Dark Tide Rising

Session Thirty-Three
What's yours is mine

• Headed to fort Kelgren to follow up on Seth’s lead
• Spent a day or so talking to the locals
• Heard several rumors about a mine that closed down under mysterious circumstances
• Hired a guide to take them to the mine
• Found a mass grave on the way to the mine (and a vision of people being dumped into it)
• Attacked by a group of assassins(?) near the mine
• The leader of the assassins was an alchemical revenant and the group was able to interrogate him after he was defeated
• Searched the mining camp and found more remains
• Goo-head managed to convince the group to fix him up and release him in exchange for proof of Alestair’s involvement
• Group teleports to the old manor house and finds Alestair’s letter to Desmond
• Party decides to confront Alestair directly and teleports to his mountain stronghold
• Alestair’s wife tries to fool them with an illusion, but the adventurers see through it
• They stay for dinner
• Turns out Alestair is dead and his wife has been running the province for over a year
• Also turns out that someone else has been impersonating Alestair and giving orders to goo -head to keep guarding the mine
• The thaesium was sold to a buyer in a remote location in the Eshkhan republic
• The money discussed in the communication was NOT a payment for the Thaesium
• The party teleports to the location and finds an ancient fortress made of iron on a cliff overlooking a lake
• The group flies up to the fortress and explores
• They find evidence of an armor thrull breeding operation that may date back to the original Orikan conquest of Torcadia
• They swim down into the lake and find the entrance to a second facility
• In the underwater facility they find thrulls that have been bred for aquatic use

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Session Thirty-Two
How the mighty have darfellen

The party goes to the secret meeting place that they described to the king. A pair of merfolk show up, but they are shrouded in magical shadows. The merflok do not trust the party. They tell the adventurers that attacking the king helped the deep titan cult. The cult is claiming that the party are assassins sent by surface dwellers. This has increased support for the cult among the masses.

The merfolk offer the party a way to prove their intentions. There is a settlement of darfellen near Seros. The women and children are being held hostage by the cult so that the men will fight for the deep titan. If the party can defeat the cultists and free the darfellen, the merfolk will trust them.

The party agrees to help the darfellen. They meet up with some other merfolk resistance fighters near the settlement. The merfolk stage a distraction while the adventurers battle the main deep titan forces. The party defeats the cultsits.

The group meets the two shadowy merfolk back at the secret rendezvous point. However, Cid casts a true seeing spell before the meeting. He sees that one of the merfolk is actually Morea. Morea (unaware that the party knows who she is) thanks the group and agrees to work with them. She sends her associate, Alys, to accompany them. Alys is able to transform into a human, so she can travel with the group.

The party returns to the surface. They attempt to show Alys evidence of the general strangeness that has been happening on Thron. They teleport to the crater in the Ice Shield mountains, and to the pyramid in the southern jungles. Both places are devoid of activity. They end up teleporting to Doza to meet up with Seth. Seth is excited to show the party a communication that he has intercepted. The message was meant for a member of House Wallenquist. It describes a huge sum of money that is to be delivered to a contact in the kingdom of Landar, at a place called Fort Kelgren.

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Session Thirty-One

Following up on their recent flashback, the party tries to scry on Jaster Mareel. The spell fails, but it is not immediately clear why. They decide to continue their investigation beneath the Heartsea, in a less perilous location. Based on what they learned from Salty Pete, the adventurers choose the merfolk city of Seros. The Fox gives them a new set of undersea identities, and they teleport to the outskirts of the city (teleportation directly into the city is barred). As the group approaches Seros, they are stopped by a patrol of merfolk and adaro. The merfolk have the same dark eyes as the ones who attacked the party’s boat near Doza. From this they conclude that the creatures are members of the deep titan cult. Bran is able to convince the sentries that he and his comrades are also loyal to the deep titan. The patrol brings the party into Seros and takes them directly to their commanding officer, a mermaid named Morea. She is apparently satisfied with their story (that they were sent by the cult on a special mission to Seros) and gives them leave to travel the city freely.

The party spends the remainder of the day exploring the city and looking for good places to gather information. By talking to locals, they begin to learn how the cult came to power in the Heartsea. The cultists began appearing around five years ago. At first they were a fringe group, popular only among the more savage races. Then cells started forming in civilized communities. The cultists used latent mistrust of surface dwellers to fuel their rhetoric. They preached of an inevitable war with the land walkers. Within the first few years, they had converted enough members to form a political base of fanatics. Their members began rising to positions of power and moderate leaders were ousted. The cult’s first order of business in each enclave was to replace military and defense force leadership with individuals loyal to the deep titan. Once this is done, the military is used to suppress opposition and keep the general populace in line through fear and intimidation. At this point, the cult has an iron grip in virtually every major community in the Heartsea.

The party also learns that the king of Seros has not openly opposed the cult of the deep titan, though most feel that this is solely out of fear. The group decides to seek an audience with the king, hoping that they might secretly begin working together to expel the cult from power. In order to gain an audience however, they must increase their notoriety. Multiple plans are considered, but in the end the adventurers choose to follow a lead that they have uncovered as to the whereabouts of some royal heirlooms. The objects belonged to a prince who disappeared some years ago. The group has learned that the prince was last seen near a coral reef far to the south.

The party teleports to the coral reef and begins to search. They soon find a cave system in a nearby ocean shelf. As they are exploring the cave they find a series of holes bored into the cavern floor. Quinn is suddenly overtaken by a desire to swim down into one of the holes. The rest of the party is able to catch him and restrain him before he disappears into a labyrinthine network of tunnels. However, since Quinn seems to have an instinctive ability to navigate the maze, they tie a rope to him and allow him to lead the group downward. The tunnels eventually lead to a large open chamber, which is occupied by a huge tentacled creature. The creature, identified as a morkoth, attempts to dominate some of the party members with its mental powers, but is quickly outmatched. The party searches the chamber and discovers several caches of treasure, including the royal heirlooms.

The adventurers return to Seros with their prizes. They arrange to return the heirlooms to the king while he holds court that day. The king praises the party for their valor and agrees to a private audience once the day’s business is concluded. When the courtiers have all been cleared, the group reveals their intentions. The king acts appalled at the idea of opposing the cult, but keen observers among the party can tell that this is likely a façade for the benefit of any potential cult informants who may be eavesdropping. Torc devises an impromptu strategy to play along with the ruse, and attacks the kings guards. A massive fray erupts. Quinn uses a spell to trap the king and his chamberlain in a stone box. The adventurers are outnumbered, but far from outclassed. The party is able to hold their ground long enough for [someone] to slip into the stone prison and arrange a secret meeting away from prying eyes. As dozens of palace guards rush into the hall, the group teleports out.

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Session Thirty
What's my name again?

The group decides to return to the undersea tower. They teleport from Fort Blackrock to their island base near Belle Mare. The next morning they make the trip to the mainland and descend into the excavation site. Several priests of Borkanis are investigating the site, but the party is able to bluff their way past. They dive into the submerged chamber and pass through the portal. Once again, the adventurers find themselves in the silent blackness of the deep. They follow the cliff wall downward searching for the tower. Suddenly a thunderous boom shatters the calm. Those among the party who have comprehend language spells running detect a vague message within the noise. “Where is the food?” Moments later, the group narrowly avoids being swallowed by a colossal beast. They hasten their search for the tower as more booming calls sound out from all around. Fortunately, the party is able to locate the structure and find an entrance. Almost immediately upon entering the tower, a mob of fish-men come boiling up from below. The adventurers gird themselves and charge into battle.

The tempest of gnashing teeth and sharpened steel is replaced by the soft creaking of wood and the spray of waves breaking against the prow. It is a calm, cool day on the Heartsea. The skies are gray from horizon to horizon, but the rain has held off. Memories of an undersea battle fade from the adventurers’ minds like a half remembered dream. Hargo and his companions are on the last leg of their long journey home. It has been three months since the group escaped the pyramid, deep in the jungles of the south. They have traveled hundreds of miles, and trip has not been easy. Two party members have perished along the way, and Hargo has become increasingly withdrawn.

At mid-day, the ship enters a fog bank. Some of the sailors remark that such conditions are unusual this time of year. Idle curiosity turns to panic as shapes emerge from the mist. The flying creatures seem as intangible as the vapor from which they came, but their claws prove to be real enough. Several sailors fall as the creatures pass. The adventurers draw their weapons and ready their spells. One of the ship’s other passengers, a wizard, joins the fight as well. The party defeats over a dozen of the creatures and the fog disperses. The wizard looks quite shaken by the whole affair, despite the relative ease with which the monsters were driven off. He tells the adventurers that the creatures are called Kal-Muru, and the reason he is worried is that they should not exist in this universe. The wizard introduces himself as Jaster Mareel. He explains that his area of expertise is the Far Realm, a strange alien dimension beyond the known cosmos. The Kal-Muru are native to that realm, and their presence on Thron means that the barrier between worlds has been breached.

Hargo, having spent the intervening time calming the captain and crew, approaches the party. The ship and the sea fade into the background as the adventurers experience a moment of lucidity. The party’s true personae return, and Hargo is aware that he is speaking to them in the present. He admits that he has no idea how this is happening and speculates that it probably won’t be the last time. They are able to converse briefly, but soon the scene fades altogether.

The adventurers awaken on cold stone slabs. They are surprised to find themselves quite naked. Nearby, a humanoid shape with shifting features is berating them for charging into the undersea tower. The figure, Frost, explains that their remains had to be retrieved and cloned (at great expense). Helmsley’s colleague, the Fox, is also in the room (and it is apparently he who performed the spells to clone the party). Frost is lambasts the group for their foolhardiness, and tells them that he cannot afford to bring them back again. By some miracle, he has also managed to retrieve their gear, which is lying in a pile near the stone tables.

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Session Twenty-Nine
Sorting Out Seth

If I ever find the notes for this session I’ll do a proper write-up, but since several important things happened I wanted to at least put a summary up on here.

In this session the party finally learned what was causing Seth’s strange behavior over the last few months. He had picked up a sword way back in the Ulgastrasta cave that was slowly taking over his mind. The sword was inhabited by the disembodied soul of an assassin named Dirk. Dirk had worked for the Iron Band but was betrayed and murdered by his employers. The sword in Seth’s possession was actually the weapon used to kill Dirk. Over time it passed through several hands until its owner was killed by the Ulgastrasta. Dirk had been appearing to Seth and giving him information. Most of the group’s interactions with the Iron Band are due to Dirk’s “leads”. Over time, Dirk became strong enough to take over Seth’s body for short periods of time. Around the time of the party’s trip to the alienist’s house (session 23), Dirk gained complete control over Seth. Not long after this, Dirk/Seth left the party (this is not mentioned in the other write-ups because it’s a bit of a retcon, this is around when Matt started school and couldn’t come to games any more). The party used their crazy black pill mind mojo to enter the sword (or Seth’s brain, I can’t remember) and fight Dirk. There was also a big showdown in the real world with a gang that Dirk was assembling. In the end, the party managed to destroy the sword and boot Dirk out of Seth’s brain.

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Session Twenty-Eight

The group decides to return to the undersea passage that they found at the bottom of the excavation site in Belle Mare. Helmsley has equipped the group with magical pearls, which allow them to breathe and move under water, and protect them from the extreme pressure of the deep. The group passes through the massive portal and into the unknown darkness beyond.

The group descends along an undersea cliff for some time. Eventually, they become aware of a structure nearby. The adventurers move in to investigate and find a huge tower. Before they can find an entrance, a group of fish-men (similar to those the party encountered in Belle Mare) closes in. The group is able to repel the attack, but not without cost. Though they succeeded in fending off the initial defenders, the party decides that they do not want to enter the tower and risk another encounter in their current state. They decide to return another day.

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Session Twenty-Seven

Having traveled back in time to before the boat fight, the party begins their day again. The group receives a visit from a mysterious pair of gentlemen who warn them against further ‘temporal infractions’. The men also inform the adventurers that the entity on the boat will be able to recall events from the previous timeline, just as they can. In light of this, the group decides not to re-attempt their assault.

Instead, the party decides to go to Doza (reason?). In order to get there, they have to travel by boat. At this time of year, the waters near Doza tend to freeze, which makes such a voyage very difficult. The group comes up with a novel solution involving summoned creatures and other magic to help speed up the journey. As it turns out, being able to traverse the icy waters also puts them in the position to make some money, as merchants are willing to pay handsomely to get their goods to Doza.

The party sets out with a small crew and a full hold. The trip goes fairly well at first. Roughly half a day from Doza, the ship is attacked by a massive fish. A pair of merfolk spellcasters are sighted as well, apparently directing the fish. With the aid of some magic items and spell, the adventurers take the fight to their opponents. Soon the sea creatures are all either dead or fled. On a whim, the party decides to take the body of the giant fish to doza.

Stuff happens (I assume)

The party is in a tavern when they hear a familiar voice. They look over to see Sir Jensen sitting at a table with several other people and laughing raucously. Knowing full well that the real Sir Jensen is dead, the group immediately goes to confront him. A fight breaks out. Most of the false knight’s allies are defeated by the adventurers. In a desperate move, a female companion of the pretender uses a strange power. Suddenly, the ghost of the Wavecrest vigilante manifests and attacks the party. This gives the fake Sir Jensen and his companion time to escape. With some effort, the group is able to defeat the ghost, but they notice that she has become stronger since their last encounter.

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Session Twenty-Six

The adventurers are stripped of their gear and shackled. Once the church personnel have secured the facility, the party is marched south to Avery. During the trip the adventurers make it abundantly clear that they can escape from their captors whenever they wish, and are co-operating voluntarily. Despite this, the church officials continue insist that the group remains in shackles.

The party is taken to a dungeon in Avery. There they are “held” for quite some time. Eventually a group of high ranking church officers summons the group to discuss their fate. At this meeting, the party is allowed to present their version of events. After listening to the group’s story, an inquisitor presents the evidence that they have gathered against the adventurers. The church’s investigations have uncovered a long list of violent incidents, disappearances, and deaths tied to the party’s exploits. Since the majority of these events defy logical explanation, the party has a hard time refuting the church’s claims.

The inquisitor goes on to deliver more bad news. The church has determined that Colin Windhelm was responsible for the planar breach, and has already been sent to Hollowfast. He tells the group that there will be a trial, and in the extremely likely even that they are found guilty, they will soon join him. With that, the party is once again returned to their cell.

While they await trial, the group is approached by some representatives of the iron band disguised as guards. The gangsters tell the party that powerful people want them out of the way, and that large sums of money have changed hands to ensure a guilty verdict. The Iron Band offers a deal. In exchange for the party’s services, they will make sure the trial ends in a more desirable decision. The adventurers consider the offer, but decline.

Days pass with no new information. The group uses mystical means to contact Helmsley. He sympathizes with their situation, but tells the party that he cannot help them without jeopardizing his other operations. As the date of the trial approaches, the group is once again summoned by the church officials. This time they are led out of the dungeon, and are not shackled. The officials tell the group that there has been a development.

A church seer was performing divinations in order to further investigate some of the party’s claims. The results were very unsettling. The party is taken to a cell deep beneath the local temple. There they see a woman bound in chains. She is drenched from head to toe and her skin is bloated and pale. Foul looking water seeps constantly from her mouth. As the party approaches she leaps to her feet and begins ranting that the “Deep Titan” will drown them all.

One of the officials tells the party that they have tried everything means at their disposal to help the seer, but to no avail. Her condition seems to lend some credence to the adventurers’ story. The council has decided that the party must be allowed to continue their quest. However, there is still the issue of Vanicutt’s murder, and the other suspicious events that the group has participated in. To reconcile this, the church plans to hold a fake trial, where the party will be found guilty and sentenced to life in Hollowfast. In reality, they will be given a temporary reprieve, and allowed to continue searching for the source of the growing madness.

It is obvious that not all of the council members are happy with this arrangement. The inquisitor openly voices his objections. None the less, the plan is put into motion. The trail is held a few days later. The adventurers are thoroughly raked over the coals. Witnesses attest to the adventurers’ many misdeeds. As expected, a guilty verdict is handed down, and the group is escorted out by a contingent of paladins. However, instead of being taken to Hollowfast, the group is secretly handed over to Helmsley.

Once the party is safely back at Helmsley’s mansion, the next order of business is creating new identities. Once again, The Fox is called in. The illusionist transforms the party into different forms so they will not be recognized. With the matter of the trail settled, the party can finally resume their search for Hargo. Bran tries a scrying spell and sees Hargo on a boat. The scry provides enough information for a teleport, so the group wastes no time in pursuing the lead.

The party arrives on the boat to find several crew members being held down by their shipmates. To their horror, the adventurers witness bizarre creatures crawl out of the sea and on to the ship. The creatures scuttle across the deck and force their way into the mouths of the helpless sailors. Once the creatures have entered their host, the victim is released. Within seconds, the entire crew has been overtaken.

Hargo is also on the deck, but it is obvious to the party that something else is controlling his body. Using Hargo’s voice, the entity tells the group to leave, or it will kill Hargo. The adventurers, however, are unwilling to give up so easily. The confrontation quickly becomes a melee. During the fight, some of the party members are pinned by the crew. Before their allies can free them, more creatures creep over the gunwale and slither into their mouths. Making good on its threat, the entity disintegrates Hargo’s body. The party members who still retain free will decide to group up and teleport away. Before they leave, the adventurers get a good look at the entity. They recognize it as the same creature they met on the dream plan when they entered Hargo’s mind the second time.

Back at their stronghold, the party has little choice but to rest and plan. The intent is to wait until the next day and return to the ship to rescue their comrades. However, that plan is disrupted when morning comes and the missing party members awaken safely in their beds. As it turns out, the adventurers have somehow traveled back in time, and the events on the boat have not yet happened. Quinn indicates that he may have inadvertently had something to do with this.

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Session Twenty-Five

As soon as the party is assembled at their new island base, they teleport to Winterhold. As they approach the gate, they can already tell that something is amiss. No sentries are present at the outer posterns. When they reach the main entrance to the asylum, they find that it has been barricaded from the inside. With the help of Zarrick’s eidolon, the group is able to force their way through the door.

The entry hall appears to have been the scene of a full scale riot. Amongst the debris of broken furnishings, the party finds several bodies. Both priests and inmates are among the dead, and all of the corpses have been brutally slashed and torn. A symbol of Tsu-Norom (the god of madness, storms, and beasts) has been drawn on the floor in blood. As they are searching the chamber, the adventurers are attacked by several werewolves in hybrid form. When the werewolves are killed, they revert to their human form. The group recognizes some of the lycanthropes as patients they had seen on earlier visits.

The party heads straight for Hargo’s cell. As they move down the corridor, they begin to experience a disorienting effect. When they arrive at the room where Hargo’s body was being cared for, they find that the dream plane doorway has re-opened and become fully manifest. The entire opposite side of the chamber looks as if it has been ripped away. Where the walls, floor, and ceiling end, there is nothing beyond but a swirling tempest. A group of creatures native to the nightmare realm set upon the party. As the creatures attack, some of the adventurers are filled with an overwhelming terror that reaches nearly lethal intensity. Fortunately the group is able to destroy the monsters before anyone succumbs to their fear.

The party begins to search the rest of the asylum. They find a small group of priests who have managed to hold up in one of the treatment rooms. The adventurers ask about Cavendish, but the priests can only speculate that he is either upstairs in his chambers, or dead. The party moves higher into the stronghold and finds Cavendish’s quarters under siege. A group of werewolves is attacking the door in an attempt to break it down. The frenzied beasts fall quickly as the party takes them by surprise, turning back into humans as they die.

It takes a few moments of convincing, but eventually the group is able to persuade Cavendish to let them in. The priest is in quite a panic as he describes the events of the last few hours. Apparently, things went bad very quickly as soon as the planar breach appeared. All of the inmates who had been showing aggressive tendencies suddenly transformed into wild beasts. Cavendish shows the adventures a holy symbol of Tsu-Norom and tells them that he found it amongst Father Vanicutt’s things. He is convinced that Vanicutt is responsible for everything that has happened.

Having suspected something similar already, the party immediately makes their way to Vanicutt’s chambers at the top of the tower. They break through the rooms outer defenses with ease and confront the high priest. Vanicutt is quite taken aback, and seems almost confused by the accusation. When the adventurers move into attack, Vanicutt activates a pair of shield guardians and uses a spell to immobilize most of the party. For a moment it looks as if the group may be overmatched, but Cavendish is able to free some of the party members from Vanicutt’s spell. Without hesitation, the adventurers deliver a killing blow to the high priest.

Instantly, Cavendish’s demeanor changes to smug satisfaction. He thanks the party for playing along so willingly and teleports away. The adventurers have a sudden sinking feeling that the real Cavendish has probably been dead for some time. Furthermore, they realize they have just killed a ranking member of the church of light. With seconds to decide, they group chooses to remain at the scene and face the consequences. Moments later, a large contingent of church forces teleports into the room. The party is placed under arrest.

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Session Twenty-Four
A mind of my own

The party decides to take up residence on the island off the coast of Belle Mare where the ship captains had their base. Some of the adventurers begin studying the alienist’s journals. While the information gleaned from them is valuable, exposure to such eldritch lore is not without its risks. Those who spend prolonged periods reading the journals begin to lose their grip on sanity.

Rumors of disappearances similar to those reported in Belle Mare have been coming in from coastal villages all along the western shore. The group decides to investigate these tales and determine if the cult is still active in other communities. Part of the party travels south to another fishing village, while the others remain to go over the journals.

The group decides to start by visiting the local Church of Light. The last thing the adventurers remember is walking up the stone steps that lead to the temple. The next thing they know, they find themselves laying face up in a dimly lit chamber and unable to move. The only thing the adventurers can tell from their prone positions is that the walls and ceiling are made of a material resembling purple quartz. A rhythmic hum fills the air.

As the party members regain consciousness, they realize that a conversation is taking place nearby. A male voice orders someone to erase the party’s memories and replace them with those of fishermen. Soon after, the spellcasters in the party recognize the sound of a teleport spell being cast. Bran discovers that he is able to dimension door away from his current position, which also frees him from the paralysis effect.

Bran observes the chamber from a hiding place and sees that his friends are all lying on slabs of the quartz-like stone. To his horror, he also sees that the tops of their skulls have been opened, revealing the living brain tissue beneath. Flaps of skin are held in place by long metal pins. A creature wearing a tattered red shroud is floating amidst the incapacitated adventurers. Without turning to face him, the creature addresses Bran. It says that there is no need to hide, and offers to heal the opening in Bran’s head.

Bran agrees, and the creature releases everyone. As the entity heals the party, it introduces itself as Levistras. Levistras assures the party that it has no intention of harming them, or altering their memories. The entity explains that it has been conducting experiments on humanoids to learn more about how their minds work. The man who teleported away mistakenly thought to make use of this to dispose of the party. However, Levistras has a different plan. The creature wants the group’s help with a difficult endeavor. The adventurers are somewhat grateful for the fact that Levistras didn’t erase their minds, so they agree to help.

The entity immediately transports the group to the astral plane. Levistras leads them to a particularly turbulent part of the plane, and in the midst of a great tempest they find a strange geyser of energy. Several powerful native creatures linger near the font, and the party is forced to defend themselves more than once. When they finally reach the torrent of energy, Levistras flies into it. The creature bathes in the stream of crackling light for a few moments and emerges with a notably different demeanor. Where before Levistras seemed cold and logical, it is now bursting with exuberance.

The adventurers are curious and decide to bathe in the stream as well. Each experiences a different effect as their personalities are temporarily augmented. Levistras takes the group back to the prime material plan and thanks them for their help. As a reward, it enchants some of their items. As the adventurers part ways with the creature, they receive a mental message. Brother Cavendish has used a spell to tell the party that Hargo’s body has gone missing from Winterhold.

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