Thursday, December 20, 2012

Something wicked this way comes...

Upon sitting down to catch your breath, you take a few moments to look around and ponder recent events.  You sit in what appears to be the same "throne room" that was in the Trollhaunt warrens, yet you know you are in the feywild.  Those of you native to this place feel a sense of home, however it is a sense tainted in this place.  You don't know how or what, but this place must be clensed.

Only a short time ago, Acerack tried to (and succeeded with a few of you) recruit you to his purposes, which are still mostly unclear.  You know only that he wishes to destroy Kas and needs you to draw him out.  How do you even attempt to do that?  You don't even know where Kas is?

As you rest that night, as if on cue, Kas enters the minds of those of you that have agreed to do his bidding.  He says no words and you do not see him, but the fearsome presence is there, none-the-less.  You see places, things you don't understand, people you don't know. 

You see dark caverns where no natural light exists, you see strange people with dark countenances, and fearsome creatures you have never seen before...

As the visions fade, you hear a whisper...."find the hand in the darknes.......".

Your sleep is fitful, and uneasy.  You each have 2 less healing surges when you awake (unless you are a vampire). 

Friday, November 16, 2012

The end of the tale, the beginning of the end.

During your reading of the book, you could not help but notice that each page began as blank parchment, but as you read each word, the next appeared as if it were writing itself just as you were reading it...writing each word only slightly faster than your ability to read.  Odd.

As you read the last lines of the tale, you close the book and look around.  For the first time in several hours, you take your eyes off the book.  So totally engrossed were you in the reading that many things are different, and disturbing.  The table that you were sitting at is now pooled in blood.  Where did it come from?  You notice that the leathery looking book cover seems more livid no longer looks like dried leather, but more like human skin and it's alive and it's...bleeding??!  That's a LOT of blood to come out of a book.

As you look around the room after closing the book, you see a large haversack and explore it's contents, but where did it come from?  It was not there when you began your reading.  You continue to explore the ruined study that was once part of Rualiss' tower and you see small, 3 toed foot prints in blood over everything!  The floor, walls, ceilings, the table upon which you read.  What made them!?  Are these creatures the ones that brought the treasure from your story?  How did you not see them?  They were walking everywhere!  What foulness does this book contain?

As you ponder these things you once again look at all the names of those that fell in the tomb.  Names continue to be added at the bottom of the list, but you notice something else.  During your reading of the story, only the first names of those adventurers were listed, but in the back of the book, their last names appear as well and you recognize several of them.  They are members of your family from many generations back, both the ones that lived and those that died.  This horrid tomb is part of the legacy of your family!

As you ponder the meaning and implications of this new discovery, a figure coalesces and steps from the shadows.  "Congratulations to those of you that survived my tomb and thanks to those that did not for their souls fuel my grand designs.", he says with a bow. 

As you get a better look at this figure, he appears to be human, but ancient...pale skin, and would make a good corpse, if he weren't alive and talking to you.

"You do not know, but like so many before you, your thoughts guided those of your family members to their doom.  The book remains unwritten until is is read and it is the reader, and not the adventurer within the tale, that decides the actions and fates of the ones within the story.  You drove your family to their dooms.  MMUUAAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

"I have the eye and with it am all powerful!  Your souls have been touched by my tomb, and you are mine forever!  Come for me!"

With that he vanishes in a burst of shadow and all you are left with are his cryptic words and his cackling laughter fading into silence....

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Part 1: A Tome, A Story and a new power rising....

In the rubble of the tower of Rualiss the Eladrin, you find a tome.  The cover is terribly aged, and cracked.  It appears to be made of some type of thin leathery material, sown together in small patches with pronounced stitching running in random patterns.  It seems unnaturally heavy for its if it is weighed down by something...

The first page begins the tale of The City of Skulls....the city that waits.

Places exist in the Shadowfell where no mortal is meant to tread. These fonts of wickedness have a darkness so profound that setting foot in these realms sees the soul pulled from the body and the flesh seized by ravenous spirits hungry for the warmth of the living. Terrible places all, the City That Waits is among the worst. According to legend, it slowly sinks in an ocean of darkness, its towers rimed  with necrotic ice and infested by the damned.

Ages ago, there stood a city named Moil, in a place or world long forgotten. Inhabited by cruel and selfish people, they indulged their wickedness in wanton acts of evil. Such was their iniquity that they even turned to the demon princes for the power they offered. Of those cults dedicated to the abyssal powers, those sworn to Orcus had the greatest influence, and in time they stamped out all other rival sects and cults until they were masters in their unwholesome city. For all their selfish cruelty, excess sickened the Moilians, and little by little, Orcus’s hold weakened as they searched for a more wholesome power to find redemption for their evil ways. No matter their efforts or improved intentions, the demon prince’s grip was too tight and when the people refused to make sacrifices in his name, his anger was unleashed. It took form in a terrible curse, causing the Moilians to fall into a deep sleep. As they slept, Orcus seized the city and flung it into the deepest regions of the Shadowfell, where it was believed that they would succumb to the fell energy there and serve him more loyally in undeath.

As expected, the Moilians died out and awoke as free-willed undead, drifting aimlessly through their now frozen city. Orcus never reclaimed Moil because his attentions were drawn elsewhere with dire upheavals in the Abyss. So the Moilians waited for the return of the master who forsook them, The widespread corruption and undiluted shadow power made the City That Waits an attractive prize for many dark lords and fell agencies, but it was Acererak who thwarted his rivals and claimed the city for himself. Using ready labor, the undead host constructed his Fortress of Conclusion somewhere even deeper in the Shadowfell, where no light shines at all, and only death dwells. Tethering the great citadel to the City That Waits, Acererak ensured he could still influence the mortal world and thus hatch his sinister plans. So Moil waits still, the last tattered remnants of the ancient people shuffling about as their city decays around them and new forces lay claim to the sinking towers and the spinning minarets that, on occasion, break free to tumble into the void overhead. It is a place of chill, horror, and danger, but, rumor suggests, it is also a place where great magic lies in wait to be  reclaimed by those with the courage to seize it.

Orcus laid a heavy curse on the Moilians—a curse they must bear still.  However....a new power is rising.

The next chapter begins a story of adventurers making their way to this foul city.  They are invited by their "hosts" and promised great riches and power if they survived the tomb.  The would be adventurers have been many and you see a list of names several hundred pages presume these are the names of the adventurers that have tried to best the tomb and fallen short.  As you look at the last page, 5 more names appear magically at the bottom and a new page appears...ready for more foolhardy heroes to add their names to the ever growing list.

As you turn the last page, a small piece of paper falls out to the ground.  It appears to be a hand written note, torn at the left edge, as if it was once a part of a journal.

The lettering is written in red and it reads:

We entered that accursed tomb with the welcome of its
foul attendants, each smiling and offering whispers of
encouragement. Into the blackness strode five foolhardy
adventurers and yet only I walked out alive. The tomb claimed
the first, when eager Rillian stepped boldly and foolishly into darkness. Khasta sprung a wicked trap and died in the blink of an eye.  Algrum stepped into a portal and I can only presume he died, for the sounds of his screaming echoed all around us. And Phillip, poor Phillip, crumbled to dust by I know not what. 

I escaped with my body intact, but I can’t say the same for my mind. The tomb’s horrors haunt me still. Acererak, cursed lich, awaits my death and when I die, he’ll steal my soul as he did those
companions I left behind in that evil place. Know this: Seek
not the Tomb of Acererak for there are easier ways to die.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A long hot night...

After your long marching slog through the fens, and your eventual discovery of the caverns, and your bashing of the entrance guards, you find yourself totally spent.  The last few hours have been spent running on sheer willpower and adrenaline, and you can do it no longer.

The entire complex has been alerted to your presence....they have seen the slaughter at the front gate. 

You are on the run...and run you see frightening things that you know you will have to face in order to make it to the king.  A giant pile of skulls, an underground lake (was that the wind or something really big breathing?!), iron cages hanging from the ceiling containing the poor fools who have ventured before you...all dead.  What kind of place is this?!

You try to be as quiet as possible, sneaking past monsters when you can and hiding the corpses of those you must kill in your flight.  This place seems to have an endless supply of all manner of creatures.  Every twist and turn reveals something new.

In the end, and after much running, you find yourself back in the marrowmaw sleeping area.  In a stroke of genius, Quel suggests you just put on the garb of those you killed and pretend to be part of Skalmad's forces.  You do this and seems to work!

Luckily a few of you can speak a convincing version of goblin/common combo most of these denizens speak.  Your night is is oppressively hot not even the humid wind of the warrens  to cool you.  There are constant interruptions from the patrolling guards, but you do manage to get some fitful sleep. (2 less healing surges)

You are all still haunted by the endless nightmares of lush forests teaming with all manner of evil,  endless swamplands with foul, stagnant waters and buzzing insects, the red eye...and now a 2nd eye, this one an lurid green and beside the red eye.  Not as if they were the right and left eye of a single creature, but 2 separate eyes of 2 different beings.

What fresh new hell is this?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The River Runs Red...

After an uncomfortable nights rest, you awaken sore, sleep deprived and covered in mosquito bites.  You thought the pyramid was bad, but at least you could get a decent nights rest.  (you all have 2 less healing surges).  You all recall the same uncomfortable feeling of being watched during the night.  A single red, dimly glowing eye on the edge of your vision...always there, but gone when you try to look at it directly.

Among your brief travels in the Trollhaunt, what you see is disturbing to say the least.  Other than bugs and mosquitoes, there is no "normal" wildlife.  Oh sure, you see the occasional devoured carcass, pile of old bones, or the overrun campsite of some unfortunate group, but nothing else...nothing.  It is a land without life.

You look at the map that you found on the troll carcass.  The warrens are huge...

After your rest, you wind your way through bogs, fens and marshes.  While you keep up with your march, but you find yourself completely turned around and confused.  Everything looks the same!  Wet, hot and muggy....and unnaturally quiet.

After a hard day of slogging through the fens, through the haze of heat, buzzing insects and sweat in your eyes, you see a pillar of stone jutting into the air on the horizon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Darkness Rises

As you try to take in the magnitude of what you see, you realize that you are in the Nentir the south west of the region, you think.

Everything is burning,'s is difficult to breathe with so much smoke in the air.  You do your best to fashion makeshift face masks to help filter out the ash, but even still, the progress in any direction is slow.  You see no sounds of nature, the only sound is the crackle of the occasional small fire still burning.  How long were you trapped inside the pyramid?  How can so much destruction have happened?

You look around yourself and smoke rises from all directions....all directions save the south...towards the marshlands.  Maybe the wet landscape has saved them from the burning?

Your group is wounded, tired, slowed by injury and spirits are low, at the best times.  There is little talk...only the slow stumbling plod of weary footsteps to mark the passage of time.  You are covered in grime, ash, blood and sweat...there's not even a place to clean yourselves...even the rivers run black with ashen waters.  In the slow days that follow, you do your best to create a makeshift leg (Hardly more than a burnt stump of wood at this point) for Gareth and, thanks to Gil's expertise, it's somewhat functional allowing for almost normal travel speeds.  This is a somewhat amazing feat considering Gil has only 1 hand.  For himself, Gil fashions a wooden loop with which to hold simple items attached to the stump of his left hand. 

Your travel is slow and tedious, however you finally begin to pass beyond the burning and into the marshlands.  Although the water is murky and stagnant, it is still cleaner than any you have seen since you freed yourselves from the pyramid and finally you have a place to bathe the stench and much of days from you.

Another days travel along the road to the south brings sight of the first living things, outside of your group, that you have seen so far, and it is a horrid sight...a group of trolls are stooped over something and they are eating can clearly see that it is the carcass of a horse and, to your horror, its human rider that are the main course for these monsters.  During their feeding frenzy, the trolls have yet to see you coming...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Karavakos - The end of a tyrant?

Immediately upon your arrival at the Sanctuary of Light, Karavakos knew you were there, and for what purpose.  His minions arrayed and at his command, the gauntlet is thrown down and arcane energy blasts in all directions.  You are blasted hither and thither, the life force being hammered from you like nails beneath the mallet!

After the initial assault, you stand bloodied but resolute.  You grip your weapons and wade into the minions of Karavakos like the scythe through the wheat.  What follows is a game of chaotic cat and mouse.  Karavakos flits in and out of your reach unleashing devastating powers on you at every turn...and you waver, but do not fall.

Eventually, you remove Karavakos minions from the game and it is only you and your pray that you have sought these long days in this accursed place.  He stands...alone upon the top tier of the pyramid within the sanctuary of light.  You climb and strike him...he throws you down, you climb and strike again, only to be thrown down again.

When he finally realizes that you are no mere group of glorified peasants, but a real threat...he does the only thing that remains in his bag of tricks...he calls upon the power of the pyramid itself, and to deadly effect.  Standing surrounded, he is infused with the vast power of the pyramid and he unleashes it upon you.

You are all blasted to the edges of the see your comrades fall, unable to withstand this new onslaught that Karavakos has pulled out of the engines that power the pyramid.  After several harsh attacks, Karavakos can no longer withstand the massive influx of power....he is just a mortal after all and the inevitable happens.  The power consumes him and he explodes in a spectacular and deadly fashion.

3 more of your members fall...unable to withstand  the deadly end of Karavakos.

Vyrellis runs to the top of the pyramid and uses the power within her to create a portal to the mortal world, but time to escape is short.  How will you escape with so many of your party on the knifes edge of death?  There is simply no time.

At that moment, Ragner, Kallak and Dalin come up with the refugees, Kallak heals 2 of your members well enough so that they can struggle to the top of the pyramid, Gilgenor heals the 3rd, but the exit is not an easy one.  The pyramid is failing...collapsing upon itself.  With its prisoner finally gone (?) it has no purpose....Vyrellis can not hold the portal open and it begins to fluctuate chaotically.  One of the refugees sees the portal and the promise of freedom and runs headlong into was his final mistake as the fluctuating portal slams shut in an instant and his body is cleanly cut in half...legs still in the pyramid...his torso and head had secured their "freedom"...for what little good it did him.

A few more of you take your chances and pay a high price...a hand lost...a foot removed...a prized weapon destroyed.  The rift is will be trapped in this collapsing dimension...

Vyrellis' orb begins to crack...she will be overwhelmed by the strain of holding open the portal and...a decision must be made.  There are a few of you that could help her maintain the level of arcane power required to keep the portal open for a few more moments...but you know you will most likely be lost in the process.  Forward steps the most unexpected volunteer....Xiphos.  While some of the more arcane inclined people might have used magic to sustain the portal...Xiphos does not...she merely stands within the portal and, through brute strength, and the touch of Lloth upon her, she is able to brace the portal and hold it open...only for a few moments, but it is enough time.  Spectral spider legs emerge from the scar on her face to brace the portal open.  To those of you that see this happen, it is a disturbing image that will haunt you for all your days.  The rest of you flee the portal and then in a scream and flash of light, Vyrellis is no more...her orb shattered in a hundred shards and the full force of the portal slams down on Xiphos.  It is at this moment, when Xiphos is on the verge of distruction that the only person remaining within the pyramid throws himself into the grinding maw to give her a chance.

Ragnar uses his arcane power to lash himself to the portal.  Arcane tendrils of power snake around the pillars in the sanctuary of light and then hook into both edges of the portal forcing it open for a brief moment...but it is enough and Xiphos launches herself through to freedom.

You glance back into the portal and the last thing you see is Ragnar, suspended in midair and light as if the tendrils are supporting his total body weight and then the portal slams shut with a deafening finality and Ragnar is destroyed in a gruesome display of blood, and fire and then he is gone.

You look around and all you see is burning...everything is burning...

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Shard - Part 3 - The Evil

When the Palace of Bones finally lay silent and this third incarnation of Karavakos lay dead, you see a red, almost congealed mist seep into the pyramid floor.

The pyramid jolts and then you hear a triumphant laughter, but not with your ears, you hear it with your mind.  It is powerful, violent and intrusive...assaulting and violating.  You know that Karavakos has assimilated the remainder of his life force...and this piece was the most powerful of the three.  This was the face of his evil.  It lacked any semblance of care, compassion or concern, and now it has rejoined the source.

Shortly afterward, the pyramid begins to give off an audible hum, as if it is straining to hold itself together.  Now that it's primary prisoner has regained the full use of his faculties, how much longer can the pyramid remain shut?  How much longer will Karavakos be contained?  Not much longer, you are certain.

Prior to trying to sleep, you tend your wounds and talk about the recent events.  You are joined by Kallak, Dalin and Ragnar.  You decide that the 3 of them will go and prepare the various "good" residents in the pyramid, for whenever the door opens, if ever, haste must be made to exit by all those that wish their freedom.  These 3 will work to get any stragglers prepared.  Who knows what will happen to those that remain behind?

Xylina shares her concerns about her sister and the strange illness that is plaguing her.  She has never seen anything like it before...her sister is very tired, sluggish and only wants to sleep.    Strange for a dryad since they sleep so little.  This condition saps her strength leaving her weakened.  Her skin has begun to darken and brown...almost like a tree that is slowly dying.

Xyphos sit in a corner, polishing her maul that she calls Even Hand and talking to it in a low voice.  Of all of you, she seems to have the worst time sleeping...there is more than an ancient tiefling lord rattling around in her skull, but you are grateful for her strong hammer and hope she can hold it together, at least until you are free.

Vyrellis tells stories of her and Karavakos, back when he was good.  She seems to have gotten lost in her memories.  You see sadness and longing for a time that will never come again and a love that still lingers through all the ages and hurt and pain.

As you all lay down for rest, you find only restless sleep between the hum of the pyramid pressing against your ears, and the dreams of constant, maniacal laughter that creeps into your mind.  You see visions of Karavakos, working tirelessly at his studies.  He is close to freedom...he knows it and so do you.  Behind him, you see many faces...all blank, unconcerned faces with empty eyes.   Upon a second glance, they all have the SAME face.  How can this be?  There must be 20 of them?  You hear Karavakos talking, and you hear low, almost inaudible whisper from an unseen source.  You can only make out the words "betrayer", "his sword", "secrets".

This is the calm before the storm and there is a silent tension and an understanding that...not all of you will see tomorrow night.  You awaken, much the same as when you drifted off to sleep...tired, battered and bruised, but your freedom awaits...

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Shard - Part 2 - The Soul

Upon defeating the abomination that was, upon a time, the shard of Karavakos' passion and emotional self, you see a lurid green mist rise from his dead body and rise through the ceiling.

Upon consulting with Vyrellis, you found the reason for her running out of the room.  She felt the emotional torrent of this shard...she felt the love the once knew, the lust for power that drove Karavakos to strike his devilish deal, she felt the anger and hatred that consumed Karavakos at the end of his life and she felt  she quiet madness that he endured in his struggle for power.  She felt the uneasy presence in the corners of his mind.  Vyrellis could not withstand this onslaught of raw passions of her once and beloved lover.

On your first rest after your victory, you are plagued with disturbing visions of your quarry.  He is gaining strength.  As you slay each shard, their considerable power returns to join with the original source.  Karavakos has grown strong.  Soon he will posses the power to escape, leaving you trapped here for eternity.

Always, in the shadows of your dreams, there lurks a dark presence...always watching...always...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Shard - Part 1 - The Mind

Upon your defeat of the 1st shard of Karavakos, you see a white mist rise from his body and speed away towards the stairs.  Amongst his books, you find a series of books that appear to be diaries.  After some figuring, you think you have arranged them in order of this shard’s earliest days here to more recent entries and what you find is…disturbing.

The early entries are filled with guilt, and loss, and pain, and heartbreak over the loss of Vyrellis…over the countless conquered slain, but it is his suffering at the death of his lover that touches you.  The pages are stained with ink, tears and…is that dried blood?  It was clear that this shard contained whatever part of Karavakos that was still good, and loving. 

As the pages turn you can see that love and compassion slowly fade into paranoia, memory loss, and obsessive behavior.  Vyrellis is mentioned less and less and instead the pages are filled with mention of new creatures arriving in “my domain”.  There are entries concerning his battles with these new arrivals, all ending in his victory.  For a time, his new conquest was to be the “lord of this prison”.  However, after a time, he either grew tired or his memory loss began to drain his desire for the empty victories against creatures that kept “returning”, as Karavakos put it.  The comments of “Didn’t I kill this one before?” and “he seems familiar to me” are seen many times throughout the pages of the diaries.

You also see entries about “new friends who talk with no mouths” and “friends that never cease asking questions about any and every topic”.  “They speak in my mind and never let me rest…INSANITY!” is the last coherent diary entry you read.

From this point on, the diaries are filled with inane babble, but you do see many short, almost out bursts, that have to do with sequestering himself in his hermatige.  There are entries about “another lock…must put another ward on the door.  There’s someone knocking.  Must put another trap on the door.”

It is clear that, in the end, his mind was gone and his only concern was talking to his “friends” and communicating with the “one eyed man” as well as more locks….never enough locks.

Once you have read the diaries, the head of Vyrellis quietly sobs at the loss of what might have once been the part of her former lover that was still good and what she loved, so many ages ago.

Pyramid of Shadows - The Story Leading Up To Things

At the end of the last adventure, the bad guy (A rogue mage named Paldamar) had a few items that had led you to believe that he was searching for a "place of power" that contained "vast magic and wealth for the taking" and that he was to "seek Karavakos".  His notes seemed to describe a location in a lush forest about a week’s journey from Thunderspire Mountain, where you were currently adventuring. During the days after you departed, not completely sold on investigating this "place of power" you all began to have similar, yet personally specific dreams. 

The common imagery was this.

You see the surrounding lands and they seem familiar to you, due to the time you have spent wandering them in the past.  Yet...they were not "right".  Where you know towns should stand there was only wilderness. Where you know there should be no settlements or where you know that old ruins stand, instead you see thriving locations.  How odd...?

In other dreams, you see a tiefling, a petty lord striving for more power, usually in vain.  You see his bride...a tall eladrin woman of ethereal beauty, and between them you sense a strong, loving bond...but his lust for power was growing as was his desperation for gaining it.  You also notice that the imagery, armor, weapons and other details harken to an age long gone.  Some of the sigils and symbols have not been seen for many thousands of years...??

Next, the scene darkens and you see the tiefling kneeling before a dark shadow and words float into your mind through the dream.  You hear "they will be invincible in your world, none will stand against them....your enemies will crash against them like waves against the cliffs and you will rule your world.  Do not let your army fall...this is your price for this power.  If your army falls, you fall with them.  Stand, Karavakos, and take ownership of your new destiny and this world."

The scene shifts and you see Karavakos at the lead of a vast army of unspeakably horrible creatures....demons, devils, all the abominations of the 9 hells at his command.  Opposing armies fall before him like the wheat harvest before the scythe.  And his power grows.

New scene, the Eladrin is in tears begging Karavakos to stop.  She loves him, but not what he has become, the tyrant, the heartless blade of the conquering army.  He now rules all the lands, what more does he need with other worlds?  How much can one lord require to satiate his lust for power?  But Karavakos did not listen and set his sight on the feywild...his army was invincible, what did he have to loose...

Next you see Karavakos marching in a lush green land, mystical in its essence and behind him his horrid army.  Then, without warning he is onset by a vast host of beasts both beautiful and dire, onset by countless arrows that were thick enough in the sky to blot out the sun, onset by the land itself upturning to swallow the demon army, vines that drag and bind, rivers that divert from their true path to consume and drown the evil that has entered their world.  And in the face of Karavakos, you see fear begin to dawn as the realization of the dark powers words begin to reenter his memory...."they will be invincible in YOUR world...."....the feywild was not his world.  His thoughts go to Vyrellis, his mate whom he brought so that he might show her this world and its conquering.  He turns to run and grabs her and flees back to the rift to his world as his army is utterly consumed by the fey and their beasts and their world.  Just as he reaches the rift, the last of his army is destroyed and he throws Vyrellis through the rift, but it is too late.  In a single instance, the rift slams shut ripping Vyrellis’ body to shreads, and in the gristly scene Karavakos is simply....gone.

You always awaken from these dreams with the extreme urge to seek this place and unravel its mysteries.  Each of you sees specific details that urge you even more so to take up this quest.