The Edge of Empire

To the Hold
The Company fights its way to the Duergar Fortress

Behind the guidance of Ormust the Great, the Company fights past a nasty creature and journeys deep into the ancient, ruined Minotaur civilization.

Eventually, Ormust stands before them and gestures to a bridge over a ravine to a far fort, saying “Behold, the Horned Hold.”

The others look at Adrik, and ask him if the bridge is safe. Adrik asks why he should know, then steps through the bridge, falling into the ravine.

Ormust runs as the others learn, to their dismay, that the bridge was an illusion. Adrik hung on to a rock outcropping, barely escaping a fall to his death.

The others pulled him up, then continued their search, finding the Horned Hold a thousand yards along the ravine…three outposts built along the cliffs that stand separated by the ravines, but joined by three bridges.

Samir approached the gate and parlayed with some loathsome guards. He negotiated to enter the stronghold and approach its leader with a bargain… credits in exchange for Jack Jones.

But, of course, Jack Jones was not there. And neither, apparently, were the slaves. Nonetheless, they did learn that the slaves were sold to a wizard that the Duergar were magically made unable to name. And they gained an ally in their hunt for the Shaguin, since the Duergar were apparently also unaware that the crystals were cursed and were, themselves, collectors and handlers of the crystals.

In Search of the Horned Hold
A new threat further delays our heroes

Having learned by questioning their captured Bloodreaver that the Duergar were indeed buying slaves from them, the Company needed to find the hidden Duergar fortress, known as the Horned Hold.

But, having allowed the only Duergar they’d ever seen to leave the Bloodreaver fortress unmolested, they had little idea where to begin.

The Duergar kept a trading post within the 7-Pillared Hall, but it had been recently and hurriedly abandoned while the Company was rescuing Rendil, as if someone had tipped them off to the coming of a dangerous and angry group of adventurers. All they found, in searching the trading post, was a strange crystal.

So, without leads, the Company began to simply ask around. A certain Drow shopkeeper suggested that the Company follow the trail of the crystal to a common dealer in them, Ormust the Great, a small-time seller of various items of alleged magic.

The Company found Ormust and began to question him about the crystals, sending him into a panic, and causing him to alert his “protectors”.

After a brief battle, Ormust spilled his guts, explaining that he had been hired by a group of “Shaguin” fishpeople to stabilize shards of crystal broken off from a larger crystal near the Horned Hold. The Duergar would buy the crystals from the Shaguin, then use Ormust to move them into the 7-Pillared Hall at a nice profit, though the crystals were sold cheaply.

But there was just one thing: Some of the crystals were cursed, and the nature of the curse was as yet unknown.

In exchange for his life, Ormust agreed to lead the Company to the Horned Hold.
A Halfling Holiday
Reuiniting a Halfling Parent and Child--but not the right ones!

The Company left the Bloodreavers’ hideout only to discover that Rendil had once again disappeared. This time, leaving behind a pool of blood and a few quills from Duergar beards.

Believing that Rendil had been captured by the Duergar they had let escape from the Bloodreaver’s hideout, the Company returned to the Seven-Pillared Hall to deliver the news to Erra Halfmoon, Rendil’s mother.

Erra was furious. She reminded the Company of their promise to look after Rendil if he ventured to bring them to the Bloodreavers’ lair. She pointed out that Rendil was a father, and that they had removed Rendil from his home and his son on the night before the Feast of the Lady—the Halfling harvest holiday.

Una was hearing none of it. He testily pointed out that he, too, had lost family, perhaps to the Bloodreavers, and was no less deserving of sympathy. Erra slapped him. Only a timely magical intervention from Samir prevented Una from returning the insult.

Hearing the commotion, Mama Nettles intervened, learning of Rendil’s disappearance the the pool of blood he left behind. “Take me to de blood,” she demanded.

At the site of the disappearance, Mama Nettles divined that Rendil was alive, and nearby. The Company went in search of him, finding him the captive of a demonic Apeman and his group of gnoll thralls. The demon had also captured the Duergar, but they had already been eaten.

The company defeated the demon and the gnolls, then returned Rendil, again, to the Halfmoon Inn and to the waiting arms of his son, in time for the morning of the Feast.

Samir and Adrik
The Company finds new allies, at least for now.

Una’s quest to find his possibly enslaved mother and friend is delayed by circumstance, as a representative of House Azaer demands to question the Company on the matter of Fatima.

The representative, Samir, allows himself to be persuaded, in appearance if not in fact, that Fatima’s alleged paramour, Jack Jones, is actually fallen in with the Bloodreavers. They should work together, it was thought, to end assault the Bloodreavers’ hideout, find Una’s loved ones, and bring Jack Jones in for questioning and perhaps a physical examination to determine whether or not Jack Jones was capable of the crime for which Jack Jones stands accused.

The group follows the lead of Rendil Halfmoon, who takes them to the door of the Bloodreavers’ domain. Rendil waits in hiding while the company assaults the the hideout.

The company comes across two dark-skinned, red-bearded dwarves that they come to realize are duergar. The duergar explain that they were simply there to trade in dry goods and had nothing to do with whatever unseemly business brought the Company of the Scepter Tower to visit. They went on their way and never looked back.

The group raided the hideout, room to room, until they discovered a main chamber where one prisoner remained—a dwarf named Adrik. They assisted the dwarf with his escape and learned, by questioning one of their foes, that the slaves were actually sold to the duergar.

The leader of the Bloodreavers escaped by means of a secret passageway.

Reunited (and it feels so hard)

Jack Jones appears suddenly in a beautiful woman’s bedroom. Details to be found in the player’s post. Hosvir’s imp activates the Jade Eye, causing it to teleport the imp and master alike to an underground location. The imp insists he’s looking for his “true master.”

The others explore their new surroundings: an underground town and trading post built on the ruins of an ancient minotaur city. They discover that the slavers may be working with someone in nearby Wheloon, and that they may have enslaved and sold Una’s mother and his dear friend.

They prepare to delve farther into the ruins beneath the Thunderspire Mountains, seeking the gang of slavers called the Bloodreavers, in hopes of ending their trade and finding Una’s loved ones.

The Order changes, and the heroes follow deep currents to a faraway locale

The facts were these:

First, the Jade Eye was no longer easily transported or used, as it was now fully occupied with maintaining and keeping sealed the extradimensional space that imprisoned The Otherworlder.

Second, the exit from the Barrow was quite possibly sealed, due to the original trap that accompanied the Company’s entrance, and subsequent shifting caused by The Otherworlder’s destructive lashing.

Third, there would be others who would seek the Eye, and they would need to be thwarted.

Fourth, Mama Nettles’s son Orin was lost inside the prison, as was Jack Jones’s sword. And Eutocius’s soul was sacrificed forever to the Eye.

Fifth, the spoils of victory over a dragon sat unattended in Captain Harrowleaf’s vault.

Una, Angiledhel, Hosvir, Finn, Mama Nettles, Garwain, and Corvyr were in the midst of a frank and wide-ranging discussion of these facts when Angiledhel noticed, bobbing down the underground river in the cavern, drifting with the current, a barrel.

Finn hauled the barrel out of the water and popped off the lid to reveal a young human boy, covered in a slimy substance and apparently in some state of suspended animation. Having consulted the party, Finn dunked the boy back into the water to wash off the substance, at which point the boy began to regain consciousness. Questioning revealed that the boy, whose name was Pike, had apparently been abducted some days prior from a nearby town, most likely by slavers.

Concluding that this underground river was some sort of supply route for slaves, Una jumped into the water and followed it into another cavern nearby, where he saw a dwarf and a few hobgoblins working together to move human cargo on and off of boats.

Una captured the dwarf and brought him back to the group. He was revealed to be Zark, Garwain’s nephew, and he was “recruited” by the group to accompany most of the party as they followed one of the boats down the underground river to its destination. Meanwhile, Garwain and Corvyr would remain with Pike, looking after both him and the Jade Eye as best they could.

The journey was long and treacherous, and involved a bit of magical assistance. When they finally arrived at the boat’s endpoint, they quickly entered combat with a group of slavers and raiders calling themselves the “Bloodreavers,” saving a halfling named Rendil from certain captivity.

Battling the Otherworlder

The Otherworlder attacked, psychically screaming at his enemies and allies alike, demanding above all that the Jade Eye be retrieved.

His minions appeared from the edges of the large, darkened cavern, centering on Hosvir, upon whose staff was mounted the Jade Eye.

Inside the Eye, another struggle took place, between the ancient heroes who had long ago sacrificed their souls, empowering the eye to trap The Otherworlder in an otherdimensional prison and Skoulos, the Otherworlder’s wizard lieutenant. Each side struggled for control of the Eye, and for influence over Hosvir, who had discovered that he could use the Eye to re-open the Otherworlder’s prison.

Finding that his small array of Hobgoblin warriors was insufficient to wrest control of the Jade Eye from a motivated Hosvir, The Otherworlder turned to his secret weapon. He demanded of Eutocius that the paladin get the Eye from Hosvir. Suddenly, Eutocius found himself dominated by one of the souls that swirled around him, who revealed himself to be Domos, The Otherworlder’s third lieutenant.

Eutocius/Domos attacked Hosvir, while the others stood stunned by The Otherworlder’s psychic attacks. Still, they kept possession of the Jade Eye, while Hosvir kept the portal to The Otherworlder’s prison open, moving it into position as best he could.

Together Eutocius/Domos and The Otherworlder wielded deadly power, and the Company was quickly bloodied. But hope was not lost.

Mama Nettles finished her mutterings, and soon an army of undead dwarves flooded the chamber, attacking The Otherworlder and his allies.

Inside the Jade Eye, the struggled continued. Skoulos wrested control from the heroes and began closing the portal Hosvir had created.

Eutocius, fighting the dominating influence of Domos, regained his consciousness and grabbed at the Eye, allowing it to take his soul and sacrificing himself to keep the portal open. His body fell dead.

The Otherworlder grew more desperate, flailing about with his tentacles. He grabbed up the sword Jack Jones had left behind, and grabbed up Orin, Mama Nettles’s son.

Hosvir finally managed to maneuver the Portal into position near The Otherworlder, and Mama Nettles, seizing what may have been her only opportunity to keep him from escaping, used powerful magic to maneuver him inside! The others pounced, doing everything in their power to push him deeper into his prison until Hosvir could close the portal, trapping The Otherworlder once again.

Into the Barrow
The Company delves deep into the Ogre King's tomb to find more than they bargained for

The Company discovered enough clues from the murders in Loudwater to be assured that the culprit lurked in the nearby Barrow of the Ogre King, that they required Una’s weapon, the Horn Totem, bought from the dwarf Garwain a moon ago and previously lifted from the Barrow, and that the murders were linked to an ongoing attempt to resurrect the long-dead vassal of The Otherworlder.

They gathered a group of allies, including Garwain, Corvyr, Eutocius, and a few of the city guards, to raid the Barrow and put an end to the sinister doings there.

A quick scout of the area triggered a cunning trap that caused a cave-in, trapping Hosvir inside. The others found an alternate way in, and they all worked their way toward the bottom of the Barrow, enduring along the way a voice inside their heads urging them to give up Una’s Horn Totem. They realized that the Barrow was in fact a grand dwarven tomb spiraling downward in a slow descending curve.

When they reached the bottom, they found a Goblin dressed in fancy robes awaiting them, along with Mama Nettles who muttered over her unconscious son. Behind them flowed an underground river.

After a brief exchange, the Company revealed that they had ground the Horn Totem to powder, pouring out its remains in front of the Goblin. Then Una, sensing that hostilities might be brewing, flung his dagger at the Goblin, killing him instantly. But then Mama Nettles’s son, Orin, sat up and spoke in an uncanny voice: “I can no longer raise my General, but I am more than sufficient to destroy you. I am P’lchrukk.” Then a large, tentacled abomination rose from the river and attacked the Company, as Jack Jones vanished again, this time leaving behind his sword, which clanged to the ground.

Murder in Loudwater
The company returns to Loudwater, to find it gripped by fear in the wake of a string of murders.

The company returned to Loudwater to find a town gripped by fear. Two of its citizens were dead, murdered in identical ways. A small town, unaccustomed these days to such things, Loudwater closed its gates until the murderer could be found, and used flimsy information to suggest that the town was gripped by plague, leaving refugees from Llorkh to fend for themselves outside the city walls. Because Finn was a Loudwater native, he was able to persuade the guards to allow him entry, along with Angiledhel, whose reputation preceded him. They were quickly pressed into service by Captain Harrowleaf, who asked for their help in solving the murders. One corpse was their old acquaintance Incendium Aires, the Genasi. Another was Curuvar the Brazen, an old wizard.

Meanwhile, back at camp, Una and Hosvir fended off greedy hands who wanted a piece of their hoard, before being brought in to assist with the mystery.

Finn lost no time in looking up his old mentor and friend Garwain, a dwarf who runs a local curio shop and had encountered the Company in days past. Finn found him in the midst of an epic bender, mourning the loss of his old friend Curuvar.

Another corpse was soon added to the pile. The local knife-seller was found dead after a robbery, then an erstwhile merchant, Yannik Johastra, was attacked. He had been running a con, attempting to sell a poor replica of Una’s horn dagger.

Yannik survived his attack long enough to grab at his attacker, stripping off his satchel. Inside, a poison in powder form was found, along with a hit list. The final name on the list was Garwain. Finn and the others made it their business to protect Garwain, and hatched a plan to visit the Barrow of the Ogre King, the underground lair from which Una’s dagger was purported to have been taken.

After a few misadventures and false starts, the Company arrived at the Barrow, Garwain in tow, prepared for battle.

The Return of Angiledhel
The curse of Skoulos becomes a blessing in disguise, at least for once.

Hosvir studied the Jade Eye and learned a few things about its nature, including the fact that it is powered by willing sacrifice. The three remaining members of the Company found the dragon’s hoard, Una disabled the traps guarding it, and they and gathered the heaps of coin and treasure, taking time to properly identify and claim the items.

In attempting to deal with Angiledhel’s body, Finn and Hosvir noticed something strange. Their wounds, not strangely unhealed, bled into Angiledhel’s, as if the elf’s wounds were sucking blood into them. Finn recalled that some reptiles can regenerate, and that the curse gave Angiledhel reptilian features.

Angiledhel’s owl returned, seeking him, but seemed to be looking at the Jade Eye. Hosvir noticed this and sacrificed a portion of his soul to free Angiledhel’s soul from the Jade Eye into his healed body.
The Company found Eutocius waiting for them where they left their skiff and Una presented him with a note.

Within the Jade Eye…

First there was pain, then nothing, then… A green light. It was everywhere, inside him and outside, flowing through Angiledhel and drawing him into a place without form or object or end, where all was and is and forevermore will be green.

Angiledhel stared, if it could be called staring, since he no longer had eyes to see. Yet he did, somehow, and a body raked open by tooth and claw. This was no Eternal Plane of the Dead, it seemed, but some Limbo. Some other place, where Life and Death hung in unstable balance. He waited. And prayed.

How long was it—minutes? days?—before the voice came, speaking in an archaic, ornate elvish. “Are you supposed to be here? It seems not.” The voice was lilting, high-pitched, but clearly male. The accent, even with the strange taint of antiquity on the words, was familiar. The cadences of Myth Dranor. At once Angiledhel felt a sense of ease. Safety. “I… I don’t know where I am,” he answered in his own tongue.

“Then I am correct,” the voice replied. “You do not belong here at all. Yet, nevertheless, here you are. Lyia, what do you make of this?”

There came now, a sensation: sudden, localized warmth, as if someone were breathing down his neck, caressing his forearm, drawing close to his ear. And a new voice, female, speaking an old Common. “He still holds on to his form. And quite a form it is, though wounded, dreadfully. He did not come here willingly. He will not be able to stay for long.”

“Where…. Where am I? Who are you?” Angiledhel stammered, forgetting manners. He felt as bereft as he had as a child, facing the death of his father at Ingerhol’s hands. The sensation of a caress clawed over him again, and the dull echo of the pain he had felt in the moments before… Before. “Am I dead, then?”

“I apologize,” said the elf. “We forget ourselves. We’ve never had a visitor, unless you count the wizard. Perhaps you will be more comfortable if we take form.” Shimmering outlines began to appear in the unending green, as ephemeral as soft line drawings on old parchment. An elf dressed in fine armor of an old style, a beautiful woman in flowing robes, a dwarf, arms folded, wearing thick armor, and a gnome in leather. “I am Thanantilis, cousin. Welcome to the Jade Eye.”

Angiledhel felt a chill run through him, felt his dream-body ice through to the core, felt dream-hands go limp with shock. “Cousin… I…” It was true, Thanantilis was his cousin, or so said the lore masters of Myth Dranor. But a cousin so many generations back his name was more mythical than real. Thanantilis, the God-Slayer, who had martyred himself to save the world from Skoulos and Demos and the Otherworlder, millennia ago. “My cousin. My lady, my lords…” He bowed to the others. The Company of the Departed. “Surely I am dreaming.”

“Perhaps we’re all dreaming. It has been so long since we had any means of knowing the difference. So long….” Thanantilis’s voice seemed to taper away, but only for a moment, before resuming its pomp and cheer. “Tell me, kin, how long has it been? What year is it now? And what do you know of the wizard who joined us here some time ago?”

“Year? In the modern reckoning, it is 1479, but you, cousin, are… As people tell it now, you last walked this earth over three thousand years ago.” Angiledhel swallowed dryly, trying to come to grips with what had happened to him. Thanantilis’s question was as unsettling as any of this queer experience: what dream asked for news of the outside world. What dream had such detail? The burned spots on the gnome’s vest, where sparks had landed. The scar that marred the lady’s cheek. In legend she was unparalleled in beauty, but this lady looked to be… to be as human as Angiledhel’s companions had been. And Thanantilis himself looked far more real than the paintings Angiledhel had seen of the mythic hero. Dark haired not blond. Sharp eyed, and muscular, with hands that had long held weapons.

“1479?” A gruff voice interjected, with the guttural cadences of a dwarf speaking Common. “Tha’ makes no account by any reckonin’ I know. Bah, it don’ matter none, anyways. Get ta what does matter, b’fore ‘e goes ta meet ‘is gods.”

And then a softer voice, apologetic, nasal, intellectual. “What my tactless friend is trying to say is…” The gnome punctuated his remark with a sigh. “It is clear from the wizard’s presence, and from yours, that something has changed. The status quo that lasted all those millennia is no more. Tell us, while you can: does this Eye still imprison the overlord called P’lchrukk?”

“The Otherworlder? Yes. No. I… I don’t know.” Angiledhel stammered. “There is… there are rumors, and a great evil fell upon the land once home to the kingdom of Netheril. The Spellplague unleashed wild magic over all the world: much that was good was undone, and much that was wicked was made.” Angiledhel shuddered. “We found the Eye taken by a green dragon who cloaked herself in human form and claimed to be Skoulos’s consort. She was attempting to revive his soul by means of some unnatural witchery. The tower where the Otherworlder was imprisoned still stands, but we came upon the Jade Eye here, in the swamps that were once the Plain of the Greyflow, in the days before.”

Silence followed, for awhile. It was Thanantilis who finally spoke. “Then it is likely as you feared, Dwilimpileth,” he told the gnome. “The wizard here with us is Skoulos.”

The gnome nodded. “It is no surprise. Skoulos, desiring immortality, kept a portion of his soul in a phylactery, under the watch of the one our friend here calls The Otherworlder. This…’Spellplague’ must have destroyed the phylactery. The wizard’s soul found a new home here with us.”

“Lucky us,” the dwarf interjected, “but at least ‘e keeps to hisself. Never speaks ta us or ta the Old Souls or takes form at all.”

Thanantilis raised a hand to stop the dwarf. “We’ve little time left.” He looked at the newcomer. “What is your name, cousin?”

“Angiledhel Ironstar, son of Ardomiel, of the House of Findwallae,” Angiledhel answered with a bow. The movement this time brought the rawness of fresh wounds into sharper focus. How could he still be in pain, if he was already dead? “Then Skoulos is here? He was.. he was nearly revived, but my companions and I interrupted the ritual. We slew the dragon, though I think I did not survive it. And the paladin’s soul was not possessed, though he abandoned us as well.”

Thanantilis frowned. “Someone was using the eye for such a purpose. That explains the other new souls that came and left so quickly.”

The gnome frowned, crossing ghostly arms over an insubstantial chest. “Explains it to you, perhaps, but not to our visitor.” He turned to Angiledhel and cleared his throat, somewhat self-importantly. “The Jade Eye is powered by self-sacrifice, you see. A soul, willingly given, can enter the Eye, giving it great power. It is through this means that we were able to imprison P’lchrukk. Four souls sacrificed at once were able to alter reality around him, blocking him away from our world forever. Or so we thought.

“This dragon you speak of was attempting to wield the eye to place the wizard’s soul into a mortal frame. To do so, she must have required willing sacrifices. For a while, a dozen or so new souls came to join us here. But then they shunted themselves out again, ahead of the wizard.”

Thanantilis regarded Angiledhel again. “But you. You’re not here of your own accord. You cannot stay. When you leave, either you will enter your body again, or you will go to be with our ancestors, as I never will.”

“You are trapped here, cousin? Is there nothing that can be done?” Angiledhel asked. The thought of eternity trapped here was suddenly suffocating. Fear boiled through him, as the green light crushed in around his very soul. “The dragon… The dragon,” he stammered, struggling to find his voice against the terror that overwhelmed him. “She placed a curse on those who died; they were willing sacrifices only because for them, suicide was preferable to living on under her curse. She cursed me as well — perhaps that is how I came to be here — but I resisted the curse, for I felt the depth of the evil in it.” He thought of the broken body — his body — he had seen in the moments before he was transported here. “Is it true? Can I survive? What must we do to seal the Otherworlder again?”

The woman spoke, now. “The power of our sacrifice remains within the Eye, but its purpose is singular. Give us the opportunity to imprison the creature again and we will seize it. Fail to do so, and our sacrifice will have been in vain.”

A horrible voice, deep as the ocean, full of rage and contempt, roared around them. “You will never find P’lchrukk! He is lost to you! Even now, he waits, growing in strength, marshaling his forces! Your body rots, poisoned, elf. My dear sweet pet ate your viscera. You are dead. Leave this place and face your doom.”

Skoulos. Angiledhel knew it without any doubt. Blood-red terror turned to iron-white anger. A blaze of defiance, the righteous wrath of an elven prince rising to his rank, burst from Angiledhel’s tongue. “You are wrong, demon wizard. Your name is forgotten, the Otherworlder diminished to nothing, and the deaths of my good cousin Thanantilis and his company are not in vain. Your ‘pet’ is dead at the hands of my companions, and they will not fail me. As I will not fail my cousin.”

Skoulos began to take shape from the green, more detailed, more present than Thanantilis and the others, and far more terrifying. Bald, his skin yellowed from age, but not wrinkled. Pulled against his bones like canvas over a heavy load. “Perhaps all that you say is true, little elf. But all of your proclamations will be in vain if the Eye itself betrays you. Your cousin and his cohorts grow weak. Their souls have become detached, ephemeral, listless. Through the power of my will alone, I will have control of the Eye. Even if you live, this day, you will die a more terrible death at P’lchrukk’s hand.”

Angiledhel staggered, overcome with pain. Thanantilis and his cohorts suddenly shifted, standing between Angilhedel and Skoulos. “Do not move against this one, wizard.” As the battle began, Angilhedel could feel himself fading, unable to join it. Unable to move.

In a distance, he heard a familiar voice. Familiar voices. Finn’s voice, praying. Hosvir speaking an incantation. Una, calling his name. Angiledhel groaned, shivering, and opened his eyes.

“I’m alive?”

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