Scales of War

37 -- Into Mountainroot

The door to Mountainroot Temple was blocked by a thin metal wall. When touched, the wall grew a face that said only devoted followers of Moradin could enter and challenged each of them to tell a parable describing Moradin’s principles. Most of the party had no trouble with a little coaching from Gilbain, but Biatch didn’t get it. She talked of killing and smashing and blind loyalty. Eventually the door let her through saying that she seemed to be a good mercenary and loyal to the cause of her group even if she didn’t understand the cause herself.

The door was a portal that opened into a large chamber. One wall has collapsed somewhat from an earthquake and there were doors leading to other portals. Some fey dwarves and harpies were in the room and quickly attacked. The party fought well but suffered some damage. They considered returning through the portal but found that it didn’t work to go back! So they bravely carried on…

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36 -- Mountainroot Temple
The heroes fought another group of thugs, dopplegangers, and well-dressed citizens who had psionic powers.Initially they came in as guards but they were acting strangely and Biatch didn’t trust them so she let out a howl from a catwalk and jumped down on one of the guards. Chaos insued but the Defenders of Brindol came out okay.

After some serious searching they found a trapdoor leading to a hallway and a small cell. Inside the cell was the real High Priest Durkik but he warned that the door was trapped. Elan feystepped inside to evaluate the trap and determined that it was nasty so she freed him from his chains and gave him water.

Durkik explained that he had been tortured and questioned about Mountainroot Temple but wouldn’t give away any more information until he was freed, lest the party be dopplegangers in disguise.

Rather than disarm the trap they looked for other ways to get Durkik out. They searched for a hidden key and asked the Red Wizards for a portal but didn’t have any luck. Then someone suggested that Gilbain could teleport Durkik out of the cell.

“I can’t do that,” Gilbain said, “it’s a divine gift to be used on my enemies. Besides, I can hardly see Durkik through the bars, let alone stick him with my sword.”
Longbreath saw the opportunity and planted the healing Banner of Brindol. “Everyone, concentrate on the banner so that it will heal Durkik.” Then he turned to Gilbain. “Gilbain, you have to use your divine power against me to teleport yourself into the cell and then use that power against Durkik.”
“I can’t do that,” said Gilbain, “that would be an misuse of…”
Longbreath interrupted, “Shut it! I don’t want to hear excuses. How many people are going to die because that dwarf won’t talk? How many have already died?”
“True, but I still won’t misuse divine power, even for a noble purpose.”
“Don’t give me excuses! You are pathetic. You were too weak and scrawny to cut it as a paladin so you took to reading and preaching, but you weren’t even good at that! You have no discipline, no honor, and no friends.”
“Hey, that’s just mean.”
“Mean? People are dying and you think I am being mean? You disgust me!” and with that, Longbreath pushed Gilbain.
“Don’t push me, lizard, back off.”
“Or what, Scrawny-man? surprised you can even hold a sword in one hand. You can’t hurt me, you can’t hurt a tough dwarf like Durkik. You are small and weak.” And Longbreath pushed him again.
“I said that’s enough!” Gilbain lept up and punched Longbreath in the eye, teleporting him such that he stumbled and fell into the barred door of the cell while Gilbain found himself inside the cell. Infuriated, he said, “And you, Durkik, you will tell us what is going on and how to stop it!” and he punched the poor dwarf squarely in the jaw, teleporting both outside the cell.

Gilbain stood panting while everyone else looked flabbergasted. Longbreath rubbed his swollen eye and said, “nice punch. I’m sorry about what I said. You know I didn’t mean it.”
“You meant half of it,” Gilbain replied bitterly.
“Maybe 10 percent of it.”
“I know you think I did the right thing but you are mistaken. There is a convenant between me and Bahamut that transcends mundane problems. I broke my oath. I will make penance and I will never do it again.”
“Then I am sorry for my part in that. But at least Durkik is safe.” Longbreath replied.

Durkik explained that General Ziruun wanted to know about the defenses of Mountainroot Temple and might have been after the Incunabulum Primeval. He didn’t know much of the defenses other than they are controlled by someone called “The Caretaker”. He asked the party to go to the temple to stop General Ziruun and to bring the book back to Durkik. The party agreed although they had some misgivings about retrieving the book and decided they might leave the book in the temple if it seemed safer there.

The party rested in the Stone Anvil and early in the morning went to warn the council of the doppelganger threat to Overlook. Durkik helped very much and the party was relieved that at least his voice would be trusted. Then Durkik showed them the secret door to the sepulcher which he had taken an oath never to enter.

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35 -- Following Durkik
While the heroes were doing errands during the day to wait for nightfall, they found themselves in a seedy part of town. Instinctively, they became a bit more cautious. Then, while walking down one small street, Adren saw something and shouted a warning. Longbreath hear it too, and spat a cloud of acid at a group of ambushing thugs. They tried to form a defense, but Gilbain started to attack Elan!

Biatch and Elan focused on taking down Gilbain while Longbreath kept the thugs at bay and Adren picked off crossbowmen on the roofs. At first Biatch and Elan held back, unsure how much to hurt Gilbain, but then someone spotted a slumped figure around a corner and recognized him to also be Gilbain. Convinced that their enemy was a doppleganger, they tore into the impostor with fury. The rest of the attackers were soon dispatched as well.

Around midnight, Durkik left the Stone Anvil and briskly walked towards town. Adren followed from a safe distance and motioned for the party to stay out of sight. Durkik then ducked into an alley and a few moments later another dwarf emerged from the alley wearing similar clothing and walking in a similar fashion. Adren checked the dead-end alley and found it unoccupied so he continued to pursue the dwarf on the assumption that it was a doppleganger.

Eventually Durkik came to a warehouse. He went to the office door on the second floor, looked around nervously, and entered. The party carefully went up to the door and tried to sneak in but the warehouse was partially on alert. They fought thugs, two dopplegangers, and a dwarf wearing moderately nice clothes who had some sort of telekinetic powers. They defeated the enemies without much trouble but only had a moment to rest before being set upon by another group.

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34b -- Interrogating Grovald
“What a mess,” someone said, looking over the corpses. “We came to find what was going on and ended up with a large body count.”
“Glory to Defender of Brindol!” said Biatch. Her cheer was met with cold stares.
“It’s not as if we could take Grovald alive. He didn’t run or surrender. He was fighting to the death. We couldn’t … uh what’s going on over there?”

Everyone looked to see the assassins’ skin warp and turn gray. The eyes widen to large black orbs. The assassins were dopplegangers.

“So what do we do now?”
Elan spoke, “I have an idea. Bring Grovald into the cottage. The rest of you deal with the guards.”
Longbreath replied, “Adren should stay out of sight and keep watch. Too many strange things happening tonight.”
“That’s fine,” Adren said, “but what are you going to do with Grovald in the cottage?”
“Question him. I just wish Gilbain was here to help me remember the right prayers.”

As Longbreath dealt with the guards, Elan started the ritual to speak with Grovald. Biatch watched and Adren listened from the tree outside, ready to shush them if the guards got too close.

“Biatch, light that last candle,” Elan directed, “Grovald. Grovald. Grovald! Hear me and answer my queries!” Suddenly, the candles went out. Biatch lit them again. “Grovald! Speak!”
The head of the corpse rolled to face Elan and said, “Grovald has left.”
“Then whom am I speaking to?”
“I am Grovald’s corpse.”
“Do not play games with me! Answer my questions!”
The corpse seemed to shrug. “I’ll answer them if you do me one favor.”
“What is the favor?”
“Bury this corpse in a dark place and let no one know of the location.”
Elan looked to Biatch then Adren then replied, “You have my word.”
“What are your questions?”

With that Adren left his hiding spot, cleaned some of the bloody tracks, and joined Longbreath and the guards. He winked to Longbreath and said, “Unfortunately, Grovald body disappeared. I don’t know if it is dark magic or perhaps he wasn’t really dead. See here where he continued to bleed after being slain. Then there’s no sign of blood trail or the corpse. Maybe he’s hiding across the street…” and Adren led the guards away to buy time for Elan.

“Now corpse of Grovald, answer my questions.”
“Sure. I will answer two questions.”
“First question. What is the true name of Zza’thx, demon ruler of Izzea?”
“I have no idea! But I won’t count it against you.”
“OK then, what happened to Haelyn?”
“Haelyn, keeper of the shrine of Erathis. Grovald killed her and buried her behind the fountain two weeks ago so he could assume her position.”
“Why would you do that? Who are you working for? How does this relate to other priests?”
“That sounds like more than one question. Grovald was being paid by Durkik, high priest of that rock-headed god—although he gets his orders from a General Ziruun. Some nights Durkik leaves the Stone Anvil to … mee… so…”
Grovald’s corpse stopped speaking and his eyes glazed over.

Biatch and Elan were able to move the corpse and hide it before the guards checked out the cottage. They wondered where to bury it—someone suggested outside the walls but Longbreath pointed out that the city graveyard was closer, plenty dark, and no one would have to know. So Grovald was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in a dark corner of Overlook’s rumored-to-be-haunted graveyard.

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34a - Tension in Overlook

The heroes went to the temple of Bahamut to find why funds were being diverted away from Donaar in Brindol. The priest who was consulted on this hadn’t been seen in days but the party did find out that the money was funneled to remodel the old temple to Moradin, so they headed there. They found the Freeriders doing guard duty and one of the Ironfell dwarves held some sort of grudge against the party. After asking around, the party learned that the Ironfell clan lost a lot of money due to some of the actions of the heroes.

Since money from all religions was being diverted to Moradin, the party started asking about other missing priests and found that the caretaker of the shrine to Erathis went missing over a week ago. The party spoke to the replacement, Grovald, and didn’t get a good feeling from him. An old lady also shared her concern that Grovald was not a good man.

The party decided to stake out Grovald with Adren and Elan’s pet bird. Adren noticed two humans hiding nearby. He was uncertain of their motives but signaled the bird to summon the party. The party came down from the nearby tavern and was discussing what to do when they saw a group of thugs rushing down the street towards them. There was a big brawl, the two hidden assassins joined in, and Grovald himself engaged. Grovald was tough but fought to the death.

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33 - Purging the Sins
After a shopping spree the party met with Lady Shandria. She was happy to acknowledge Brindol’s claim on Castle Greystone but had a small concern with the portal to the Elemental Chaos. She asked sage Antenian to investigate.

Overlook showed signs of mobilization. Military men were training, walls were bolstered, and the guard was more alert. However the urgency wasn’t strong as evidenced by workers goofing off, smiling, and joking with little rebuking. The party’s entrance was challenged but when they identified themselves as Defenders of Brindol they were warmly greeted with smiles, cheers, and clapping. The party asked about the mobilization and determined that the recent attack and rumors of another attack have instilled a “better safe than sorry” attitude.

Gilbain’s first order of business was to have the nightmares removed. At Bahamut’s cathedral, Jurten Steelskull was able to help. He took Gilbain to the Chamber of Sanctity, a large room dominated by a magic circle. He sat Gilbain next to the holy water font and began the ritual of purification.

Halfway through the ritual, something seemed obviously wrong. A large mass under Gilbain’s skin could be seen moving about, then Gilbain started screaming as the skin on thigh stretched as if something would burst from it. Jurten remembered his trained and jumped ouside the magic circle and uttered the quick prayer to ignite the materials to cause a small holy flame to burn around the circumference of the circle. Just at that moment, a dark grey creature broke through Gilbain’s leg. It looked like a cross between a dog and a frog and was too large to have been completely inside of Gilbain. Nevertheless, it emerged, looked around, and lunged at Jurten only to be rebuffed by the magic of the circle. A second creature emerged and was simillarly rebuffed. A third, larger creature came from Gilbain leg and threw himself against the circle but to no effect.

At this time Gilbain was in great pain but summoned all of his will to stop any more creatures from coming out. The three Slaadi already emerged were furious and pounded on the circle but left Gilbain alone, other than some sniffing and curious prodding.

Seeing all of the, a panicing acolyte ran for help and found the rest of the party nearby. They rushed over and saw the angry Slaadi prowling around their cage while Jurten was uttering prayers both to keep the circle active and Gilbain healthy.

When the party came in, Gilbain could not contain the creatures any longer and three more burst out, including a larger purple Slaad. The party immediately used ranged weapons to slay the purple Slaad as another purple Slaad came from Gilbain leg. This creature flung himself through the circle, breaking it. The other Slaadi went crazy with chaotic delight and threw themselves at the party, ripping them with their claws. Smaller Slaadi continued to emerge from Gilbain until he was so exhausted that his body could create no more.

The smaller Slaadi were shifty and hard to hurt. One of them try to escape the room but Adren slew it before it got away. The rest of the Slaadi were contend to stay put and rip flesh. The purple Slaad had infected claws that implanted embryos in it’s victims.

Jurten helped to heal and the party was able to kill of the the Slaadi, their corpses slowly disolving into chaos. However, they were infected with embryos. They spend the night at the temple and Gilbain was able to cure everyone other than himself, being the most wounded. The head priest was not feeling well and was unavailable but the party found a healer and some medicine. Gilbain spend three nights recovering and had a fit of madness but finally he was cured.

Once they were all well, the Defenders of Brindol briefly spoke to the council regarding Brindol’s claim on Greystone Castle. The council replied that so long as the Castle was used to defend the people of Elsir Vale they would agree to Brindol’s claim.

The party also asked about why the funding of Bahamut’s temple in Brindol had stopped and they learned that the money was going to renovations of the Stone Anvil, the enormous temple to Moradin.

Finally, the party offered their services. The Council thanked them but had no immediate jobs, other than perhaps helping to guard the walls.

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32d - What to do in Astrazalian

Purchasing Things

Astrazalian is a big city. Not as big as Overlook, but just as much military might, a very strong economy, and the best trading center for magic in the known world. You can find just about any magic item up to 10th level for sale, especially cloth armor, long and short swords, bows, and any item with the word Eladrin or Fey in the title. Poison and necrotic items are harder to find. Heavy armor would be harder to find except Elan’s father works for a famous swordsmith and armorer.

The kilt worn by the Fomorian can be turned into +2 leather armor. This is free if you can find someone with leatherworking skill (or do it yourself if you don’t mind patchwork). You can also upgrade the armor to Deathcut Armor, Delver’s Armor, or Elven Battle Armor or +3 Magic Armor and subtract 2000gp from the cost.

Just about all arcane rituals are available.

Merchants from all over the Feywild sell trade goods in Astrazalian. You never know when a bottle of Fey Brandy will loosen the tongue of an informant or an enchanted music box befriends the little girl with a secret.

Currying Favors

Many visitors to Astrazalian seek the favor of Tiandra the Summer Queen, an archfey as powerful as a god. Lady Shandria is a distant niece of the Summer Queen and her recommendation can shave decades off the time required for an audience with the Court of Stars.

It’s likely that the only favor this party would ask of Lady Shandria is to agree to Brindol’s claim on Fortress Greystone but it might also be a rare opportunity to speak to one who speaks to a demigod.

Also beware that agreements between mortals and Fey are often risky. Fey have a strong code of honor but it often extends only to other Fey. Eladrin are generally more reasonable towards mortals but even they should be dealt with carefully.

Exercise Caution

Anyone in Astrazalian when it moves to the Feywild is eligible to be drafted. A small infraction can turn into a short prison sentence which can turn into forced military service. A good rule of thumb is to treat public areas like you would treat a host’s domicile. Don’t spit on the floor, piss on the plants, or steal from the change dish. Eladrin have a lot of chaos in their hearts but their code of honor is strong and not easily understood by outsiders.

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32c - Dragonhawk Riders
After the battle two Eladrin warriors riding dragonhawks flew from Astrazalian to greet the party. They wore the purple and red colors of a hawkrider and their armor was made of metal but thin as linen.

They checked the dead Fomorian and then turned to Elan and spoke to her in Elvish. Adren didn’t care for the inefficient Eladrin dialect but he was fluent and grudglingly translated for the rest of the party.

One of the warriors spoke. His words were like poetry. Adren translated, “He’s impressed with our skill and bravery. Probably because he thinks we are farmers and peasants.” Elan glared at Adren and answered back in Elvish.

The warrior spoke again. Adren said, “That incredibly long and boring speech was his name, or at least part of it. We can call him Fred. And his buddy is Tad.” Elan started to glare again but a slight smirk emerged.

Elan and the warriors spoke at length. Adren provided a running summary, “They thanked us for killing the Fomorian. Elan asked for a reward. They pointed out it was her sworn duty. She said she never actually took the oath, and besides the rest of us never swore. They pretended she never asked. She suggested that we at least get a thank-you from Lady Shandria. They…”

He stopped as he was interrupted by Longbreath. “Lady Shandria herself?”
“Who?” asked Gilbain.
“Lady Shandria is the greatest living Eladrin warlord. She has led dozens, if not hundreds of campaigns and has participated in thousands of fierce battles. He skills are unparalleled. Her knowledge of tactics is perfect. Her d….”
“ooooh,” sung Biatch, “some-one’s-got-a-cruu-uush!”
“What? No. I just admire her style.” Protested Longbreath.
“I bet you do” Biatch retorted. “She’s just your style.”
“No! She’s a brilliant strategist. She invented the Hylonic Manuever!”
“Oh! I tried that once. I couldn’t walk for a week.”
Everyone was looking at Biatch. Gilbain was blushing. Biatch simply said, “What?”
Elan said, “I think you are making Tad and Fred uncomfortable.”
“Why? What’s the big deal? It’s just a little fun, and besides, we are speaking in common.”
Elan rolled her eyes, “They’ve been speaking common far longer than you have.”
“Oh.” Now Biatch blushed and turned to the Eladrin warriors. “Um, I’m sorry for calling your fancy warrior queen a slut.”

The warriors turned back to Elan, spoke one last time, and flew off. Elan said they would tell of our deed and get us an audience with Lady Shandria.
“Perhaps Biatch shouldn’t come,” Gilbain said.
Biatch was offended. “Hey, I said I was sorry! What more do you want?”
“You were great,” Adren smiled, “first bar we find, the beer is on me.”
“Speaking of finding places, how do we get in?” Someone asked.
Elan answered, “They said they would send a swan”.

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32b -- Appearance of Astrazalian
Notes from Laeon, a scribe travelling with the party to Overlook:

The Astrazalian island is four mile island situated in the middle of a calm lake. The morning is peaceful and clear. A perfect day. Dozens of visitors to Astrazalian line the shore, some fishing, some meditating, some checking the wares they hope to sell. Some travellers share meals together while loners stay away from the groups.

As the sun approaches its zenith, a wind begins to blow and the lake begins to churn. Water spray obscures my view of the island. The wind picks up even more until I hear an explosion coming from the island and am hit with a gust strong enough to knock me down. When the spray subsides I see the shimmering white spires of the city towering over the tall white and red stone walls.

There is a brief silence as the scene is taken in, then all of the visitors start to cheer and laugh. And prepare their rafts to sail half a mile to the island. Then someone points and says, “What’s that?”

A giant figure falls from the city wall. It holds a huge wooden shield over it’s head to protect itself from the arrows above as it performs some magic to summon a horse. The crowd around gasps and murmurs nervously as the giant rides it horse across the water. Arrows pepper it’s back but it glares back with it’s large, deformed eyes, and the archers fall from the wall. More archers take their place and ballistae from the siege towers train on the giant. Finally, a ball of flame erupts from a large siege tower, toasting the giant. The giant summoned horse disappears as the charred corpse sinks into the lake. The visitors exhale a sigh of relief and start to cheer. Untill…

Two more giants farther away are seeen making an escape and a flash of fire in the distance indicates more on the other side of the island. The defense takes them all out but misses a third giant heading vaguely in my direction. Eventually the siege flamer trains on it and hits it squarely with a massive ball of flame. For a moment I think the giant was vaporized or drowned but a moment later a small cloud of darkness appears almost to the shore and his charred body jumps out and begins to swim towards the shore. The ballistae continue to shoot but are not accurate at this range.

Elan grows serious. More serious than I have ever seen. She speaks in plain common explaning this creature is a terrible threat and her duty is to destroy it. I have never heard her talk of duty before. She then summarizes the terrible abilities of the creature quickly and efficiently, almost as if reciting the memory of past studies. Finally she gives tactical advice, ordering her companions to fan out.

The giant, a Fomorian Initiate, lumbers out of the water to be met by Adren’s arrows. His glare is fierce, so fierce that rips Adren from his hiding place and teleports him fifteen feet away. The pain of the teleport lingers on, judging from Adren’s expression.

Mere arrows cannot stop the Fomorian. As he lumbers out of the tide, he trains his grotesque eye upon Adren who yelps confusedly and looks around as if he cannot see the Fomorian. The Fomorian blasts Longbreath and Gilbain with fire, psychic, and the essence of death. They survive, possibly inspired by Longbreath’s encouragement.

With this, the Defenders of Brindol attack in earnest. The water and sand hampers their movements but Elan casts a spell and the giant’s small eye closes, as if asleep. With his heavy body sinking so far in the sand he struggles to move and The Defenders surround him and finally slay him.

The Defenders examine the giant’s belongings and then ask me if I have heard of an Incunabulum Primeval. I haven’t.

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32a - Saving Drellin's Ferry, Part 3
The party wanted to get some leverage over Harkonius before negotiating the terms of the stewardship of Greystone fortress. They started by sniffing around the servants he kept but found them to be too well paid, too loyal, or too afraid of Harkonius to give up any meaningful information. Eventually Biatch grew tired of being polite and threated a gardener that she would shove her axe head first up his hind quarters if she didn’t get some information so he let on about some suspected smuggling in the warehouse district. Gilbain and Taunery asked around and found that Harkonius had a small spit-weed smuggling operation. Spit-weed wasn’t extremely illegal, but it would be embarassing if it was publicly know.

Meanwhile they tried to enlist Donaar’s help. He was always well-liked in Brindol and the temple project was bringing many jobs to the area. A good word from him (bolstered by Astral Speech) would go a long way. Unfortunately Donaar was in a foul mood. He was bothered that the party renewed and enforced the no-logging agreement with Witchwood, depriving the temple of cheap lumber. Worse, funds from Overlook had been suspended with no good explanation. The party placated Donaar by offering the platinum laced stone of Giant’s Shield Mountains, the job hungry quarry town of Red Rock, and Greystone as a base of operations. They also agreed to ask about the temple funding when they visited Overlook. After that, Donaar was happy to put in a good word with the Council.

Negotiations with the council went very well. They agreed to no taxes for three years but possible tax or rent after that. Additionally Brindol would initially send a squad to garrison the fortress at least until it was clear that there was no threat. They did mention the spit-weed to Harkonius who grew a little pale and said he would have his best men investigate and shut down the smuggling.

The next stop was Astrazalian to gain their acknowledgement on Brindol’s claim on Greystone. On the way they stopped in their favorite ferry-town, Drellin’s Ferry. Riding up the the town, they saw the familliar sight of abandoned buildings, signs of a scuffle, and military activity on the island. The locals told of bandits kicking them out of their homes, but the men on the island flew the flag of Brindol. After questioning both parties and mediating, the heroes pieced together what had happened.

When the garrison from Brindol arrived, travellers from the north told the commander Jeson Lockings there was rumors of war in Overlook. He eagerly took a small group to Overlook to investigate. He left the garrison with the second in command, Renold Miswep. Renold was the inexperienced 18 year old son of a wealthy rancher who was well-like by the troops because he was their buddy. The garrison was ordered to find room and board from the people who would be compensated with grain and coin while barracks were built. Renold did not communicate the compensation part very well and there was a misunderstanding, followed by minor violence, followed by major violence where a townsman was severely wounded by a guard trying to defend himself.

The heroes helped the two groups communicate and the townsmen were very appreciative and again threw a great party for the Defendors of Brindol.

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