I’m all for making sure the city doesn’t burn down,” Relic said.

Gwen nodded, “And I would like to make sure those people in Cheapside are okay.”

“Then we will go to Cheapside.” Withervine shrugged. He liked the cheap parts of town; that’s where the decay was easiest to spot.

Down the tower stairs they went, one after the other. Bluce made a quick glance about the town square but didn’t see Sunder or Finneus. He closed his eyes. He was good at fighting in the darkness, but fighting the darkness itself…

It was not hard to find the fire once they arrived; they just went opposite the direction of all those who were running for their lives, worldly possessions in their arms. And once the fire was found its cause was just as simple to spot: fire elementals ran from building to building, cackling and crackling.

Bluce and Amatharn ran forward and began the melee. The monk had his doubts about the mysterious cloaked figure, but he was beginning to suspect that he knew the source of her power. When she leapt on top of a building with a single bound his suspicions were confirmed. He had better keep an eye on this one. Fighting the darkness, indeed.

Right now the more pressing engagement was fighting the all-too-light beings before them, dodging tongues of flame and trying to keep them from burning more of the city. Down the street some other figures dressed in bright yellow were carrying out a similar engagement with another band of elementals, but on this side only a single building burned before Withervine’s assumed elephant form made putting the fire out much easier.

When the battle was won the yellow-clad figures approached. Emton Quagar of the Cheapside Canaries thanked everyone for their help. “We’ve been chasin’ these buggers down this road for an hour but they keep popping up more. ’Twas only when you cut them off that we could finally pin them down.”

“When did they appear?” Amatharn asked.

“When the world moved. At first we thought it was just a stove or a kiln that had caught some rubble ablaze, but then we saw these things running amidst the flames.”

“A lot of things seem to have happened when the world moved.” Withervine muttered.

“Aye,” Emton agreed. “We’ve also heard tale of a landslide in the east that’s knocked down the city wall.”

“Emton!” a voice called, “Emton Quagar I should have known it twas you who’d best those blighters.” Kirk was running out of the Penny Ante toward the gaggle. “And have you been helpin’ Emton out? Free drinks! Free drinks for savin’ my bar!” Inside everyone knew the Canaries, and drinks and songs were in ready supply for Emton and all his friends.

A pair of shady looking characters in the corner did not join in the revelry. They were speaking in hushed tones and looking at something on their table. When Relic approached them they fled. Amatharn lost one on the streets, but Withervine followed one to a run-down old house in a slum. Not wanting to go in alone, he marked the place and returned to the group. Gwen and Relic looked at their table and found a schematic for something, but could not identify it.

Meanwhile, a paige had arrived with a message for Gwen. “From Jil, to the fiery lady in the Penny Ante.”

“Who?” Relic asked.

“A friend,” Gwen said, and read the note. “We should head to Elder Sexton’s house.”

“But what of these two from the corner?” Withervine said.

“I have a contact pointing me toward something.” Gwen said, “Those two are just men who might not like being eavesdropped on.”

“I have no quarrel with them, but what of the landslide?” Relic asked, “If people are in danger…”

Amatharn smiled, “We should tell Emton to go help them. Emton!” And when she had his attention she got him to agree. They set off toward the Elf Quarter.

Passing through the town square, Withervine stopped to look at the forest that had sprouted up there. “Yes, very green. Hiding trees. Feywild species, not natural. Shouldn’t be here at all. Odd. Very odd.” He snapped off a twig and pocketed it.

Past tall hedgerows, deep into the nicest parts of town, the group came to Sexton Manor, now a collapsed ruin with a fiery pit where the door should be. Poking out of the pit were two small horned heads, little imp eyes peering at the intruders. “Did you do it? Did you call us here?”

Amatharn put on her best mistress-of-the-night pose. “I did. And you shall obey me.” But Withervine didn’t smell magic in the air, and didn’t see any bands of magic wafting about. “Odd. No one summoned them. There’s no summoning magic here.” The imps growled. When Gwen tried to convince them to stand down, they attacked, with four invisible imps appearing behind the group and whipping their poisonous tails about. Amatharn, pinned in the middle of too many devils, turned herself into a cloud of bats and swept past them; any of the party who had doubted were now sure of her nature. Meanwhile, empty suits of armor marched out of the pit to protect the imps, but as soon as a few of the devils were slain, the rest went invisible and ran.

That’s when Relic saw the dark figure hiding in the trees. An old woman in a dark cloak, and a moment later he was beside her, sword drawn. She put her hands up and fell prone, “Wait! I’ve nothin’ t’do wi’ this darkness! T’is ’im wot did it, that man who lived there! ’sa dark place, this ’ouse!”

“The man who lives here,” Gwen said, “is dead. He could not have summoned these.”

Withervine coughed, “As I said: no one summoned these. There is no summon here; they came some other way.”

“An’ they lie there in death.” Ysra said, pointing, “Aren’t devils s’posed ta disappear when they die?” Everyone looked. The sight of dead devils was an odd thing.

“Perhaps they have nowhere to disappear to,” Gwen said.

“Maybe this place is now their home?” Withervine asked.

Ysra nodded, “‘Is a dark place, this place. Darker still now wi’ dead devils on the stoop. I’ve watched it and it’s full of malice. I’m not goin’ near it.”

“Then get yourself someplace safer,” Relic said, “And let us search.” Gwen ventured in and began looking around, quickly finding the false wall and the stairway down hidden behind it.

As soon as they were inside the staircase Bluce unsheathed his sword and pressed Amatharn against the wall, “Are you a servant of the Raven Queen?”

Withervine put a hand on the monk’s shoulder, “I can assure you that she is not.”

“She,” Amatharn said, eying the blood-stained sword, “does not much care for my kind.” The sword found its sheath again.

Gwen stepped forward, “I need you to tell me exactly who and what you are.”

“It’s relatively simple, really, and you know it already.” Amatharn said, " I’ve been dead 48 years, without being dead. I’m a vampire." Gwen nodded. She liked to have the facts laid plain before her. She continued on.

In the darkness there was a second study, filled with abyssal books, pentagrams, and a large iron chest. “Orthogonal lines,” Bluce pointed at the chest. “Like the tower.” He thought a moment, “And like Sexton’s robes.”

Amatharn’s face lit up, “And his family crest.”

Withervine nodded, “His robes match the uniforms of the dead guards in the tower. There is a connection there. But what is it?”

Amatharn was busy trying to burn the black book that lay open on the desk, pictures of pentagrams and demons illustrating every page. But it would not burn, so she pocketed it.

A loud crack drew everyone’s attention back to the chest, whose broken-off top was now in Relic’s hands as he looked inside at a book. “A History of Anton.” Relic said, “Might be useful.” A bookmark opened to a page detailing the history of the city gate, which long predated the city itself. The wall was built around it. Then a missing page, and then the story of two brothers founding the Lusty Lion. “What could be on the missing page? And what does the gate have to do with anything?”

“Perhaps,” Withervine said, “we should go and find out.”

New Questions

  • Who’s Jil?
  • Who were those shady people in the Penny Ante?
  • How did the Feywild forest come to be in the Town Square?
  • How did the imps come to be in Sexton Manor?
  • What is the connection between The Defiler and the Iron Tower?
  • What should Amatharn do with the summoning book?
  • What does Anton’s city gate have to do with anything?
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One quiet night
Observatory

At the observatory one quiet night, the ground to shutter, making such a fright
I ran from my bed to see what’s the matter; my companions were making a chatter
As we talked about these going ons, a beast with talons came flying along.
We ran for the door but before we got far out came the security system hidden in a jar.
We were saved with great luck, but the machine fired at us and we had to duck.
With a mighty roar the beast did lunge as we dashed past the door, taking the plunge.
We thought we were safe at last but then we heard a mighty crash.
The creature was dead as well as machines the heroes had blown them to smithereens.
Before me stood a very odd bunch: A man of metal and one swirling with Ki.
A women of fire, maid of beauty and an Elf who just reveled in being creepy.
We thanked each one for all of their trouble but before they left we helped them with a puzzle.
And now it is time to go back to gazing, to see all wondrous stars so amazing.

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