Scales of War

22 -- Caught

The party was unsure what to do next. They were tired but didn’t know where to rest. Longbreath looked over the black stone archway. “I recognize some of these symbols. This is definitely a transportation portal. I can activate it but cannot travel through it.”

Elan studied it. “My perspicacious faculties indicate solitary arcanic attunement.”
Biatch said, “Say that in common. We don’t speak snob.”
Elan replied, “Sorry. What I meant to say is, ‘you are a moron’”
“If you are so smart, who ruled the ancient city of Horenton when it burned?” asked Longbreath.
“Vizen the third”
“How many toes does a spotted sloth have?” asked Adren.”
“Three on the front paws, four on the rear, eighteen total”
“Who do you bribe to sail tobacco south from Brindol?” Biatch asked.
“um… A halfling?” Elan answered.
“ah ha! so you don’t know everything!” Biatch chortled.
“wait. 70 years a halfing named Farnsom Broadbottom organized all river transport, legal and otherwise. He never married but he did have mistresses and hid sons undoubtedly took over the trade and passed it down to their sons. Halflings honor their ancestors by taking similar names. I’d wager the river boss is a great grandson of Farnsom named something like “Farny Smokybottom” or “Fanny Broadleaf”.
“is my assessment accurate?”
“It’s Fansom Soggycheeks”

At this point Donaar started to laugh. This is all very interesting but how do we get out of here? We can’t go back the way we came in. Can you figure out the portal or not?

Everyone looked at the portal. Adren pointed at some symbols saying, “this describes how the portal is attuned. Can you work with that Elan?”
“Perhaps if I was cognizant of the mechanism through which the arcanic energy is channeled.”
“How about these crystals?” Biatch asked, “They have a regular pattern. It’s not obvious at first but if you focus on the smaller ones you can see it.”
“I retract my previous assessment. You are not a moron. Let’s see perhaps if reorganize based on a Platib Series… no.. oh, yes.. a third order Platib Series with some…”
“wait!” Adren ordered as he looked down the shaft. “Crap!” he jumped back and drew his bow as 6 Shadar-Kai guards floated up the shaft and into the room. Following them was a battle-hardened Shadar-Kai with ritual scaring. He had two panthers in tow. Noises of more guards coming from the three staircases could be heard.

The Shadar-Kai ordered the party “Stand down! There is no escape. Lower your weapons and come with me.”

21 -- Covered In Beetles

“Adren, crack open the door and tell us what you see.”
“There are two Shadow Elves arguing with a Dark Creeper and.. uh.. his pet wraith?!”
“What are they saying?”
“Something about permission for mercenaries using a portal. The portal is far from here and…”

“Ignitius Corpus Enflagelliasticus!” A ball of fire streaked from Elan to the center of the arguing shadow denizens and exploded, engulfing all.

Donaar took charge, “Shut the door. Prepare for them.”

After a tense 20 seconds the door burst open. The Shadow Elves faded in and out of shadows, twirling their spiked chains as they made their way past the armored Dragonborn back to the archers. The Dark Creeper spoke words of despair and a total darkness enshrouded the room while the wraith’s touch drove the fighters briefly insane, causing them to attack friend and foe alike.

“Who do we focus on?”, Someone asked. “All of them,” Longbreath growled. “Save the wraith for last. It is the hardest to hurt and is the least threat.” He snarled “Oww!” as Biatch chopped his back.

The Shadow Elves chased the wizard and archers around the room. Donaar tried to pin them down but they would slip into shadow when cornered. Elan created Fey Light to counteract the Shadow Darkness. Exposed, the shadow creatures were eventually defeated.

“Put out the fires… again” someone said, glaring at Elan. “Fault you not the efficacy of calefactive exhibition,” she replied.

The party trudged upstairs to find a botanical garden with four lab rooms off to the side. The flora was exotic to Adren who stood watch as Elan raided the labs. When he mentioned a strange looking beetle, Longbreath came over to look. “These are similar to Tomb Beetles,” he said, picking one up. “Except Tomb Beetles are usually found in a swarm. I only see 5 or 10 of these. Or 30. Or 80. Or.. Everyone on alert! Weapons out!”

Hundreds of beetles started swarming Longbreath as he backed away, slashing at them. His acid breath kept them at bay until a single giant mama beetle emerged from the vegetation. “Holy mother of Bahamut! Take that thing down!”

Everyone blasted at the large beetle and it fell quickly. The thrill of victory dissipated as two huge swarms of scarabs started covering Longbreath. Flaming hands and acid breath killed hundreds while swords and arrows killed dozens. Longbreath rolled on the ground to kill as many as he could.

Elan summoned a thunderwave to push the swarm down a pit in the middle of the room. Instead the scarabs in the swarm briefly floated helplessly in midair until they could float out of the pit and regroup. Keeping them at bay with thunderwave, the party eventually dispersed the swarms.

Tired, bleeding, and covered with tiny bites, the party planned their next move.

20 -- Umbraforge Castle

(6th level was awarded but only bonus hit points were given)

Opening the secret door, the group found a corridor leading to the back of another secret door. They took a long rest and cautiously opened the door to see a library with four startled Shadar-Kai. The Defenders of Brindol charged in and slayed the Shadowborn while destroying half of the library using their typical tactics where Elan sets something on fire and Longbreath puts it out with acid. Some of the books were moved to the corridor for safe keeping.

They had two doors to choose from. Reness could hear sounds of arguing from one so they opened the other. A laboratory with stairs leading up was revealed. Elan stashed away some choice alchemical ingrediants while the group plotted their next move.

19 -- Shadowfell

The party camped at the portal from which the wraiths had emerged. Once rested they used the key to active the portal and went through. They found themselves in a mirror image of the temple they were previously in and explored until they found an exit from the cavern.

Then they confirmed they had entered the Shadowfell. The dark was dim during the day, the grass was grey, and the air was thick. They saw a large encampment near an active volcano so headed towards it.

At the encampment they listened to rumors and fought some ogres. They learned the encampment was called Umbraforge and was run by a dark creeper named Sarshan. They also learned that Modra had plans to sabotage the foundry in the evening.

So at dusk the party went to the foundry and made an alternate entrance through a weakend wall. They found dead workers and armed shadow goblins hurredly doing some task, possibly sabotage. As the party proceeded to slay the goblins, the goblins started opening the large vats filled with green goo. Out of the first vat came a giant mutant frog. The second had an elephant with glowing red eyes. The creatures were bred for combat and had devastating attacks but the party triumphed.

The party found a secret door in a corner of the foundry and considered taking it before the foundry guards returned.

18 -- Through the Portal

(This is weeks late so the details are foggy)

The party explored the warehouse and found a portal. Activating the portal they saw dark creepers looking back at them. They charged through.

Through the portal was some sort of old temple being used for storage by dark creepers. They killed the creepers and found one had a key identical to the key they already had. Exploring a bit showed them to be underground. They found a huge cavern and killed some firebats but found no other way out except for a door back in the temple.

Through the door was two portals, one active with swirling black mist, the other inactive. When they explored the rubble, a dark creeper lept from hiding and released a host of wraiths from the portal. He tried to bargain for the key but the party did not give it to him. When asked his name he gave a fake so the party assumed the creeper to be Modra. When the creeper realized he cuold not win the battle, he fled through the portal in the temple back to the warehouse. The party pursued him but lost him in a crowd in the streets of Overlook.

They continued to search for him until Reness spotted searching in Donaar’s pack. Again he tried to flee but the party brought him down.

17 -- Sleeping in Jail

(A few days ago)

“I need that key, Mase. Have you found it?” The speaker was a Dark Creeper, a gnome-like creature from the Shadowfell.

“No, Modra, but the group carrying it calls themselves Defenders of Brindol. They are staying in town. We’ll find them soon.”

“Good. Spread the word that I am paying 500gp for the key.”

“Wait. You promised the reward to us!”

“And I will pay you if you deliver it. I’ve already paid you plenty and I can’t afford to be so secretive so put the word out. I’ll be at the Happy Beggar.”

“I’ll find you as soon as we recover the key.”

“Good. And be careful. I’m not sure how they got the key but they might not give it up easily.”

“Don’t worry.” Mase smiled as electricity danced among his fingertips. “I think we can handle a few hicks from Brindol.”

After convincing him to help them, the party staked out Haelm favorite hangouts. After a few days a Dark Creeper named Tiff asked Biatch and Haelm to purchase the key. They tracked him to shack in Shantytown and apprehended him. He revealed that someone named Modra was paying 500gp for the key.

Meanwhile a strange voice was heard from Elan’s backpack. It turned out to the sending stone she had retrieved from Tusk. A ranger named Reness was looking for her sister, Jen (who had been slayed by Tusk’s orcs). Donaar and Elan met Reniss and found that Jen had mentioned Modra. They agreed to join forces to find Modra.

Between interrogating Tiff and Reness searching the city they learned that Modra was some sort of weapons merchant. They inferred that he bought weapons from the Shadowfell into Overlook to sell.

16 -- A Nice Rest
(xp was awarded to bring the party to 5th level)

Bordrin’s Watch Aftermath

Cleaning the Battlefield: Immediately after the orc retreat squads go strip anything useful and make orc pyres. They explain that the death beetles will descend soon. Each squad seems to have an arcanist looking for magic items.

Preparing the Dead: The alliance dead are being treated by Rufus Crumley a tall gaunt man with greasy jet black hair and glasses. Elan recognizes he is performing a variant of the gentle repose ritual. There are guards to dissuade bothering him but Elan feystepped past them. Rufus was eccentric and friendly but a bit creepy.

Overlook Wrapping Up

Report to Council: After a wait the council hears from Defenders of Brindol and Freeriders. The Freeriders fought a groups of orcs and learned some thing:

  • Their leader is a large Orog named Tusk
  • Ragnum Dourstone noticed they had some high quality weapons, not typical orc crap. The metal is darker and if you look closely you can see moving shadows. This looks similar to some of the weapons found in the Nexus (like the bellybows).

The council pays their reward and asks that they keep the existence of the Nexus a secret. DoB also claims the Farstriders’ reward.

DoB hears that Kalaband Whisperwind wishes to speak with them. He runs the House of Sleep. As an additional reward he houses them in a luxury suite for a week explaining that he is not a warrior but he is a patriot.

Celebration: DoB and Freeriders share a table. The celebration is a feast with recognition for those who fought bravely at Bordrin’s Watch. Then Elder Cadrick says, “Each table has a plaque with a name of one of the Suicide Skirmishers. Without their sacrifice the Gate may have been breached and the orcs would have access to Overlook and all of Elsir Vale. Take one minute to finish your drink and memorize the name on the plaque. In the future when you drink to honor, bravery, and sacrifice, drink to that name.”

The name on the plaque is Derak Ironfell. He was related to the wealthy Ironfell merchants but saw little honor in joining the family business.

Temple to Bahamut: Performs the ritual to create a holy item from Donaar’s dragon scale.
The Bahamut treasurer is a devout Halfling named Heinrich Resolute. He has some ideas for raising money.

  • Make it a stronghold. Convince Brindol and Overlook it will help defend Elsir Vale.
  • Ally with Moridan. They have overflowing coffers and would like to build elsewhere in the Vale.
  • Ally with Pelor. They are less wealthy but have a strong base all throughout the Vale and can contribute labor

Checking Leads

Brass Key: Elan asks around town and determines the key likely opens a portal to another plane.

Note From Emissary: Adren and Biatch kidnap the scribe from Brindol and bring him to Laenn Tindel, a wealthy book collector. The scribe agrees to take a job for Laenn and also researches the note. He finds some correspondences with a similar style written from Gloomwrought, a large trading city in Shadowfell.

With evidence from the key, note, and orc weapons, and two Shadowborn in the Nexus (a Dark Creeper and a Shadar-Kai) the party suspects some sort of influence from the Shadowfell and determines they need to find an expert. They head to Blister, the poor part of town (but still inside the gates), to find some Shadowborn. On the way they are ambushed by seven soldiers and a mage.

All are slain except a single sellsword. He reveals that they were hired to kill the party and retrieve a key by someone named Modra. The mage had a note to the same effect with a sketch of the brass key.

The party conspires to spread rumors they had been killed. They go with the thug to his hangouts in hopes that Modra will contact him looking for the key.

15 Defending Bordrin's Watch

The heroes rested in the caves then proceeded to find their horses and ride to Bordrin’s Watch. Once there they found some of their friend from Brindol: Troyas was leading Brindol’s 200 men. Hiram was providing sending to communicate and was ready with a linked portal to move someone to or from the wizard’s guild in Overlook. Taunery was acting as a quartermaster. Loarn was repairing boots. He seemed to have a knack for good quality fast repairs and became very popular not just with Brindol’s men but with all of the militia that had to travel but did not have a cobbler. When his repairs were finished he would apologize for the ugly large stitches but all were happy with his work. The scribe (note: must find notes for his name) who had helped identify the note from the Emissary was there for official communications and to recount Brindol’s role in the conflict.

The group put themselves under Troyas’ command and then reported to Field General Durkik Forgeheart to brief him on their activities at the Nexus. Durkik didn’t know details about the Nexus but did know that three groups were sent out on important missions and that the Defenders of Brindol completed two of them. He thanked the party and went back to his business.

Hiram apologized to Elan for being so gruff and gave her a hairweave made from a rare Eladrin material. Elan did not completely trust his motives—he claimed not to know what it was but she sensed he actually did. She wasn’t sure if she should wear it. One one hand she didn’t know Hiram’s motives. On the other it was the most beautiful thing she owned. Even the princesses of Astrazalian would not wear such a thing for Feyweave was too precious in crafting magical cloth armor to be worn as jewelery.

The party spent the rest of the day learning the basics of defending the wall. It was 150 feet tall, 80 feet deep, and extended the entire width of the valley. It had numerous archer slits, siege weapons, battlements, and could withstand a siege for months. The wall itself could hold 3000 men which took most of the 5000 men present to defend the wall.

All of the front line positions in the Elsir Alliance were occupied by active Watch Defenders, Overlook Army, or Overlook Militia who had been trained on wall siege maneuvers. All other militias would be used primarily in a support role. This suited most people. The dwarf regulars had obvious respect for men who marched hundreds of miles to a city they had never seen to dig latrines so that the veterans would be ready and refreshed when the battle came.

Brindol with 200 men had the largest and best organized militia from beyond Overlook and was given the honor of being the second line of defense if a force broke the 100’ gate and got through the first line of defenders.

The strategic setup was this: Orcs had a huge army that would easily swarm Bodrin’s Watch if they breached the gate.

Artillery: orcs had much more but alliance had much longer range. The orc artillery would wait outside of range except for the occasional skirmish to test the wall’s defenses. Air: Orcs had a few dozen giffin riders. Elves had a dozen owl riders. Owl riders were much more disciplined but a single griffin could take an owl in a one on one fight. Magic: Neither side had long range magic. A few of the more powerful wizards like Hiram would use sending to communicate instantly. One powerful wizard sent a bolt of lightning to clear a wall breach. It was later learned that some powerful wizards from the wizard’s guild had used a linked portal to attend the battle when the breaches started happening but they had not had a chance to do any magic.

Orc Strategy: Minor skirmishes where archers and artillery tested the defenses. They would inflict some minor damage but not much.

At 1am a strange noise and a dust cloud. Telescope saw coming out of the dustcloud a large house on weels, not sure what was pushing it. A wave of orcs preceded the charge with grapple launchers (jai alai type things) carried by orogs.

The Durkik determined that the full speed house could shatter the gate and so deployed the suicide skirmishers, 60 dwarves riding aurochs (large bulls).

The door was slow to close and a dozen or so orcs maked it through. One vaulted over the first line and Brindol’s militia is able to slay him. Glory to Brindol!

Suicide skirmishers slamed the aurochs into the ram, stopping it. Some of the dwarves made it under the house. After a few minutes of fighting the house began to move again but much more slowly.

It as the largest battering ram ever built. All that could be seen from above is a wood and metal roof 100’x25’ with a sharply tall 30’ roof. It had a cowcatcher in front and huge wheels. 100 aurochs pulled it.

As the orogs closed with their grappling hooks, Elan sighted the largest and put three magic missiles into his skull, exploding it (four consecutive crits, a 1 in 160,000 chance).

When it rammed the gate everyone felt it. A boulder is dropped on top of the house. It slides off to the side. The ram starts to move back. Another boulder drops putting a crack in the house.

Longbreath was in the gate tower and ordered the defenders to take up grappling hooks and snag the ram. When the ramming piece swung back the house was unbalanced and the defenders pulled the ropes, tipping the house slightly. This was enough to help the boulders hit the house without being deflected. After about six boulders the ram was broken.

With the ram out of commission the orcs made a desperate attempt to scale the wall. A massive wave of grapplers came up. The heroes positioned themselves where the fighting was fiercest. A wave of orcs came up the ropes and the heroes took them out like a well oiled machine. Elan burned most of the ropes and slept the rest. Longbreath and Donaar wounded and killed many with their acid breath. Biatch waded into the middle and killed them in droves. Adren picked off those flanking or assisting other orcs. They orcs didn’t have chance, the Defenders of Brindol were too much. One orc flung himself at Longbreath screaming “die human” and attempted to push him off the ledge. Longbreath smirked knowing his dwarven greaves would hold him fast. Soon the breach was secure. Other breaches were secured, the orcs were sent running and the Elsir Alliance was victorious.

By morning it was estimated that Elsir lost 200 troops while the orcs lost 3000.

14 - Nexus

Most of the party wanted to head south but Longbreath felt there was more danger to west so west they went!

Upon opening the door they saw The Nexus. A huge chamber dominated by a giant column running the entire height of the room. A large catwalk spiraled 100 feet to the top. A few orcs on watch saw them and gleefully charged. The party took up formation and prepared while the archers took on the orc bellybow archers.

Elan used thunderwave to send the first wave of attackers into the pit beneath the catwalk. Just then with a loud battlecry a huge Orog named Tusk crashed through the tunnel above the party landing in front of them. He challenged and taunted them while his Shadar-Kai witch stayed in the tunnel cursing them.

Then things got chaotic. Longbreath ran to flank Tusk by running across the hot hot steam pipes but was intercepted by some drudges. Elan feystepped behind the witch and used thunderwave to blast her out of the tunnel and on to the floor beneath the catwalk. Biatch was hit by a bellybow and thrown into the pit with the two veteran orogs and the witch. Kalad and Donaar kept Tusk occupied while the party tried to get control of the situation. Things looked bad until Elan and Adren were able to take out the witch. Biatch was trapped between the burning hot pipe and the two battle hardened orogs but went into a rage that healed her wounds. She called on the power of her bracers to leave gaping wounds in her enemies and was able to defeat them both.

Longbreath flanked Tusk who seemed happy to be in the thick of battle. He raised his falchion and spun in a whirlwhind, stabbing and slashing at everyone near him, and killing a drudge. Tusk seemed unstoppable and singled out Kalad, delivering a devestating blow, nearly killing him. A similar blow felled Donaar. Longbreath planted the Banner of Brindol and let its healing power rejuvenate the paladins. Thus inspired, the party was able to kill Tusk. Kalad ripped a jade hammer, a holy relic of Moradin from Tusks neck and some stolen dwarven greaves from his legs.

While this was happening orcs had been pouring into the Nexus from the connecting tunnels. Elan and Biatch conspired to throw a grappling hook to the platform above so Biatch could study a control panel while the rest of the group fought orcs.

Biatch was able to quickly climb the rope but couldn’t figure out the controls. She called for Kalad to help. Not much of a climber, Kalad took the more direct route—through the waves of orcs. Donaar ran with him as Adren shot orcs as they appeared. Longbreath was pinned between orcs and Elan was helping him.

Finally Kalad, Donaar, and Biatch were able to turn on the controls. A loud machine noise was heard from the base of the pillar as water quickly poured out and steam filled the room. The flow was tremendous and water would fill the room within minutes. Elan was trapped on the lower part of the pillar and had to tie the rope around herself while Biatch hauled her up faster than the water could rise. Longbreath chose to run down towards the rising water!

“What are you doing?” yelled the party. “Get up here fast!” “No!” replied Longbreath. “I cannot leave the Standard. It does not belong to us but we are it’s steward. I have sworn to protect it and …” “Just leave it! You’ll boil to death!” “I’d rather boil than leave it along with my honor to be destroyed or captured. When I swear an oath, it is sworn and I will not break it for selfish reasons. Or for any reason unless it conflicts with another oath. Then I would attempt to accomplish both oaths as best I could and make penance for any oath that I could not keep. But it is better to be vigilant and not make oaths that cannot be kept. If I was to …” “Shut up and just run!”

Longbreath could only barely keep ahead of the rising water, his boots damp with the boiling tide. He had to stop to cut down orcs in his way. Orcs that would rather boil than flee a fight. Elan and Adren were able to clear out most of the orc. Donaar attempted to fire his hand crossbow, much the terror of his companions. Fortunately he didn’t injure anybody.

At last, Longbreat was at the top and all climbed through the trapdoor to safety.

13 - Cave Troll

The party opened the steel doors and entered some sort of maintenance or control room. After killing lots of orcs and a few fire beetles they saw the body of Jen, the warlock in the Farstriders. They opened two water control valves and pressed on.

Following a blood trail, they found themselves in a shrine to Moradin inhabited by a few orcs and a huge troll. They used all of their daily powers but otherwise were not much harmed. The partially eaten bodies of the rest of the Farstriders were there. Kalad said a little prayer and thay went off to find the Nexus.


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