Dark Tide Rising

Session Twenty-Three

Soon after the party arrives in Celestia, they are approached by a patrol of archons. The adventurers ask for assistance hiding Katarina and her child, but soon realize that they have little in common with the celestials. The group decides to try their luck in Arborea. There they encounter a group of Eladrin who are more inclined to help.

The Eladrin take the group to the palace of a powerful Lillend. The Lillend, as it turns out, is also a very potent seer. She has foreseen the party’s arrival and knows why they have come. She agrees to hide Katarina’s child, and also answers some of the group’s questions about the evil force they face. When their conversation is over, the Lillend summons one of her associates to go with the party.

The Lillend’s cohort takes the party to a hidden monastery on the astral plane. The monks take Katarina’s child under their protection. For the child’s safety, the location of the monastery is erased from the adventurer’s minds. In return for their cooperation, the monks ask that one of their members be allowed to join the group in order to further his training. Cid agrees to take on the student as a protégée.

With Katarina’s daughter safely hidden, the group returns to the Lillend’s palace. The Lillend tells the group that she knows of a place where they may be able to learn more about what is happening to their world. She bids them farewell and tells the group that they will not meet again. The Lillend sings the party to sleep and they dream of a peaceful journey.

When the party awakens, they find themselves back on Thron. They are able to determine that they have been transported to a location several hundred miles northwest of The Heartsea, in the foothills of the Frosthorn Mountains. In this part of the world, winter has already arrived. A light blanket of snow covers the landscape. The group makes their way through a forest of towering evergreens. After a short time, they find a small village.

At first, the eerie silence of the village is attributable to the fact that the party has arrived in the dead of night. However, they soon notice that snow has accumulated for some time near the doorways and paths without having been disturbed by footprints. After knocking on several doors, the group comes to the conclusion that the village is abandoned. A more thorough search turns up very few clues. The structures are all quite sturdily built, and have not succumbed to the elements. Most of the houses have well stocked larders, but any perishable items have long since gone to rot.

Eventually, the adventurers begin to discover corpses. The bodies are withered and desiccated by the dry mountain air, suggesting that they have been dead for quite some time. In many cases, the villagers appear to have been hiding when they died. Corpses are found in locked closets, under beds, and in basements. None of the bodies show any readily identifiable cause of death.

The final building searched is a larger home that might be considered a manor by local standards. The first floor of the home is finely decorated and looks to have been occupied by someone very well-traveled. In the attic, the party finds evidence of extensive arcane activity, including an elaborate summoning circle drawn on the floor. While examining the circle, the adventurers are attacked by dog-like creatures that appear from the corners of the room. Though surprised by the sudden assault, the group is able to defeat the beasts.

The party concludes their search of the house by checking the cellar. Among the curios and sundries they find that one corner of the basement remains shrouded in shadows, no matter how much light is brought near. Suddenly a mass of writhing tentacles bursts from the darkness. Some of the adventurers are ensnared and pulled towards the edge of the cellar. The remaining party members begin hacking away at the tentacles in an attempt to free their comrades. When Cid disappears into the shadows, it becomes apparent that the owner of the appendages is not actually in the room. Torc charges into the darkness and discovers that it is actually a planar breech. The creature that has grabbed Cid turns out to be quite formidable, but the group is able to kill it and free their friend.

Once the creature is dead the planar breech begins to collapse, so the adventurers return to the cellar. As the group finishes their search they find a study. There they find the journals of the former resident, an alienist named Jaster Mareel. The journals describe a lifetime of study dedicated to the far realm. The party decides that this must be what the Lillend intended for them to find. They gather as many notes as they can and teleport back to the Heartsea region.

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Session Twenty-Two
It's always night in Skullport

Rico’s contacts in the criminal underworld have informed him that Katarina has been taken to a secret grotto in Skullport. The club owner warns the adventurers of the danger they will face if they choose to follow this lead. Undeterred, the group teleports immediately to a location on the outskirts of the subterranean stronghold that isn’t barred against dimensional travel. Once there, the party chooses to keep a low profile and proceed directly to the grotto, rather than do any exploring or information gathering.

In the passage leading to the grotto, the party is ambushed by some of the locals. They are able to defeat the thugs, but the attention drawn by the fight forces them to hasten their advance. As the adventurers reach the grotto they hear Katarina crying out in pain as well as the sounds of a magical ritual in progress. Katarina is lying on a large alter at the center of a pool within the huge chamber. She is obviously in the final stages of labor. Several ruined structures ring the pool, and various creatures can be seen prowling the perimeter. A group of spell casters surround Katarina, chanting in a dark language. A group of thugs stand guard between the entrance and the pool. Upon spotting the party, a robed man commands his allies to “deal with” the intruders, and teleports out.

The adventurers charge into the grotto and immediately take out several of the guards. Defenders rush from the buildings and engage the group. The battle draws on for several moments, and it begins to look as if it might turn against the would-be rescue party. Suddenly, another group arrives in the cavern. Leading the newcomers is Raban. He barks a series of orders to his companions and moves to the altar. Raban and one of his allies make short work of the casters. Realizing that Raban is here for Katarina as well, Quinn grabs the girl and teleports away.

Raban is furious that his plan has been thwarted. He unleashes a display of psionic rage, killing a few more enemy combatants in the process, and teleports out with is party. Only a handful of the cave’s original residents remain, and most appear to be retreating. The rest of the party quickly follows Quinn’s lead. Back in Gryphon, the group hastily tries to plan their next move. They are worried that Raban might be able to locate them psionically, and renew his attempt to capture Katarina. While they are deciding on a plan, Katarina delivers her baby in Helmsley’s foyer. Upon hearing a quick summary of recent events, Helmsley regretfully tells the party that he cannot protect them. The adventurers decide to seek assistance from a higher power, and plane shift to Celestia.

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Session Twenty-One

The party spends some time in Gryphon trying to decide what to do next. On their second day in the city, Seth approaches the rest of the group with a lead. He claims that he might know a way to find Katarina if they return to Fort Blackrock. The adventurers teleport to the other side of The Heartsea, this time without incident.

Once in Fort Blackrock, the party sends Seth out to do his thing. However, the hour of his expected return comes and goes with no sign of the errant oracle. One of the group’s casters uses a scrying spell to look for him. The spell is successful, and the image shows Seth in a card house gambling. The party is not terribly surprised by this, but they are somewhat confused by the fact that he is carrying on a normal conversation with his fellow gamblers and appears to be able to hear and speak perfectly. They teleport into the establishment and come very close to starting a fight. Seth flees during the commotion, and the party decides not to provoke the establishment’s armed guards any further.

The party is brought to see the owner of the card house, a man named Rico. He is not happy that the group barged into his place and tried to abduct his friend. He is initially hostile but they are able to calm him down. The adventurers explain that they were simply trying to retrieve their companion, and attempt to determine how it is that Rico knows him. From the conversation, it becomes clear that the club owner is somehow under the impression that Seth is a local gangster. Apparently the two have had dealings in the past. The adventurers are confused, but do not say anything to contradict this impression. Rico agrees to let the group go, but tells them not to leave town until he clears things up.

The party goes back to their original inn and finds Seth there. Seth claims not to remember the events in the card house and says he has been out celebrating his birthday. Beyond fed up with the situation, Torc grabs Seth and marches him out to the nearest tavern. His intention is to observe Seth until he can figure out what it is that he gets up to every time he disappears. The two have several drinks, and after a while Torc begins to feel disoriented. This is unusual, as Torc has an extraordinary tolerance for both drink, and anything that might be surreptitiously added to it. Torc suspects that during this episode Seth has once again somehow managed to have some sort of clandestine encounter.

The next day, the party is called back to the card house. For various reasons, they deem it prudent to cast an invisibility spell on Seth. At the meeting, Rico seems to be satisfied that the adventurers are telling the truth about why they teleported into the club. He mentions that he might have some work for the group if they’re interested. They ask Rico if he can use his contacts to help them find Katarina. He says that he will look into it. He also puts the adventurers in contact with some of his associates who deal in magic items so the party can do some trading.

That evening, Torc insists that Seth take the group to wherever it is he claims to have been the previous night. Seth takes them to another tavern that also seems to double as a pleasure house. Everyone there appears to know him, especially the women. Seth goes upstairs with some of the ladies, while the party tries to make sense of the situation. When he comes down, Seth tells the party that they need to take out a local thug who has been roughing up his girls.

At a complete loss to explain the bizarre series of events, and with no other obvious options, the group decides to simply go along with it. Seth tells them where they can find their target, and explains that there can be no witnesses since the man is a member of The Iron Band. The gangster is using a haberdashery as a front for his operation. The adventurers manage to sneak in and work their way past several traps to get to the basement. In the basement they find the thug and his crew. He seems to recognize Seth. They defeat the gang, but are left with a problem. Three women were in the room at the time of the fight but were not combatants. The party is not willing to kill them but the women make it clear that they will inform the Iron Band if they are allowed to leave. The party eventually decides to take the women to an alternate prime material plane and leave them there.

After all is said and done they group returns to the card house to speak with Rico (Seth does not come with them). Rico tells the party that he is very impressed with their work, alluding to the “removal” of the haberdasher. The adventurers are confused as to how he could possibly know about the attack. Eventually, it becomes evident that the party has actually carried out a contract hit, and that somehow the entire thing has been negotiated between Rico and Seth. Rico tells the group that he has located Katarina as per the agreement. Stunned by this turn of events, the party decides to exit as gracefully as possible. As they leave, Rico says to “say thanks to Dirk when you see him”.

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Session Twenty
Back to Belle Mare

As the party members compare notes about their experiences in the flashback, they realize that Raban was not among them, and is in fact still missing in the present. They search the mansion, but are unable to locate him. Eventually there is nothing left to do but return to the village. Suddenly, the group finds themselves sitting at a table in the common room of the village inn, with partially finished food and drinks in front of them. The party is able to deduce that they are missing several hours of their memories. Bran discovers that he has a small piece of paper in his hand, and there is also a pouch of coins on the table.

The group questions a barmaid, and she tells them that they have been sitting at their table all evening, talking to someone. When asked to describe the person they were talking to, she has trouble recalling any details, even the person’s gender. The piece of paper has some hastily scribbled notes on it, written in Bran’s handwriting. The first note is simply the word “Frost”. The other notes say “Doza = not ready”, and “Use the money however we want”.

The party is still anxious to find Raban, so they decide to ask Helmsley for assistance. They make the trip to the capital city of Gryphon and arrange a meeting. During their talk, they also ask if Helmsley can shed any light on the mysterious note. After hearing their story of their memory gap, and reading the contents of the note, Helmsley informs them that “Frost” is actually a name. Helmsley is familiar with Frost, and apparently doesn’t like him very much. However, he does not know who Frost works for or what his agenda might be. In answer to the party’s other request, finding Raban, Helmsley tells them that he doesn’t personally employ any diviners, but he can put them in touch with his contacts at the church.

Rather than go through the church, the group decides to contact the coven. They use some sand given to them during their last visit, which transports them to the swamp where the strange women reside. With the help of the women’s magic cauldron, the party is able to scry on Raban. However, there is a momentary delay before the spell takes effect, and for a short time, the edges of the scrying pool are obscured by writhing tentacles. The spell shows Raban slogging through the wind and rain along the edge of a dark cliff. The location revealed by the scry is on the coast of The Heartsea, North of the village where they last saw him.

Quinn and Zarrick have both recently learned teleportation spells, and the party splits into two groups to teleport to Raban. However, something interferes with the teleport, and both groups arrive far off target. Zarrik’s group actually ends up over the Heartsea, dozens of miles from shore. Fortunately, they are riding Zarrik’s Eidolon, which is flying. It takes the adventurers a few hours to regroup, at which point they decide to abandon their plan for the time being and return to Helmsley’s manor.

The group arrives at Helmsley’s to find a message waiting for them from Sir Jensen. The paladin believes that some of the leaders of the cult in Belle Mare have survived and are attempting to re-establish their organization. The next morning, the party teleports to Belle Mare. Their first stop is Bertram’s Inn, but it turns out that he is not happy to see them. With some very carefully chosen words, they manage to calm him down enough to avoid being thrown out. When they ask Bertram what the problem is, he tells Torc to go upstairs and see for himself. Torc does so, and in an upstairs room he finds Katarina being tended to by another woman. Katarina appears to be roughly eight months pregnant.

The party attempts to question Bertam about the very unusual pregnancy, but his prickly demeanor makes it difficult. They learn that Katarina began showing two days after the party left Belle Mare, and the pregnancy has advanced to nearly full term in a matter of weeks. Bertram is convinced that Torc is somehow responsible, whether by conventional means, or otherwise.

Fortunately, Sir Jensen arrives before things can get any more awkward. The paladin tells the group that he believes the cult, though seriously weakened, is still active in Belle Mare. He has identified a group of ship captains who appear to have become the new ring leaders. The party sets about gathering information on the ship captains. They are able to learn enough about one of the captains to scry on him. The adventurers wait until he boards his ship, then teleports directly into his cabin. They easily take down the captain and his crew, and take the ship to a nearby island where the cult has a hideout. There they attack the remaining members of the group and wipe them out. The party searches the island and finds a circular stone slab that looks like it is used for some sort of ritual. Other than the ritual circle and the building the ship captains were using as a base, the group finds nothing else of interest on the island.

In the course of tracking and defeating the ship captains, the adventurers have come to believe that the cult was planning to use Katarina in their ritual somehow. The group convinces Bertram that Katarina isn’t safe in Belle Mare. Bertram agrees to accompany the group to Algo where Sir Jensen’s order will take Katarina under their protection. The party travels north to the city of Paseo. As they are on the outskirts of town, a party of knights from Sir Jensen’s order approach. Jensen acts suspiciously and the party calls attention to it. The knights react with shock and exclaim that Sir Jenson was killed in action several days ago. The imposter stuns Katarina with a psionic attack, grabs her and teleports away. Bertram walks away without a word.

Disheartened, the party returns to Gryphon. Along the way, they run into a pair of men playing an unusual game with a ball and a basket. The conversation is confusing at first, but it turns out that the two know something of the strange events that have been occurring these past few months. One of the men, who introduces himself as Dave, produces a small object that resembles a very smooth piece of slate. The object displays a moving image of the party’s fight with the shadow men in the flashback. However, in the image there are two more members of the group. As the battle plays out, the two unknown party members are each grabbed by the shadow men and dragged into the darkness. It seems that the shadow men have the power to erase people from existence entirely, even removing other people’s memories of them. Dave tells the party that they are up against some very powerful otherworldly forces. He offers one small piece of encouragement however. He tells them that, even though it may feel like it, they aren’t alone in their fight.

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Session Nineteen

The adventurers decide to take the mysterious black pills that they found in an unmarked container in an abandoned house. Before they can actually put the pills in their mouths, the tiny objects sprout sharp spines, which pierce their skin. The pills then transform into thick oily sludge and seep into the wounds. In each case, the pill transforms as soon as the person holding it makes the conscious decision to consume it. Once the strange substance enters their bloodstreams, the party members begin to experience intense mind-altering effects.

Time and space unravel. The borders of reality and perception are erased. The adventurers find their consciousness flung from their bodies and merged with the universe. For an eternal instant, they experience complete cosmic awareness. They are connected to every being and object in the multiverse at all points in the past, present, and future. Slowly, over the course of either seconds or eons, the tide of omniscience recedes. When the party regains lucidity, they are different people in a different place and time.

Each adventurer has a new identity, and no knowledge of their former selves. The party is in a jungle in southern Thorcadia. They are an adventuring group led by Hargo Rogan. Most of the group has been travelling with Hargo for several years. They have had many successful endeavors together, but none has taken them so far from the Heartsea Kingdoms. Furthermore, Hargo has been oddly secretive about their purpose. Though each member of the party has a different reason, they all trust Hargo enough to follow him without question.

After weeks of hard travel, the party has finally arrived in a tiny settlement along a river. Hargo tells them that their objective will require them to travel even further into the jungle. The first leg of the journey is by boat. As they traverse the river they are attacked by flying apes. The expedition becomes even more hazardous when they reach land. They are forced to blaze a trail through the untamed wilds, and once again run afoul of the local fauna. When they reach their destination, the adventurers find a massive stone pyramid. The structure appears to be incredibly old.

The group explores the area around the pyramid and eventually discovers an entrance. They soon find that the majority of the complex is subterranean. As the party explores the ancient corridors, they are filled with a nameless dread. At the center of the complex is a great vaulted chamber. Within the chamber, a huge statue (similar to the one in the ice cavern but much larger) sits hunched over a metal tablet. Hargo moves to take the tablet, but as he does, the darkness in the chamber takes form.

At first, all the party can see of the creatures is their eyes; burning red coals hovering in the gloom at the edges of the chamber. But as the figures draw closer, and enter the pool of light shed by the group’s torches, their forms are revealed. The figures appear to be men composed of utter darkness. The shadow men advance on the party menacingly, and a battle ensues. The adventurers’ weapons seem to have little effect, but the shadow men are able to injure with a mere touch. The party members unlucky enough to be grabbed by one of the silent figures feel all the warmth instantly drained from their bodies. The group quickly decides that they are outmatched and flee.

The party is able to make it out of the temple and back to the boat. Once they are safely back at the trading post, Hargo goes to meet with his client. Cid sneaks along to spy on him. Cid does not see who Hargo is talking to but hears enough of the conversation to know that Hargo only took on the job because his family was threatened. He turns over the tablet to his contact and tells the man to leave. Later, the party meets with Hargo to discuss their next steps. As they enter the room, Hargo is reading a letter. After finishing the letter he tosses it into the fire, but before he does so some of the party members are able to see a seal on the paper. Hargo thanks the group for their loyalty and bravery. He tells them that the job here is done, and they will be returning to the North. Hargo warns his friends that their next mission will be even more dangerous, and any who wish to go their own way are free to do so. None of the adventurers take him up on the offer. As the sun sets, the world grows hazy and dim.

Back in the abandoned manor house, the party awakens from their drug induced hallucination (all back in their original bodies). Though dazed and confused, they remember the adventure in the jungle clearly. They are quickly able to identify the shadow men as the same creatures who appeared in Avery when Colin Windhelm’s nightmares were causing havoc on the streets. Furthermore, Bran is able to identify the seal on the letter as that of House Wallenquist, a prominent noble family in Doza.

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Session Eighteen
It's Dangerous To Go Alone

The journey to the keep is a two day slog up the coast of The Heartsea, through torrential rains. The party arrives at a small village and decides to stay the night. There they learn that the keep is the traditional home of the local prefect, but has been empty for several years. The village is of such little consequence that after the previous prefect died, the government never quite got around to sending a replacement. No one seems to have any strong feelings about the group’s plan to explore the keep.

After a decent night’s sleep (interrupted occasionally by strange dreams) the party ventures up the nearby hill. The keep turns out to be more of a manor house. The group is easily able to gain entry. They find the interior to be in oddly good repair. As they explore the foyer, a poorly spelled message appears on the wall, written in blood. Cid attempts to correct the spelling and receives a rude response.

The party moves on to the dining hall, where they are attacked by strangely deformed wildlife. When the creatures are killed, their bodies dissolve and leave behind items. Morgrim develops an unusual habit of describing every object that they pick up. In other rooms they find crates that practically explode when hit and also leave behind items (which Morgrim describes).

As the group continues to explore the keep, they find that the upper floors are inaccessible. However, they learn that by collecting decorative shields from various rooms and returning them to their places in the dining hall, the path to the second story is opened. On the upper floor they find an armory with many powerful weapons.

When the party returns to the entry hall they encounter a huge fiendish creature. The creature laments the fact that the specific weapons to which it is vulnerable were kept within its lair, but proceeds to attack the adventurers anyway. A blasphemy spell nearly disables the entire party, but with the help of their newly discovered weaponry, the heroes take down the fiend. As the creature dies, the room fades away and the group wakes up in the inn.

Confused and disgruntled, they return to the keep. In its true state, it is quite run down. They explore the building thoroughly, but find no signs of any recent inhabitants. However, in a room upstairs, a strange instinct causes one of the party members to smash a hole in a wall. Hidden inside the wall is a small metal container. The container is very cold and covered in a thin layer of frost despite the moderate weather. They open it and find that it contains several small black pills (one for each party member). The adventurers decide to take the pills.

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Session Seventeen
Bringing Back Bran

The party has successfully closed the psychic doorway. Sadly, Bran the bard perished during the journey into the nightmare. However, the group has been reunited with a missing companion, the dwarven warrior Morgrim. Brother Cavendish informs the adventurers that the patients have already started to become more docile. One patient has mysteriously died in his sleep, though no cause was apparent. Cavendish warns the group that Father Vannicutt is quite displeased with their interference, and urges them to leave quickly. Some of the party members want to confront Vanicutt, but cooler heads prevail and they decide to take Bran’s body back to Helmsley.

That evening, as the party makes camp on the road to Gryphon, a heavy fog moves in. While on guard duty, Torc hears some movement nearby and goes to investigate. Through the mists, he sees a campfire and recognizes the trio of women that the group met before when returning from Avendar. Reluctantly, he wakes the party, and the adventurers go to speak with the women. The women say that they can bring Bran back to life in exchange for three boons. The maiden asks for the seed of a man, the mother asks for a token of their devotion and the crone asks for a sacrifice of flesh. Zarrick volunteers to provide the gifts for the maiden and the crone, but the mother’s gift requires the entire party. A ritual is performed and Bran is re-incarnated as a human.

The token of devotion turns out to be a task. The mother summons a whippoorwill to guide the group and tells them that they are to rid the land of an unnatural creature. The whippoorwill takes the party to a cavern deep in the swamp. There they battle a huge serpent with the face of a human and several of its thralls. The adventurers prevail and they return the creature’s head to the trio of women.

Their task complete, the party travels through the mists once again. When they reach their campsite, they find a sleeping dog. The dog proves to be friendly, but otherwise mundane. It wears a collar that identifies it as ‘Molly’ and indicates that she belongs to a family in Avery. Since their original goal of returning Bran’s body to Helmsley has been rendered moot, the group decides to take the dog back to Avery. They arrive the next day and locate the address on Molly’s tag. It turns out to be an empty house. The adventurers search every room, but find nothing until they reach the attic. Amongst the cobwebs and rafters they discover many strange items, each with a disturbing quality. They decide to load all of the items into their cart and take them back to Helmsley for examination.

The group plans to leave town as soon as the cart is loaded, but they realize that once again, Seth has disappeared. Some of the party members are of a mind to leave anyway, but as they are doing so, Molly runs away from the group and into a tavern. Some of the adventurers follow her and find her seated on a stool at the bar. Torc decides to share a few beers with the dog. Much to his surprise, after the third beer, Molly’s barks turn into words. Somehow, Hargo is communicating through Molly. After some initial confusion, Hargo explains that what the party saw in the nightmare was not truly his death. He goes on to tell the group that there is something in a keep north of Winterhold that will help them, though it will be very dangerous.

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Session Sixteen
Nightmares

Upon entering Hargo’s mind, the party becomes separated. Each member finds them self in a different nightmarish scenario. In each scenario, one of Winterhold’s patients is also present. One by one, the adventurers are able to successfully defend the inmates from their dreams (mostly). Eventually they are reunited in a single dreamscape. As it turns out, the dreamer is their old companion Morgrim. In Morgrim’s nightmare he is reliving the ascent into The Ice Shield Mountains. When the party finally reaches the crater in Morgrim’s dream, they are forced to replay the battle in the cave.

After dealing with Morgrim’s nightmare, the group finds that they are free to travel further into the dream realm. They move through several bizarre tableaus and do battle with strange creatures disguised as old allies. After some time, the adventurers encounter an entity that offers to help them. The entity leads the party to Hargo’s silver cord. Unfortunately, the party catches up with Hargo just in time to see him devoured by a gigantic fanged maw. They rush to attempt a rescue, but are unable to force the jaws to reopen.

The group has little time to process what they have seen before they are set upon by a huge demonic creature. The fight is brutal. In the course of the battle, Bran is killed. Though the remaining adventurers are able to hold their own in combat, the demon appears to be nearly indestructible. The dream entity suggests that the demon is somehow drawn to Hargo’s silver cord, which is still trailing from the massive maw. Torc is able to sever the cord with a blow from his axe, which does in fact seem to weaken the demon. As the cord is severed, a vortex appears far above the group and the dream entity flies swiftly up and into the swirling ether. The adventurers quickly realize that the vortex is the doorway back to their reality, and it is closing. They swiftly finish off the demon and follow the entity out.

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Session Fifteen
Bye Bye Belle Mare

Even with Randall dead, there is some concern amongst the party members that the cult might return. They decide to stay in Belle Mare and search for other high ranking members. The group elects to return to the mayor’s mansion and investigate the subterranean passageways further. In the massive ritual chamber they find the corpses of several cultists. Some apparently died in the chaos following the adventurer’s arrival. Others, it would seem, returned to the chamber afterwards and took their own lives. Many of the corpses are floating in the pool at the center of the chamber and have become quite bloated.

With the aid of some water breathing spells, the party enters the pool and begins exploring the waters below. They find a system of natural caves which eventually led out to The Heartsea. Navigating through the caves proves to be very difficult. Part of the group is separated and becomes hopelessly lost. Fortunately, the remaining group members are able to find them and get them back to the surface before the water breathing spells wear off.

As the adventurers near the surface, they hear a muffled noise. When they emerge from the water, they find that all of the corpses are chanting. The party wastes no time burning the bodies to ashes.

The group spends a few more days in Belle Mare to help the townsfolk restore order. Eventually they decide that their mission for Helmsley is complete, and it is time to return to Gryphon. Sir Jensen lets the party know that he will stay in Belle Mare until the church can send a replacement for Father Raynor. The adventurers bid farewell to their friends and set out for Fort Blackrock.

The journey north takes more than a day, and as the party camps for the night they receive an unwelcome visit. The ghost of the vigilante manifests and attacks the party. But, for a second time, she is vanquished.

When the party reaches Fort Blackrock, they begin making arrangements to return to Gryphon by ship. As usual, Seth disappears at the first opportunity. When he returns, he informs the party that a local lowlife named Ghren the Mule is planning to sell them out to The Iron Band. The group tracks the man to a local gambling house. They bribe the owner of the establishment to let them take Ghren, a deal which the owner is happy to take. When confronted by the armed adventurers, Ghren tries to make a run for it, but is easily apprehended.

Once the party has Ghren in their custody, they question him. He denies any intent to inform the Iron Band of the group’s whereabouts, and indeed denies even knowing who they are. To be on the safe side, the party decides to take Ghren with them. The next day, they board a ship bound for Avery.

During the voyage, they continue to question Ghren. Certain party members begin to realize that even if he hadn’t been planning to sell them out to the Iron Band before, he most certainly would do so if freed. When they reach Avery, Ghen is told that he will be allowed to return with the ship. However, Torc has made a quiet arrangement (unbeknownst to most of the party) with the captain to insure that Ghren will not reach Fort Blackrock alive.

The group has barely been in Avery half a day when they receive a request from Brother Cavendish to come to Winterhold. They leave immediately and arrive at the asylum late that night. As the group waits for Cavendish in the main hall, they are accosted by an inmate. The crazed man keeps ranting that they “left the door open”. When Cavendish arrives, he informs the group that the patients have been quite agitated lately. Some residents who were formerly quite harmless have become aggressive and dangerous. Many patients are refusing to sleep. Cavendish tells the adventurers that the changes began right after their last visit, which is why he asked them to return.

Eventually they are allowed to visit Colin Windhelm. He seems confused at first, but when someone mentions the man in the main hall and his claim about “the door”, Colin suggests that they check on Hargo. Once in Hargo’s room, Windhelm confirms that the “doorway” they used to enter Hargo’s mind is indeed still open (though he cannot explain why). He asks the party if they are willing to once again risk their lives, and once again the party agrees to help. Windhelm uses his power to send the adventurers back into Hargo’s mind.

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Session Fourteen

The steps in the warehouse lead to what appears to be an abandoned excavation site. The adventurers find some equipment that must have been used to dig the tunnels, but it looks as if it has been untouched for many years. As the group begins to explore the site, they discover several ancient columns. In most instances, only a portion of each column is visible. However, they eventually find a large chamber in which an entire column has been unearthed. As it turns out, they are near the top of the structure, even though they have descended quite some distance underground. Torc (maybe) notes that the stonework is thousands of years old. He also remarks that the stone is not a type found anywhere in this part of the world. A scaffolding allows them to climb down to the bottom of the chamber and continue deeper into the network of tunnels. At this point, the party is nearly a hundred feet below sea level.

The adventurers pass through several more excavated pockets. In addition to the columns, they also see portions of massive statues. In one chamber, in which the bases of several columns have been uncovered, the party is attacked by bizarre creatures made of little more than eyes and mouths. Beyond this chamber the group finds a portion of the main structure that has been revealed. The surface is angled slightly. They follow a tunnel that runs parallel to the wall and eventually reach a large ornate door. There is also a large sculpture depicting a group of unusual sea creatures. Fortunately, Torc determines that there are several magical traps on both the door and the sculpture before anyone tries to enter the structure. He is able to safely disarm them and manages to open the door.

The interior of the structure is quite well preserved. After exploring some of the corridors, the adventurers surmise that they are inside of a pyramid. More traps guard the halls and doors, but Torc is able to deal with them. After only a short time, the party finds stairs leading to an upper level. They find a heavily warded door and manage to open it. Beyond the door is a small room. The far wall of the room has been almost completely destroyed. Peering through the massive hole, it becomes apparent that the center of the pyramid is comprised entirely of a single massive chamber. It is also apparent that whatever destroyed the wall came from that direction.

The central chamber is completely dark, and the adventurers cannot determine its size. All they know is that they are near the top. They decide to lower a rope and descend. By the time the party reaches the floor their lights are not strong enough to illuminate the walls. Near where the party touches down, there is a circular pool of inky black water. Before the group has time to investigate, they discover that they are not alone. Two people emerge from the darkness at the edge of the room. One is Randall the harbormaster, and much to Torc’s dismay, the other is Katarina. The adventurers attempt to talk to Randall, but several fish-men burst from the pool, and a fight ensues. Randall’s legs and lower body transform into tentacles and he begins slinging spells at the party. Katarina, as it turns out, also has an impressive array of magical skills and she begins aiding Randall in the fight. During the skirmish, Raban surprises everybody by telekinetically flinging an opponent across the room. As the battle wanes, and it becomes obvious that he is going to lose, Randall utters an ominous warning and slits his own throat. After Randall’s death, Katarina ceases her attacks on the party. It is agreed that Randall must have been controlling her mind somehow.

After exploring the periphery of the central chamber, the party decides to find out what is at the bottom of the pool. Water breathing spells are cast and they dive in. The narrow shaft descends for quite some distance, and eventually opens out into another open area. Like the chamber above, the party’s lights are not bright enough to light the entire space. They pick a direction and start to swim. Eventually the group reaches a wall. By following the wall they are able to determine that they are in a gargantuan underwater vault. The vault is cylindrical in shape and along the circumference several massive statues have been carved into the rock. The statues are of humanoid figures with fish-like heads, but they do not appear to be the same type of creatures as the fish-men that have been plaguing Belle Mare. As the party makes a circuit of the vault, they come to a section of the wall which gives way to a curtain of pure darkness. Bran attempts to stick his head into the darkness, and is immediately pulled through. On the other side of the barrier, Bran finds himself still under water. However, his body is suddenly being crushed by tremendous pressure. Bran is able to pass back through the barrier before being killed, and reports his findings to the rest of the group. The party decides that they have had enough excitement for one day, and they return to Belle Mare.

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