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This campaign summary has been written from the point of view of an unnamed, invisible spectator following alongside the party, documenting their travels as an admirer of theirs. This character has never actually been used, referenced, or even confirmed to exist in the campaign itself - it is just a framing device used to summarize the story from a single perspective. For information about the campaign itself, please see the campaign overview.
- 1 The Championship of Champions
- 2 The Mysterious Lab
- 3 Alphabet Soup
- 4 Strassburg
- 5 War with the Gnomes
- 6 Traveling to the Giant Kingdom
- 7 The Kingdom of Durm
- 8 Joining the Order of Cigam
- 9 Business and Pleasure in the Capital
- 10 A Dwarven Conspiracy
- 11 Back to the Championship
- 12 One Small Favour
- 13 The Jack of all Trades
- 14 A Much Larger Conspiracy
- 15 The Plan
- 16 Finding Pecun Lamna
- 17 Gearing Up
- 18 Desert Dwellers
- 19 Westward Ho
- 20 Searching for Allies
- 21 The Passions
- 22 Catching Up with Castus
- 23 The Mask of King Egar
- 24 Long Live the King
- 25 Long Live the Emperor
- 26 The Axe of Durm
- 27 Slayers
The Championship of Champions
The Tournament - It Begins
Today I witnessed something incredible; not because anything exceptionally unusual happened, but because for the first time in what feels like a millennia, I truly witnessed something. I have wandered aimlessly since my incident, non-existent to even the world's greatest mystic powers, with a fog over my thoughts. Today that fog finally lifted, and while I still remain a ghost to the world, I can think again. And it all started when I neared them; a group of adventurers who don't realize just how important they truly are. I find myself now an uninvited guest in their company, whether they know it or not. I've started recording their deeds so that should my curse ever be lifted, their story can be remembered.
But a story must have a beginning, and this is theirs. Through the fog of my memory I can recall that this country, the Emorian Empire, annually puts on an event, the "Championship of Champions"; a test of art, creativity, will, might, and so on and so forth. Hundreds of contestants seem to have come from far and wide to partake, and yet somehow these individuals wound up together. But I keep referring to them so cryptically, I should probably elaborate on who these mysterious heroes of our story are.
The first of them I witnessed was a Human man named Ivo Arend, an outwardly confident man uncertain in his own truth who wowed the massive crowd with a stunning piece of music in the first competition. He was followed by an elf, Vylqwyn, whose performance outshined Ivo's, sure, but that was certainly due to experience, not necessarily innate skill. A show of strength followed, and a pair of commandant's stood out: Sam Colt III, a man far too young for his rank, and David Evans, a man who looks too old for this.
It was the trials of accuracy that brought the rest of them to my attention. First among them was a woman, Ilyui Omilya, though she prefers the moniker "Illy", fearless in her actions even in the face of crippling consequences. Though she bore the face of a Human her magic did little to fool my cursed eyes; she is an Elf, hiding her true identity beneath a cloak of deception. Javid Divaj was another, and I'm not sure if any of the others looked - or acted - more out of place. He has a fierce determination and an aura of dire urgency about him, though it can be difficult to see beneath the fumbling of a man who so clearly doesn't understand the way this new world works. And finally was Ms. Kallie, a merchant woman hiding an incredible amount of power behind a calm and rational face.
But these tests of basic skills were not what the crowds came to see: no, that was the trials of combat, which began soon after. All of them - Ivo, Illy, Javid, Kallie, Colt, Evans, and even Vylqwyn - were somehow brought together, on one team. They were additionally joined by a seedy man named François, and together they valiantly faced off against a wave of ent-like monsters, and later wolves. Some of their ranks decided to sit out the next fight against a pair of baby dragons, but once again they came out victorious. Finally, though, the main event began and every challenger who'd made it this far was given the choice to face off against the Champion himself: Enoch. The goal was to be standing at the end of a minute, in a fight that was effectively fifty against one.
They lost. I don't want there to be any illusions about these adventurers, they didn't stand a chance against Enoch. Only three of them actually partook in this challenge: Ivo, Javid, and Evans, to be precise, and while they were the last three left standing, they were simply outmatched. But something unusual happened: the scrappy one, Ivo, managed to use some magic rod to prop himself upright just before being knocked unconscious, and then the clock ran out. Technically he was still standing, the first to ever "technically" win. The Championship came to an end, everyone was magically healed and given their prize money, and Ivo, specifically, was given two "Praetorian Coins", which are apparently some valuable "free favor" currency that were extremely hard to come by.
Their shared experience in the combat trials formed a bond between most of them, and the group - sans Vylqwyn and François - reunited after the Championship came to a close, and traveled together into the Town of Loot, ready to spend their winnings. For the most part, their purchases weren't too extravagant: Ivo got a new crossbow and some magic pouches, Colt a new shield, Javid an inactive magic battlestaff. Ultimately they all settled down in a bar and got to know each other... right before they were inundated with job requests and offers for various "quests" to be completed. Honestly, they got so many offers so quickly I had trouble keeping up, but ultimately the party agreed to take a job investigating an incident at a mysterious lab a way south, near a town called Torrig. About half the party set off the next morning on behalf of Vylqwyn, who'd given them the quest, with the other half vowing to catch up later.
The Mysterious Lab
The trip to the lab was mostly uneventful... well, except for that one moment where they got robbed on their way out of town, but that's beside the point. The first group, consisting of Ivo, Colt, Javid, and Ms. Kallie arrived at the base after several hours of walking and met up with a man named Akio, Vylqwyn's contact. Even he didn't really seem to know much about what had happened and left soon after the group entered and started investigating. I can really only tell you what I myself witnessed: it looked like the aftermath of a slaughter. Blood, claw marks, but no bodies; the whole place looked like it had seen war, but was also abandoned.
Ultimately I followed the group as they found a staircase to an underground section of the base, and we - they - came face to face with a group of... humanoid-looking dragon monsters. What were they? Why were they here? HOW did they get here? Those were all questions on everyone's mind as the adventurers rather effortlessly tore their way through the angry beasts, who were no doubt responsible for the carnage above, and explored this mysterious laboratory. Some of the rooms had become nests for these beasts, others were just... empty. One of them was marked as an office for some "General", who was also referenced in some scattered paperwork they found strewn about.
It didn't take long for Evans, Illy, and "The Wolf", who joined the group during the Championship afterparty, to show up behind them, though they had accepted the same contract from a different source: The Third Hand, a criminal organization... whose members just happened to be the same ones who robbed the first group. Whoops. After another fight with a larger group of the man-dragon monsters, in which the team was almost defeated, Ivo put up a bit of a fuss about the whole Third Hand thing and had a bit of a fight about trust or whatnot with Illy and The Wolf. It was all rather dramatic, and the rest seemed to ignore it as they continued clearing out rooms and killing more of the beasts.
Eventually we - they - found their way through a door marked "DO NOT ENTER" after an... ill-advised trial and error method of opening the lock. On the other side was something surprising, even for me. Scientists, seemingly still alive, went about their work, but when the group questioned them they lost their minds and ran out of the room... only for things to suddenly "reset" and repeat. Somehow, the scientists had managed to trap themselves in some sort of "time loop" and they weren't even aware of it. Eventually the party managed to pry some information out of them: they had been experimenting on two captured dragons, and found a way to transform Humans into the dragon monsters the party had just slaughtered, whoops. An accident had caused most of the labs staff to be transformed, and they then attacked those on the base above.
Finding the dragons wasn't hard, they were only one room over, and Ms. Kallie was even able to communicate with them - they were not hostile, and were ever able to communicate with, and calm down, the man-dragons. Unfortunately, freeing the dragons from their cages broke the spell over the scientists, and they instantly became hostile. With help from their new dragon friends the party killed those ethics-apathetic butchers and finally got a chance to rest. The dragons helped guide the party to two important magical artifacts that were being stored nearby: a mysterious golden rod, gifted to Ms. Kallie, and a healing potion that automatically refilled itself once per day, which Illy took.
Those magical pouches that Ivo bought after the Championship? Apparently, he received ten of them, and they all connected to the same storage "space" within a certain distance. He gave one of them to Vylqwyn back in Loot, and he used it to send Vylqwyn a letter as everyone made their way back outside. Vylqwyn didn't take too long to get back to them and, intrigued with what they found, instructed them to meet him in the regional capital, Strassburg, within the next few days. Back in Loot, when the party was getting inundated with quest-requests, they received a job offer to help a young woman from Berwin deal with some "ruffians" that were harassing her and her business. She was also incredibly flirtatious with Ivo so he largely protested to the idea, but was outvoted.
They arrived in Berwin after a day or two - I've really lost my sense of time in this state - after camping out and dealing with only a couple of wild animals. After a night's rest in the fancy merchants' suite, courtest of Ms. Kallie's Merchant Guild membership, some of the party set off to try and help out the poor girl. Now I witnessed what happened next, and even I don't fully grasp it, but I'll try to unravel the knot that was the... "alphabet soup" fiasco. Here it goes:
The party met up with the woman, Miss Tress, at her bar "The X Tavern" which turned out to be a bar filled with scantily-clad, incredibly fit men - much to the party's dismay. Miss Tress claimed that "Miss Ter" of "The Y Tavern" was harassing her and her employees, and even went as far as trashing her establishment. The party went to see Miss Ter at The Y Tavern, but not before stopping to eat there. Illy had alcohol with her lunch and became insanely drunk, and Ivo ended up doing almost all of the talking. Miss Ter claimed that she had no bad blood with Miss Tress, and believes that Miss Tress and her employees were actually being harassed by Miss Es, owner of "The W Tavern" on the outskirts of town. That tavern was more of a fight club, and in order to get an audience with Miss Es Ivo and The Wolf had to participate in a few of the fights, their notoriety from the Championship drawing a lot of attention. Miss Es revealed that Miss Ter and Miss Tress were little more than bickering sisters, and their third sister - Miss Tee, owner of the Z Tavern - was working with both of them and the local guard to force The W Tavern out of business. The party spent the night at the Z Tavern before confronting Miss Tee who claimed that yes, Miss Tress and Miss Tee's feud was just sisterly squabble, and she wanted to merge The W Tavern business with the family business. The party agreed to be neutral hosts to a business meeting between Miss Es and Miss Tee, Miss Tress, Miss Tee, and Miss See, the mayor and fourth sister in the family.
All the mess of "Miss"es and letters aside, a deal was ultimately struck and The W Tavern joined forces with the others, but on the condition that members of the party owned some stake in the business - a deal which Illy and The Wolf took. It was a significant investment, but one with promised huge returns. With the chaos of that whole situation behind them, the party spent one more night in Berwin before heading off to Strassburg. Unfortunately, though, Commandant Colt did not join them, opting to part ways.
The party found their way to Strassburg and their rendevous point with Vylqwyn a short while later. It was an inn, The Three Little Pigs, where everyone was required to surrender their weapons at the door. That didn't stop a couple of ruffians from attacking the group while they waited for Vylqwyn though, but even without their weapons the party easily overpowered them. Vylqwyn did arrive shortly after, and they all made their way to a private room - which Vylqwyn magically sealed - to discuss the artifact they found.
It quickly became apparent that the artifact was insanely powerful, as when Vylqwyn touched it at the same time as another, he was instantly able to learn all of their memories, and even impart some of his own knowledge directly into their minds. Vylqwyn called it an artifact of the Gods, which... caused him a great amount of unrest, based on his pacing around the room. Either it confirmed or severely challenged a part of his world view, the only thing that was certain was how severely dangerous it was. He urged them to tell no one about it, which prompted Javid to refer to it as an "Elephant"... as in, elephant in the room. Whatever an elephant is.
After talking about the staff, and not really figuring too much out about it, Vylqwyn took the party across town to meet the local leader, a man named Luman. This was a man who was... very large, and clearly very powerful, and after the meeting was over Vylqwyn emphasized that Luman was in possession of multiple items that were also, likely, God artifacts. Which, I think his point was to emphasize their rarity, but also that they do exist and are known about by some. Anyway, after speaking with Luman w- they all made their way back to the private room where they decided on their next move. Setting the God Artefact to the side for the moment, the party decided to take the "fight" to The Third Hand, whose local headquarters - they learned - was right beneath their feet, within the Three Little Pigs.
The Third Hand
Earlier, after the group was attacked by those ruffians in the bar, they were confronted by the Inn's owner, a man named "Mr. Atello". Turns out Mr. Atello was also a local Third Hand boss, and Illy was able to use her knowledge of thieves, and past support of the Third Hand (which, I should not, is only a means to an end - the Third Hand stole something extremely valuable to her and she intends to get it back), to get him to agree to let them join the local chapter. Only after they completed a task for him, though: retrieve a book from the local prison. Sounds easy enough... until the party (dis)agreed on getting themselves arrested, grabbing it, and waiting out a brief sentence.
Despite Ivo's protesting they all did get arrested after intentionally causing a public disruption... though The Wolf got both himself and Ivo arrested for "starting a fight" (when really The Wolf just assaulted Ivo). The plan would have worked pretty flawlessly... except some talk from the guards made it seem like The Wolf's punishment for such a violent public disruption was going to be incredibly more severe than it needed to be, so all of the sudden waiting out their sentence out wasn't an option - they'd have to break out.
And break out they did. Finding the book, which seemed to be a soup recipe of some kind, was relatively easy. They also met a nice convict named Jack Daniels, a Human male pirate who was going to tag along with the group in their escape one way or another. And, unfortunately, "another" ended up being the option. The party is not exactly the most stealthy - Illy is, sure, but the others... not so much, and so they were forced to more or less fight their way out. I say "more or less" because the second they saw daylight they just ran straight past all the guards. They did get away though, and they delivered the book back to Mr. Atello and got entry to the Third Hand's secret underground base. Oh yeah, and Jack Daniels decided to stick around for awhile, too!
With their entry into the local Third Hand secured, the party turned their attention back to that pesky God Artefact. Vylqwyn urged them all to visit the local Cigam Tower and gain access to its archives in order to research more about it, or devices like it. Vylqwyn wouldn't go with them himself, though - he insisted that it'd be better if they went without him. Cryptic, that Vylqwyn. So they did, they went to the Cigam Tower and found the highest-ranking Cigam member they could... well, really, they just asked around until they found someone that actually had the authority to help.
Before the Cigam would give any of us access to the archives, though, they required we go through a few tests. If we're being honest, this part is fuzzy for me - I'm certain I've been able to catch a ride on the wizard's teleports before, but this time I was left behind, and the fog over my mind quickly returned. I don't know how much time passed before they came back, but when they did they were told they'd be allowed into the archives. I was able to gather from their conversations after the fact that the tests they faced took place in some other realm - another realm! Just like that! These wizards' magic is insanely powerful! - and were all designed to teach the party teamwork, emphasizing that if they were to search for information of this type, about the Gods, then they would have to be unified, or face destruction.
It's all very dramatic, and since I wasn't there it's hard to really know what the party went through, but whatever they did they succeeded. Just like I knew they would. And so down they went into the underground archives of the Strassburgian Cigam, and... wow. Not only were they huge, but they were also largely unorganized - I think the phrase is searching for a hair in a smokestack? I'm pretty sure that's right. Either way, we wandered around for a while, partly just to figure out the teleporters the Cigam used to get around down there, and fighting some angry spiders and magic books. Illy and The Wolf kept running ahead, too, which really split us up when it came time to fight.
After looking around for a while we, sorry, they sought the help of a friendly Elven librarian woman, Panufnik, who helped guide them towards the back of the archives where they found... a cave-in. The specific books that would be helpful to them had been stolen by someone who had dug their way into the archives, and so the party and Panufnik had little choice but to follow this mysterious tunnel. After a few puzzles I've already forgotten the solutions to, they came upon some skeletons, and an entryway into an even larger chamber... where they were suddenly attacked by an ENORMOUS spider!
After a brief battle, I think it was Ivo who called out to the spider in a language I don't speak... and then everything became peaceful. I only speak common, but from what I could gather the spider hates our language, and became instantly more friendly - intrigued, even - when they spoke other languages. From what I was able to pick up after the fact, this spider's name was Telam, and was a "sister" of Naurel. Telam had already recovered the stolen books, and was guarding them while she waited for Luman to come to recover them. Eventually, the party managed to convince Telam to let us take one of the books, but apparently it was imbued with some insanely powerful magic - it had to be carried by three of them at once, or they'd risk death.
They got it upstairs uneventfully, only to be greeted by none other than Vylqwyn himself... whose presence visibly made many of the Cigam members uneasy. It was here we learned that Vylqwyn was a member of Cigam himself; in fact, he was such a high rank in the Cigam Order that he was worried his being in our company would prevent us from learning how to do stuff, like those trials, the right way because no one in there would ever say no to him. Who would have guessed? Anyway, he escorted us back to our private room in the Three Little Pigs, where the book was opened... and turned out to be something of a God Artifact itself. I don't know what happened exactly, but everyone who touched the book was able to ask it questions and be given answers by some greater power, all in their heads.
I assume most of these questions had something to do with their own personal goals, which I haven't really talked much about. Ivo wants to learn the truth about his family and his magical powers, Illy wants to find an Amulet of Naurel that was stolen from her, Javid wants to find a source of water for his people, Evans wants to find someone important to him, Kallie has business with the Merchants Guild, and The Wolf... well, it was around this point that The Wolf departed from the group, and so his story in this party comes to an end. Each of them received answers that didn't satisfy their questions, but at least gave them somewhere to look next - and for most of them, that meant finding an individual named Cane.
With that, Vylqwyn's business in town had come to an end. He was willing to let the party hold onto the golden rod God artifact but offered to give each of them a personalized reward in exchange for it. For Illy: A tiara that would grant her several deceptive abilities. For Ivo: Vylqwyn's personal robe, which make Ivo's spells more powerful. For Jack: A portable boat that he could collapse and expand at will. For Evans: A set of boots that let him walk on water, among other things. For Kallie: a magic item that let her cast darkness, and see inside of it. For Javid: a set of kinetic robes that offered him greater defense, and retribution. And for everyone: black Cigam amulets, and an invitation to join the Order of Cigam.
With that Vylqwyn took his leave, God Artifact in hand, and the party was left to figure out what to do next.
Finishing up in Strassburg
Before leaving, Vylqwyn recommended the party check in with Luman before they left the city. With that in mind, the party promptly... went downstairs to deal with The Third Hand. See, the ones who'd been robbed were still itching for a little bit of revenge, and local officials the party had talked to had expressed interest in ridding the town of their Third Hand problem. So, the party went downstairs to deal with it. They marched right into the hidden base - which they were allowed in at this point, mind you - and into the leaders chamber. Everything was more or less fine for a few moments, until suddenly one of the guards attacked the party out of the blue. It was a close fight, but ultimately the party came out on top - and to the victor goes the spoils.
After searching around for a few minutes the party found the Third Hand's treasury, and after a lengthy and totally necessary argument about the magical physics of the magical pouches, they gathered up all the gold and just walked out the front door. So to speak. But would the party just take their newfound riches and skip town? No of course not, they'd go into town and go on a shopping spree! After picking up a few less-than interesting tools - mostly magic-imbued arrows - they made their way back to Luman.
They found Luman at the end of a meeting with a Gnomish official, who stormed out fairly angrily. Luman was fairly open about what was going on - a war between Humans and Gnomes had begun, and, well, since we were there he asked if we - they, dammit - could help out. He promptly promoted Evans to the rank of General, and conscripted the lot of them to go south and make sure one of the border towns was secure. The party was to set out the next morning, as early as possible. Oh yeah, and Luman also cornered Ivo on his possession of two of Enoch's Praetorian coins - and traded him one of his own for one.
Everyone mostly split up to go take care of any final business before heading out. Jack Daniels, not eager to get involved in a war, took his leave from the party, and Ivo and Ms. Kallie accepted a job to rescue a womans kid who'd been taken by wolves, just outside the city. They fought their way through a cave network before being joined by Illy and found the woman's kid... as in, the baby goat type of "kid". It had been killed by the Wolves, and so the party brought its corpse with them so the woman could bury it, but not before discovering a vein of adamantium hiding down there. They were able to mine some of it, and when they reached the surface they encountered a literal unicorn! Even I thought they were just a fairytale, but there it was... and it wanted to eat their adamantine. Illy gave it a little bit, and as thanks it magically resurrected the kid. Wild. The woman was thrilled, the party was confused... and then they went to bed.
Oh, I forgot two other things that are probably going to be really important. Since day 1, basically, people have been bugging the party for their "company name" - a band of adventurer's should have an identity, afterall. It was here, in Strassburg, that they finally came up with something... "The Stampede". We'll see if it sticks! The other, as we finished up in town, a ranger by the name of Amyro Elodi joined the group. He claimed that The Wolf had been his mentor, and urged him and his war owl, Sylvanas, to take his place in The Stampede.
War with the Gnomes
What happened in the last few days has largely been a blur; a mess of death and anxiety, I'll try to recall it as best I can. The Stampede left Strassburg and made their way south towards the city of Venycl, which stood on the Human-Gnomish border, and would be under threat pretty soon. This was our mission from Lord Luman, but I can say this: we never arrived. We make it to the city of Furklend fairly quickly, we were able to rent a boat down there, but the city was... all but abandoned. A few military personnel, but otherwise there was nothing. The city had been evacuated due to the war.
We didn't spend much time in Furklend, the mission being to help protect Venycl, so we continued on. They continued on. A curious thing happened along the way, though - the sounds of a man whistling caught everyone's attention, and upon investigating we met a strange man digging graves. There was barely any time for conversation before a small band of Gnomes attacked, and with the help of this strange man they were driven off. The strange man - Tafo Skavo, as we soon found out - then began to bury the fallen, forbidding the party from looting or disrespecting their corpses in any way. Even still, Tafo opted to travel with us, mostly because we were going a... similar direction.
This is where things became a little sketchier. While traveling towards Venycl, we suddenly became aware of a hoard of people - civilians, by the looks of it - running for their lives in an open field not far from The Stampede. Upon investigation they found a small band of Emorian soldiers hastily setting up a defensive line to hold off an approaching army of Gnomish soldiers hunting down the escaped civilians. Straight up fighting on the front lines wasn't part of the mission, but that's what happened next. The Stampede hit them hard from the side, catching them off guard, and with the help of the Emorian army they were successfully driven off. Once again Tafo made sure to bury their corpses, but this time he exhibited the magic of his shovel, which instantly summoned countless more, dug the graves, and buried the dead all in a matter of minutes. It was wild. What was even wilder was how many of them he, personally, killed! The man is insane, and immeasurably powerful.
After Evans had a chat with the soldiers - who he significantly outranked as a General - it became known to The Stampede that there were even more civilians evacuating further to the west; survivors from the siege on Venycl, meaning The Stampede was already too late. They opted to try and help those civilians instead, and made their way west in a hurry. This time they found two larger armies about to clash and, betting on their successes in their last battle, rushed through the surrounding forest to get behind them undetected. Unfortunately it quickly became clear that the army they'd fought before was small and underequipped, this army was much more formiddable, and had something The Stampede just couldn't counter: a sizeable cavalry.
Within seconds mounted Gnomes were flooding the battlefield, and forcing The Stampede to retreat alongside the civlians and all the rest. Through some hastey magic The Stampede was mostly able to outrun them, though, and escaped into the forests in the north. I say mostly because the Gnomes got a real clear look at General Evans, and immediately marked him as a high priority target. The cavalry swarmed towards him, and despite the party's best efforts to convince him otherwise, Evans was convinced the only way he could ensure everyone elses safety was if he surrendered himself. He gave Ivo his sword for safekeeping, and kneeled. Tafo likewise kneeled alongside him, while a very much torn Ivo made the difficult decision to get away.
The POW Camp
Defeated, dejected, and having lost a member of their party, The Stampede returned to Furklend to regroup, and once again spoke with the few military officers stationed there - though they were even more bare than they had been before. After talking and sharing information, the party determined that Evans would be more valuable as a prisoner than dead, and so he was probably taken to a nearby prison camp, and according to the local garrison, the most likely location would be a camp just outside the city of Naykan, north-west of Venycl.
And so off they went, back into the field - though this time skirting around any Gnomish they came across - towards the city of Naykan. Following the river they were able to make record time, and soon found themselves on the outskirts of the Gnomish prisoner-of-war camp. Only now did The Stampede start actually trying to come up with a decent plan on how to liberate Evans, if he was even in there... and what they ultimately came up with was to literally just walk to the front door and knock. Okay maybe not quite literally, but that's basically what it ammounted to. Their decision making process can be weird at time.
Realistically, they intended to leverage their Cigam amulets - proving their membership in the organization - in order to broker a "truce" of some sort, and fight their way out once inside if necessary. Unfortunately the whole place was crawling with Gnomes, far too many to fight, and The Stampede found themselves escorted to a tent and completely surrounded. A few important Gnomes came and went, questioning the party on their intentions, why they wanted Evans, what they'd give in exchange for him, etc. The most surprising part of it all was that Tafo, who had also been captured, was just... freely walking around the camp! He was still a prisoner, but everyone there was so afraid of him and his reputation as the "Gravedigger" that they couldn't really do anything to restrain him. Wild.
Ultimately, with the help of Tafo, Ivo convinced the leading Gnome to release Evans in exchange for one of his two Praetorian coins, though the decision was a difficult one for Ivo - not because he didn't want to do it, but because he feared he'd lose the coin and then he'd be betrayed. Ultimately his fears were misplaced and the Gnomes upheld their end of the bargain: Evans and Tafo were released, and they, along with the rest of The Stampede, were blindfolded and marched outside of the camp, where they were promptly released.
They made their way back to Furklend one more time, only time find it completely empty this time. At least that's how it looked at a glance, because soon after walking through the city gates they were dragged into various buildings by occupying Emorian soldiers, who shushed them as they laid in ambush. They waited... and waited... and waited... until, finally, a column of marching Gnomes just waltzed into the city, completely unaware that their spoil of war was a trap. The ensuing battle didn't last long: the Gnomes was routed, and Furklend was secure. Of course, Tafo being Tafo, he immediately proceeded to bury all of the bodies, though this time it caught the attention of a few Cigam enforcers who tried to crack down on his use of a magic artifact like his shovel, but they were ultimately dissuaded.
At was at this point that the party decided they no longer had any interest in participating in this war that wasn't theirs... except for Evans. His new rank, compounded with his years of service and personal goals, forced him to make the difficult decision to leave The Stampede, and focus on the war effort. They bid their farewells, and the party went on, one member smaller.
Traveling to the Giant Kingdom
With their role in the Human-Gnomish war ended, The Stampede needed to decide what to do next. Illy had heard stories of a powerful dagger being held in the town of Kansley, and Ivo - after his conversations with The Book - wanted to return to his hometown, Little Rock, to try and find answers about himself. The party agreed to head towards Little Rock, and stop in Kansley along the way, by route of cutting directly across to Kansley from Furklend.
And so they set off, with Tafo still accompanying them. Along the way they met up with a nice Human ranger woman named Adra. She decided to tag along, looking for adventure and companionship. After about a day or two of travelling, though, something unexpected happened: we came across a large tomb-like structure, one which didn't seem to be marked on any maps, and was noticeably out of place in the region. In fact, I'm not even sure it had been on the horizon the night before - it was huge! It was also protected by a magical shield and, of course, the party just couldn't let the mystery of it pass by. It took some trial and error, some elemental spellcasting, and a blood sacrifice or two, but eventually the party managed to get inside.
What they found was... boring. At least at first; there was nothing inside, it was just an empty ruins. There was, however, a hole in the ground that was fairly small, but still large enough to allow individuals to fit down into it. And after shining a light over it, it was clear that this hole led into a dungeon. So they tied off a rope and descended into this weird, random crypt. Well, Tafo stayed outside, at least for a while. He caught up with us eventually, anyway.
The crypt was winding and long abandoned, and crawling with undead. Some of the ensuing battles were close, but they bashed and smashed their way through those walking bones and made their way through the quasi-maze that was the crypt until they came upon a literal wall of fire blocking their way. And they could speak to it. I couldn't hear how they were conversing, it was all telepathic, but ultimately everyone got through without any damage. Though that quickly turned into a curse rather than a blessing when we were attacked by a literal floating skull, and the fire door no longer let us leave. It did a lot more damage to The Stampede that it seemed like it could, but once again they were victorious in the end. But now they only had one room left to search, the main room... and boy was that an experience.
By this point Tafo had caught up, and with the team all gathered they found themselves face to face with the apparent boss of these caves. The fight was close, some party members were even knocked out, but in the end it was a close victory... and then the damn thing just stood right back up! Fortunately, after "dying" and reincarnating it was no longer hostile, and instead motioned for the party to come to its side. Long story short this creature they fought was actually Groth, an immensely important ancient figure, involved with lots of stuff about the Gods, father of Cane, "master" of Tafo, apparently; he's important, and way more powerful than The Stampede could ever actually take. Still, their strength and prowess impressed Groth, and so he rewarded them each a magical ring imbued with power.
For Ivo: a ring that granted him proficiency with weapons and armor, and offered him a significant amount of strength during acts of bravery. For Illy: a magical boost to charisma when she was telling the whole truth. For Kallie: the knowledge and skill to create any non-magical weapon or item, but only when it is not for profit. For Javid: when truly selfless, he can aid others in their concentration, and grant them health. For Amyro: the ability to communicate with plants, but only when at peace. So, basically, all skills opposite to their normal personalities, more or less. Adra also received a ring, but seeing as how she departed from the party pretty much as soon as we left the tomb, it's not worth talking about.
With their rewards in hand the party made their way back to the surface... only to find themselves surrounded by a small army of Cigam members. They had no idea how the party had found or gained entry into the tomb, but were ultimately impressed, not mad. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your stance) little else could be done, because the entire structure just... vanished, right before everyone's eyes. Apparently those wizards have been tracking it for a long, long time, and had never gained entry. Wild. The Wizards all left, as did Adra (as I previously mentioned). This is also where Tafo parted ways with the party. A shame, I'll miss that odd fellow.
A Robbery in Kansley
The rest of the journey to Kansley was fairly uneventful, and when they finally did arrive in the city they found it to be surrounded by Dwarven and Giant armies - reinforcements on their way to assist the Emorian soldiers against the Gnomes, if for no other reason to secure their own borders. Missing the company of Giants Ivo actually went ahead and visited the Giant camp, bringing the party with him, where they all had a pleasant conversation with the camps leader. They made their way back into town to stay the night, and then it was off to the races for Illy in terms of finding that dagger. Well, not quite - as they got into town, a man caught up to them and introduced himself as Devlin Brien, an associate of David Evans' who'd come to replace him on the team. Welcome aboard, I guess!
Finding it wasn't actually that hard, it was being kept in the local museum. She was ready to just busy in and take it, but Ivo urged trying to buy it rather than ruining some poor museum curators business. So the two of them, as well as Ms. Kallie, made their way to the curators house - the museum itself was closed on account of the war - where they had to wait an extraordinarily long time to see him, only to find out that he was... less than pleasant. That disgusting man barely gave The Stampede the time of day, and revealed that he'd actually shut down the museum because he was keeping numerous Dwarven artifacts in there, but he hated Dwarves and didn't actually want any of the nearby soldiers anywhere close to them. Real piece of work, Ivo didn't really protest stealing the dagger after that.
The three of them silently made their way back to the museum and broke in... pretty easily. The tougher part was actually navigating through the museum, which had a... puzzle-like security system. No magic actually alerted anyone, but they had to spend a good amount of time figuring out how to get the door mechanisms to work to actually get to the dagger. And when they did get to it, and picked it up, they were attacked by the statue displays! All the statues lining the halls suddenly came to life and became hostile! We all raced back outside pretty effectively, dodging them along the way, dagger in hand. Success!
Of course we weren't going to stay in town very long after a heist like that, and so the party skipped town and kept on their way towards Little Rock. After a few run-ins with wild animals, and avoiding a fight with what I swear looked like a wild dragon, the party arrived at the outskirts of Little Rock!
The Kingdom of Durm
Ivo's Mysterious Life
OK, so, our main reason for visiting Little Rock was always for Ivo to try and find out more about himself. He's slowly been learning, throughout the parties journey, that the stories he was told growing up were false. He was adopted, he was not from a small village in the Empire that emigrated to the giant kingdom due to a war, he's not a regular Human, etc. He began asking around town looking for answers, ultimately winding up at the local library and gaining the assistance of the librarian - a process that took two days of research! Ultimately, though, all he really managed to discover was that the house that he grew up in had previously been owned by none other than Vylqwyn. Which meant that Vylqwyn probably knew more than he was letting on...
Illy, meanwhile, wanted to see this old house and went off to visit it, and ultimately her independant investigation led her to a safety deposit box that, when opened, revealed a letter that began to magically write upon itself. It was Vylqwyn! She'd brought it to Ivo, and he began responding to Vylqwyn on the page, demanding answers. Vylqwyn had none to give at that point, but he directed Ivo to travel north to the Giant capital city, Durmstrong, where he could find Cane, who would be able to help him more. Seeing as how finding Cane was in many party members interests, the plan was made: they were going to Durmstrong.
The Road to Cane
Rather than travel through the mountains, The Stampede opted to use the Dwarven tunnel network running underneath them. Starting from the nearby Giant town of Big Rock, The Stampede made their way underground with three dwarves accompanying them, the most notable of which was a member of the Dwarven royalty: Sun Daye. Even though it was faster than going through the mountains, it was still going to take more than a week of walking to get there; fortunately Cane wasn't expected until a day or two after they'd arrive, according to Vylqwyn, so they had time. Things were fairly uneventful, except for... they weren't. Most days went by peacefully but The Stampede and their Dwarven friends were attacked on several occasions, mostly by monsters, including some goo beasts that they had to run away from, and giant purple wyrms! Those they actually had to fight to pass, and boy did they beat them something fierce! Ivo even literally pinned one of them to the ground at one point!
In the end one of the Dwarves didn't make it, unfortunately, but all of the rest survived and made it to the underground segment of Durmstrong. They parted ways with the Dwarves, and chose to spend the night underground before looking for Cane the next day. The next morning they all decided that they deserved a nice warm breakfast, and made their way to the restaurant in the inn they were staying in to do so. Shockingly, there was another Elf (you know, besides Amyro and Illy) eating there, and Illy excitedly introduced herself. They had a nice conversation for a few minutes before the elf had to depart, and all was well. Except no, because moments later Illy suddenly fell to the ground, unconscious, as the elf's invisibility collapsed and he ran off. In his hands was the dagger Illy had stolen from Kansley!
The rest of the party jumped to her rescue, and very quickly subdued the thief (thief of thieves?) and he, ultimately, was hauled off. After tending to Illy's wounds the group decided to pay a visit to the local chapter of The Third Hand - which they'd determined he was a member of - to get some answers. The answer the got made Illy more pale than I've ever seen before: there was a bounty on her head, worth 10,000,000 gold. That's ten MILLION gold! Even I'd be tempted by that! Fortunately no one actually knows who stole the dagger explicitly, the thief had just seen the dagger on her and knew what it was. The Stampede managed to convince the rest of the local Third Hand they didn't know anything, and got the hell out of there. Ultimately they had to escape to the upper part of the city though because they started to notice others following them - but they couldn't follow into Giant territory.
They then spent the next few hours looking around town for some way to identify Cane. They checked with border patrol, communicated with Groth through his ring (they can do that by the way, and also Cane's his son and all), and they even met with the Giant King! Ultimately they wound up waiting in another inn until, suddenly, they were summoned by Cane's people.
The Stampede was led to a house - fairly small, all things considered - where they were promptly... prompted to complete a puzzle or two, before finding themselves in a room with two of Cane's Praetorian Guards. That's right, Cane has his own Praetorians. Wild. Anyway the two Praetorians let The Stampede position themselves however they wanted, but no matter what if they wanted to meet Cane they had to pass a trial of combat. And, lo and behold, they actually won! Right on the other side of the doors, they finally met him: Cane, in all his glory, or something like that.
And so they spoke with Cane. He answered questions they had about their personal goals, but ultimately there was very little he could tell them because their fundamental understanding of the "physics" or "laws" of magic was... next to none. He did agree to help Javid find a source of water for his people, and then he dropped a bombshell on the group: they were, in all likelihood, Slayers. Slayers, according to Cane, were unique and incredibly rare individuals, often instinctively attracted to each other, with the ability to "remove" magic from a source - be it an item, a location, or even a person. This ability is extremely powerful, but none of them could really control it yet. Also it's worth noting that Cane figured this out about them through some... pretty brutal testing processes. I'll spare the details but I will say there was literal dismemberment and magical healing involved. It was wild.
In the end, Cane echoed Vylqwyn back in Strassburg: they needed to go through Cigam training. He created a forged initiate amulet for Amyro - seeing as how he wasn't there to receive the one from Vylqwyn, and Devlin was a member of the Cigam before meeting the party - and instructed them to go through Cigam training, if for no other reason than to learn about magic and how it works, so they could apply it to their being Slayers. But, he insisted, under absolutely no circumstances should they EVER tell anyone in Cigam about their status as Slayers, or they'd certainly be hunted and destroyed. It's all very dramatic stuff, but the party agreed and parted ways with Cane. They made their way to the local Cigam office, stated their intent, and we were all teleported off to the Cigam Headquarters where they'd face their toughest challenge yet...
Joining the Order of Cigam
Oh boy, the Order of Cigam. We all arrived in their main teleportation room where we met a man mopping the floors, Nel. He got the party started on their journey - but first, he required that they all leave all of their gear in provided personal chests, except for their Cigam amulets. Then came the tour... and housing... and first lessons on the fundamental laws and schools of magic... and some free time where a few of the group went off and sparred with other Cigam members, and others went and listened to some music. In other words they got comfortable - they were going to be here for a long time. Oh yeah, they were also paired up with another recruit with no real group, an elf named Temp Eyst. He's a tough one to read, as he really doesn't speak all that much.
Just Another Day Inside a Dragon
Alright, so after... some amount of time doing general "learning" stuff, The Stampede had their first real test. One of the Cigam professor people has a baby dragon, and in order for the group to proceed to the next "rank" in the Cigam Order they had to be shrunk down, injected INSIDE the dragon, and find a pouch with a journal or something belonging to the professor. Oh and he also asked them to find out what happened to the last group he sent in there, who never returned. Simple, right? ...Well, honestly, I don't actually have any idea - once again I was unable to accompany them on this particular quest, because no one knew to include me.
From what I've been able to piece together, though, The Stampede was injected, as intended, and proceeded to make their way through the Dragons... innards, fighting off the Dragons internal defense systems and other hostile entities such as bacteria and stuff, and slowly they started to find the extremely exhausted members of the previous party. Or, at least, those of them that were still alive - apparently they'd become separated, and some were ultimately killed by cells, or digested. At some point they even made their way up to the mouth and collected some of the dragons very valuable saliva, before making their way down to... one of the organs where they found their goal. They then came out through... the bad end, and were returned to their normal size.
After filling in the professor he himself went into the dragon, and after a few moments returned with the fallen members of the other party... only, he'd resurrected them! These Cigam bigwigs have an insane amount of power, it's wild. Anyway they failed their test so apparently that means they're gonna have their minds wiped of their time at Cigam and sent on their way, but The Stampede passed and got their promotion! Hoorah!
More time passed... more learning stuffs... and then they got their next test, and after being cooped up for quite a while, this one was finally sending them out into the world. Another one of the professors wanted The Stampede to go visit his old house on an island outside the city of Plout and retrieve his favorite tea cup. The catch here was that he, through magic, had maintained a constant watch on this house, but recently he had inexplicably lost contact with it - and so being a busy man, he sent The Stampede to investigate. Easy enough - they even got all of their normal gear back for the mission! Oh yeah, one other catch - something else strange was going on in the town, likely related to the house disappearing, and the locals were blaming the Cigam Order, and an angry mob was pretty much keeping them boarded up inside.
Easy enough, The Stampede teleported in just outside the town and made their way in as any ordinary adventurers, and proceeded to try and find someone willing to sail them out to where the islands had been, which was fairly difficult as the port had been shut down due to the mysterious ongoings. With the mayor missing - and his secratary accidentally causing a panic by pretending he wasn't - The Stampede was forced to turn to the ports shadier elements, and paid off a couple of rough looking sailors to get them out there at night. When eventually they arrived, they found that the islands hadn't disappeared... they'd sunk. The tops of the trees and some buildings could still be seen from the surface, and so it was diving time.
They got inside relatively uneventfully, and after fighting their way through some angry fish they found their way to an air pocket. Then they went further... and further... until they discovered a literal damn turtle dragon roosting in one of the rooms! It cockily intimidated the party away, not opting to fight them immediately, but after recollecting themselves, The Stampede knew they couldn't go back empty handed. They argued for... I won't lie, too long, they made their way back to the dragon with the intent to move it and, wow. Wild dragons are extraordinarily rare, and extremely dangerous, and The Stampede killed it in a matter of seconds. Seconds! They found the tea pot in the room behind it - which was clearly another "elephant" artefact - and the cut the dragons head off as a trophy. It's a little sick, but hey... they needed proof I guess.
They returned to town as the sailors who escorted them looked at the dragons head in utter shock - they were so impressed and terrified they even gave them all their money back. Then they marched through town with the head straight to the Cigam office, which still had an angry mob outside, and everyone just stepped aside. It was such an amazing sight: the first time The Stampede were truly seen as heroes in the eyes of the public around them. They were let into Cigam and met up with the only Cigam member still there, who also happened to be the mayors son: Antonio Ak'va. Ultimately, though, The Stampede's work was only mostly done - they'd secured the item they were sent out to retrieve, but there was still mystery shrouding the sinking of the islands, though this they couldn't really solve. What they could do was relieve the local Cigam by helping figure out what happened to Plout's mayor, who could hopefully restore some sense of order. With Antonio by their side they went back out to sea, to one of the other sunken islands, to search.
And find the Mayor they did, standed - along with the senior Cigam officer - in an outcropping behind a bunch of angry sharks! They had to fight their way through, as they usually do, but ultimately saving the two stranded city leaders wasn't too difficult. They returned to town, restored order, and then made their way back to Cigam via the actual teleportation circle, Dragon head in hand, and were once again promoted within the Order!
Oh yeah and they also discovered that Cigam was controlled by dragons, who made up much of its upper ranks. Absolutely wild.
The Ballad of Frederick von Moonshine
The Stampede's next test was an... unusual one. Not because any of us had any reason to believe it was, but because the Cigam outright said that it was unorthodox. The test was to conduct "official Cigam business" in a pair of small towns, so small they weren't even on the map - Paulinvale and Hommlet, south-west of the marked city of Mumbal. There was only one local Cigam officier in the town who had stopped reporting in after submitting a strange request for help. There was suspicion that there may have been illegal magic item trafficking going on in or around the towns, potentially by a wanted felon by the name of Frederick von Moonshine, and so Cigam representatives needed to go and investigate. And that just so happened to end up being a group of recruits, our Stampede.
So they made their way to Mumbal and walked their way down to the towns because they were so small they didn't even have a teleportation circle. They got into town and, wel... I might as well not even exist, nothing can touch me, but even I was unnerved by the townsfolks "greeting". They just whistled this tune, all of them. It was completely creepy, and it all culminated in meeting the local sheriff, who had been listed as a potential contact by the Cigam to get started with the investigation. He led them from Paulinvale, the northernmost town, down into neighboring town Hommlet, which was only about 20 minutes of walking away. It was there that the Stampede was set up for the night, though they were suspiciously prevented from leaving the inn until morning. Suspicious indeed.
Well, that wasn't going to stop the Stampede! Or, well, most of them. Illy, Javid, and Devlin slipped out through one of the inn's windows while Ivo, Amyro, Temp, and Ms. Kallie stayed behind to cover for them. The three made their way to the local Cigam representative's home, only to find it sealed tight. When they tried to access it through magical means they accidentally triggered one of its defense mechanisms and it cast a fireball, singeing the nearby grass and sending the three into a frenzy to get away - they'd caused quite the stir! They did, ultimately, manage to make it back to the inn though.
They returned to the house the following morning, playing dumb as to what had happened, and spent some time figuring out how to get inside without, you know, blowing it all up. It took some effort, and a fair bit of arguing, but they actually managed to get inside and found... not much. The Cigam guy wasn't there, and it honestly looked like he just disappeared. They did find some evidence about what he was investigating, references to an extremely illegal white fruit, and clues that ultimately led to the party going to investigate a mansion on a nearby hill. The mansion was empty, the hill otherwise uninteresting, but the Cigam dude seemed to think something important was here. So Illy had the idea to mystically allow herself to see invisibility.
If you were curious: no, she didn't see me, but she did see a bunch of ghouls that instantly became visible for everyone and were very, very hostile. That fight was among the more tense the Stampede has had, but they came out on top just like I knew they would. Ultimately they didn't find much at the mansion, except that some magical field that was consuming it fell, causing them all to become extremely weakened. Another night in town fixed that right up. With little other evidence to go off of, the Stampede was left with a mystery and no clues. Except, well, they did. Their original mission was to find out about illegal magical sales, right? Well, the morning after the whole mansion ordeal they witnessed a transaction between some of Hommlet's denizens that was shady at best.
When they followed the townsfolk they found that they just... walked right into the river, and didn't even come back up for air! The plot thickens! So they followed them down into the river and quickly found that they made their way into a secret cave network that looked magically dug. It also looked like they were looking for something, as some tunnels would be shored up to prevent the river from flooding the place. After making their way through the tunnels they finally caught up with the suspicious townsfolks who, after a short fight, killed each other. Whatever they were doing down here, they didn't want anyone to know about it, nor did they want to face the consequences of it. And the particular tunnel they were in? Well, that led right up to a brick wall that, when broken through, led into a cellar. That cellar had a hatch that opened up to... well, dirt at first, but after the dirt had cleared they learned that it was buried in the Cigam dude's lawn! They were obviously trying to tunnel their way into his house, looking for something.
Clearly something was going on in these towns. They went and brought the Sheriff back to investigate his dead townsfolk, and also the tunnels in general, and he seemed just as surprised as the rest of us. The only thing the Stampede had to go off of? The owner of the inn, who was the one that originally handed off the suspicious package in the first place. They took him back up to Paulinvale, but he was entirely uncooperative. Clearly he was lying, the party determined, but he absolutely refused to say anything to implicate himself or anyone else. It hardly mattered though, as when the Stampede reached the town square they were attacked. By who, you might ask? Well, to say everyone would be an overstatement, but only slightly. The townsfolk literally descended upon the Stampede with makeshift weapons and a clear intent to kill. The Sheriff, for his part, fled pretty much immediately.
Not even a whole town full of baddies could stand up to the Stampede, but suspiciously the Sheriff was nowhere to be found. This is when they finally got some information about what was actually going on. One of the townsfolk they'd captured spilled the beans: the Sheriff was actually the wanted criminal Frederick von Moonshine, and had basically forced both towns into working for him, "or else". They would literally rather die than face whatever consequences either he or the Order of Cigam could give them. The townsfolk said that Moonshine was regrouping at an altar west of the town, and would be fleeing into the wilderness soon. With no other choice than to trust the horrified citizen, the Stampede marched on.
The intel was good, Frederick von Moonshine was there completing some ritual. Actually, I shouldn't downplay that; the mysterious white fruit I mentioned earlier? It's an insanely powerful, rare, and magical fruit that can grant anyone who eats it insane levels of resistance to damage. Its growth and consumption is extremely illegal by Cigam law, and Moonshine had been growing it in broad daylight. Oh and its growth was also fueled by death, so the Stampede had really done him a favor by fighting off almost the entire town of Paulinvale. Whoops.
It didn't matter too much though, because while Moonshine was a fierce and extremely dangerous druid, capable of shifting into multiple incredibly dangerous beasts to do battle, the Stampede was ultimately victorious, bringing him to his knees. With his dying breath he tried to bribe the party with the white fruit, but they chose to treat him like the major threat he was, and ensured that he wouldn't be able to hurt anyone else ever again. Questionable ethics? Perhaps, but when you're dealing with true evil, and all that. Anyway, they ultimately determined that the Cigam guy had been sacrificed for the sake of this fruit, so they destroyed the altar and returned to town, only to find both of them completely abandoned. Even the bodies from the previous battle were gone, with absolutely no trace.
They never found more answers, unfortunately. There was too much unanswered, and no way of tracking those missing villagers, so they just took one last rest, and made their way back to Cigam to report what they'd found. For their efforts they were promoted for the final time, reaching the "green" rank of Cigam - pretty good, by Cigam standards! Not really because the next promotion would have taken them years to achieve, but still, good for them.
I won't lie, I've glossed over pretty much their entire time at Cigam. How could I not, they were there for the better part of a year. You read that right: a year! Everything leading up to their joining Cigam took place over the course of weeks, maybe months, but they ended up spending a considerable amount of time at the Cigam school. They all got to know each other real well. Most of that time was studying, or writing their thesis, which is all just boring, so I've glossed over it. I've written about all of the exciting stuff, so to anyone who might read this one day: you didn't miss much.
With all that out of the way, they finally graduated Cigam and made their way back into the world, ready to begin working towards the goals Cane had set for them. Some mysterious war was coming, according to Cane, and no one had any real idea how long they had until it came - they needed to be prepared. So, where would the Stampede go next? On a quasi-vacation, of course!!
Business and Pleasure in the Capital
It's been a while since I've written anything, so much has been happening with The Stampede and sometimes it's hard to process it all... I do not write it as it happens, but rather I catch up when the party settles down for a few days and I can actually focus, so some of the events of the last couple months are a little hazy. In any case, I said that the Stampede was going on a quasi-vacation, and I did not lie: to the capital city of Emor itself they went!
Off to Emor
OK, it wasn't really a vacation so much as a trip to the capital city to continue with their plans from before Cigam training with a mix of actually doing some things for themselves. They got into town using the Cigam teleportation service that they now had cheap access to and we all found ourselves in the great old city of Emor. Where to go first? Well, that's the question isn't it. After walking around town for a while, and passing through some of the shadier parts of it, they wound up at a fancy hotel and secured themselves a few nights stay in the merchants suite thanks to Ms. Kallie and her merchant guild benefits. It didn't take long after that first night for the invitations to start rolling in.
Invitations, you might ask? Well, several - and I do mean several - Praetorians immediately got word that The Stampede was in town and reached out to meet them for one reason or another. Of the ones that were memorable - and The Stampede actually went to visit - the first was to Furari Domin, the very man Illy had stolen her dagger from. Could he have known, she pondered? Well the answer to that is still unclear even as I'm writing this, as Furari was incredibly kind and hostly to The Stampede, a farcry from what any of them expected from one of the most notorious criminal bosses in the world. He showed off the sister dagger to the one Illy had stolen, and then offered The Stampede a quest to go and "rescue" one of his associates from an elven prison, a quest that The Stampede accepted. Ivo didn't actually attend this meeting, and would later complain that the party accepted it at all, but what do you do? As part of his generosity Furari even set us up on the 199th floor of the Citadel of Naurel, which was basically as luxurious an experience as one could ever hope for.
After that, during the next day I believe, the group headed off to meet the head of the banks, Pecun Lamna. This man was known for his utter disdain of Furari Domin, and even tried to offer The Stampede a contract to kill him... it's a good thing they turned it down, because it was actually a test to see if The Stampede would actually take it. They passed, and as a reward Lamna gave them literally tens of thousands of gold in the form of precious gems. He also agreed to help Illy look into her missing amulet, so that was nice. At some point around this time the party received word from a Dwarven emissary, I believe either a representative of Thurs Daye or Thurs Daye himself - reached out to the party and enlisted their help in dealing with a sensitive matter in the Dwarven capital Varland. They agreed, but only after they'd finished their immediate business.
After that the party realized that they really needed to respond to the most... interesting invitation: Enoch's. They had to go through some weird process of acquiring a ring to gain access to the part of the city Enoch wanted to meet in, but only one was available. Ultimately Ivo took it and decided he would be the one to see Enoch, since he was the one that was invited anyway (and, you know, had direct experience with the man). He did manage to take Illy with him as a guest, but the rest of The Stampede stayed behind. I chose to accompany these two rather than stay with the rest of the party because I was really, really curious to see how severely Ivo would wet his pants around Enoch.
They stayed and chatted with Enoch for a little while, and ultimately determined that Enoch had come into possession of Luman's own Amulet of Naurel, and willingly gave it to Ivo... in exchange for his last remaining Praetorian coin, bearing Luman's insignia. Reluctantly Ivo gave in and handed it over, only to immediately hand the amulet to Illy. They talked for a little while, I think Illy tried to get some information out of him about Furari and his intentions, but alas he wasn't much help there. He did, however, give Illy and Ivo upgraded rings that let them freely enter the royal distrct, and invited them and the rest of the party to the operahouse the following night.
And so with that nerveracking (for Ivo) meeting over with, the two headed back to their hotel, only to find the rest of the party busy partying it up with none other than Vylqwyn. Ivo, of course, had to confront him about his identity but once again Vylqwyn didn't have a whole lot to say. He sort've just acknowledged every accusation Ivo threw at him, most prominently the ownership of his childhood home, and Ivo was left with just more questions to answer: who were his real parents? Why did they give him up? It seemed likely that Ivo was born in Strassburg, according to Vylqwyn, so that was as good a place as any to start looking. Before departing, Vylqwyn agreed to use his status as part of the steward family of the Elven kingdom to clear Illy's name and allow her back into Elven territory, so that was really good for her! Still not much help with her amulet, though.
I can't remember if it was that night or the next, but the Stampede's last night in Emor they ended up attending the opera Enoch had invited them too and wound up meeting Tim - another Praetorian who is small but regarded to be one of the most deadly people in the world - and the emperor Vagren himself. The Stampede had become so famous that they were capable of meeting even the emperor, perhaps the most powerful political figure in the world! Heroes. Truly, heroes.
The Furari Job
...OK, they're heroes most of the time. After finishing up with all the socializing they decided to hop onto Furari Domin's quest in order to not get on his bad side. Really, though, taking a job from a known criminal mastermind isn't... quite the most heroic thing to do. But I guess one can make exceptions when Illy, who was once the most fearless and gung-ho of the party, was completely and utterly terrified of the man who'd put such a massive bounty on her head. Oh well. Speaking of Illy, there was still the little problem of her being banished from the Elven kingdom, so heading off to Madrel - a major Elven city and location of Furari's agent he wanted rescued - was a little complicated. Fortunately she's still an excellent thief and master of stealth, so the party opted to walk into the city, crossing from a nearby border town in the Gnomish kingdom.
The Stampede didn't spend too much time in Madrel, opting instead to get Furari's quest over with as quickly as possible. They met up with one of his agents, I don't even remember their name anymore, who told us all that the captured agent - Sam - was being held in a prison complex within the city. The job was simple: break in, liberate Sam, get out. Not the most honorable or glamorous of jobs, but hey if it kept Furari off their backs, they'd do what they had to do. I guess. It wasn't their proudest moment, but at the very least sensible voices in the party argued firmly against killing any of the guards as they made their way up to the roof and down the stairs, searching every cell for Furari's wayward agent.
Unfortunately what they found was not Sam, but a man much more intimidating. Moreso even than Furari, perhaps! Illy was doing her thing, stealthing on through the tower, when she came upon members of the Cigam order on one of the floors... including one with a white robe. A member of the Cigam Council of White, the literal top of the Cigam food chain. So powerful that even though Illy was invisible, he immediately looked her in the eye and called her out (much to the surprise of the guards accompnaying the man). The party quickly joined Illy, knowing that they were busted, and came to discover that the Order of White Cigam dude was named Xander Zulu, the leader of The Hunters. The Hunters are... if the Cigam are the lawmakers on magic, The Hunters are the enforcers. If The Hunters turn their attention to you then you know you're in trouble. Instead of wiping The Stampede out on the spot, though, he challenged them, telling his guards to attack.
Fortunately The Stampede are complete badasses and managed to defeat Xander's guards without too much trouble, though I can only imagine the tragedy that might have occurred if Xander had gotten involved. Xander stopped the fight and willingly talked to the party about why they were there, and we came to discover that Sam was in deep trouble. He, on behalf of Furari Domin, had been caught smuggling artifact-grade magical items, which is... bad. I'm not entirely sure why Xander didn't end up punishing the party for the break-in or attempts to help Furari, but what I do know is that he wasn't actually aware of Furari's connection to Sam until The Stampede told him. I guess he wanted to fry bigger fish, because he agreed to accompany the party back to Emor to have a "chat" with the crime boss. A fight worth paying for, if you ask me! Sam was sent off to Cigam for punishment, and Xander helped stage a "breakout" from the prison so that he and The Stampede could get out of Madrel without raising the suspicions of any other of Furari's agents.
Returning to Cigam, Furari gifted each member of the party a magical item to assist in the coming confrontation, and the group made their way back to Emor together... but instead of walking to Furari's like normal people, they all decided to fly (or float) from the top of the Citadel of Naurel right to his front door, as to avoid raising any suspicions. It worked like a charm, but after being let into Furari's home they discovered that he was not there. His assistant, Tibi Cantor, was there though, and demanded Illy return the dagger she had stolen. Upon refusal a fight broke out, resulting in the death of Cantor and several guards... that is, until several more elite members of Furari's guard arrived. They were geared up and looking for a fight... but curiously, not with The Stampede. They said they would not intervene in the fight so long as they could leave the house and attend to other business, and so they did. And thus the fight ended.
An odd quest, to be sure. They set out to help Furari and ended up trying to bring him to justice at the side of the leader of The Hunters. Furari himself never showed up (and as a spoiler, later newspaper articles would imply something nefarious to happen to him, and as of this writing The Stampede has not had any other encounters with him), but he did seem to leave a gift to none other than Illy in the form of the second dagger of Naurel. Well, it wasn't specifically addressed to Illy, but the circumstances certainly led her to take it anyway.
A Dwarven Conspiracy
Having had enough of Emor, the party travelled to Varland to meet with Thuris Daye. He informed them of a suspected assassination attempt on Mon Daye. He took them to see Mon and to see King Burto. Burto asked for their aid to clear the mines of lava worms, which the party does. After informing the King of the suspected assassination, he informed them that Tuze Daye has a secret lab in his factory which may be linked. Mon and the party infiltrated the factory and entered the lab. The lab was identical to one the party had previously visited before Devlin joined them. Upon entering an abandoned section of the lab they found it filled with undead creatures, and an 'Elephant'. The artefact was a mirror, and was the only object left behind. Devlin inspected the mirror, and was thrown out of his body to an incorporeal form, and he was able to see his companions even though the majority of them were invisible. He managed to regain control of his body, but the mirror attuned itself to him. Knowing this, the party returned to Mon Daye's house, but he was cut off from them and killed by an unknown assailant.
They reported his assassination to the King, but when they returned, the body, and every person in the house was gone. Upon going back to Tuze Daye's factory, they found the secret lab now buried under a spill of molten metal. The party questioned the other Dwarven Prince's, deducing that Thuris, Frye and Satter Daye may be behind the secret lab and the assassination, and Tuze Daye knew nothing about it or the death of Mon. Upon reporting back to the King, he suggested that the party travel to Muncill to see Sun Daye, and inform him of his promotion to Mon Daye. The party does so and finds him in the airstone factory, where they have to rescue him from being suspended in the air by airstone magic. They manage to bring him down, and inform him of the situation. As they travel through town back to the telport in Cigam, they find themselves being followed and observed by almost every person in the city. The Cigam office is empty, so Devlin studies the teleport for a moment and manages to get to Hardmine, just south of Varland. However, the Dwarves in this office were just as shady as those in Muncill, so they asked to be transported to Cigam HQ for official business.
When they arrived, they met with Nil and explained the situation, and also asked him about the magic mirror. Nil explained that it was potentially a very old and powerful artefact. He offered to help Devlin study it further after they finish their business. They speak with the new Mon Daye, and decide to head to Strassburg and ask Lord Luman if he could house King Burto if he needs it. Luman said he would host the King if he arrives, and with that, The Stampede returned to a condemned inn named 'The Three Little Pigs', which the previous party had dealing with. He was led to an underground portion of an old Third Hand base where they stayed the night. Unbeknown to the rest of the party, Illy left early the next morning before they returned to Varland and purchased the hotel, in order to refurbish it, and make the old Third Hand base into a secret base for The Stampede. They return to Varland and stealthily make their way through the city to King Burto, as they arrive they tell the King to prepare the ship for travel. As they do, the army of guards stationed at the home of some of the Daye's attack the throne room.
After a brutal battle in which the party kills over 1000 men, and having to calm King Burto from his rage, The Stampede emerge bloodied and bruised, but victorious nonetheless. It was decided that a swift counterattack was the best course of action, but for that, the King needed allies. The party travelled back to Durmstrong to recruit the Giant King to their cause. He sent the party to Est'Munt to find his son and the Giant and Dwarven armies. Upon arrival, the Giant Prince was uncertain that The Stampede was there to help, as they had received instructions bearing the former Mon Daye's seal warning that a group of adventurers were attempting to assassinate him. When it was revealed that MsK had become the new owner of that company, the Giants and Dwarves agreed to go back to Varland in service of the King. From there the party returned to the King, who sent them back to Varland in order to recruit Tuze Daye and his company. The Stampede made their way back through the city to Tuze's estate, but found it to be attacked, so they found him at his factory instead. Upon listening to their request, he sobered and armoured up, and sent all of his forces to search for Vedns Daye, and to apprehend Thuris, Frye and Satter Daye. Tuze and the party met with Mon and the King back at the throne room. Thuris was captured and brought to be interrogated. Devlin used his magic to enter the thoughts of Thuris to find out what he knew. Unfortunately he knew relatively little, but it seems the same person was behind both Elephant labs, and they recruited former Mon Daye to assassinate Burto and take over the Kingdom to prepare them for a coming war, as they believed Burto to be incapable of this role. This unnerved the party a little, as they also were told of this conflict by Vylqwyn not too long before this, and were left with more questions about Mon Daye and the mysterious General.
With little more to offer them, Thuris Daye was executed, and a servant of the former Mon Daye appeared to announce that his Lord had failed and would never bother King Burto again. With this, the coup was over and King Burto had regained control of his Kingdom. As a reward, he made Devlin a gorget of runelite, an incredibly hard to work with metal that enhances his physical and magical defences. Devlin also asked for the party to be allowed access below the Throne Room, where the Tomb and Axe of Durm are said to be. Burto was confused at the request because it was incredibly dangerous underground, but it was granted. Satisfied that the danger was over, The Stampede left the King to rebuild.
Back to the Championship
The next annual Championship of Champions is in a few days time, so the party returns to Strassburg, but Devlin goes via Cigam to speak to Nil about the Mirror. Devlin learns of its ability to transport himself and others into a so called 'Mirror Realm' where he can move up to 1000x his speed and become invisible, while also having truesight. THe party heads to Valant a couple of days before the Championship.
In Valant the Stampede does some pre-fight buying and selling, and registering for the various competitions of the tournament. On the day of the events, alongside the archery, strength, music and acrobatics contests (where some of the party won various prizes), the organisers of the championship knew the Stampede was coming to the festivities and had managed to get some oliphants for them to fight. The party agreed to the challenger and were faced with 3 baby oliphants. They defeated them rather handily and the organisers, who were taken abackl at how easy the group made it seem, sent out the 2 parent oliphants. They looked as if they wanted to rampage and destroy the stadium, so the Stampede went into action and soundly defeated the 2 parents. As their prize, the Stampede took the ivory from the defeated oliphants. After the fighting, they met with Enoch who informed them it isn't a good idea to take part in the Championship fight against him, as he wouldn't be holding back this year. They then witnessed him brutally take down 3 challengers within seconds. Enoch invited them to a party up in the VIP area. They met with various people and were offered work from The Company.
For the next 2 days they transported the ivory back to base in Strassburg, and then took a job from The Company to escort a group of merchants to the outskirts of the city to protect them from thieves. They guided the baking merchants out safely and decided to spend the night camping out by a waterfall. Partway through the night they heard a commotion, and they met and spoke with some passing unicorns. Illy procured a piece of unicorn horn for herself. When it was almost morning, a large crashing sound woke everybody and it seemed like something very large was coming, even thoguh nobody could see anything. Devlin used the power of Imago's Mirror to become invisible and see what was coming. He saw a huge golden unicorn running by. It stopped and noticed them and introduced himself as Equis, King of the Horses. He spoke with the party for a little while, and Devlin exchanged a piece of adamantium he was carrying, for a small piece of Equis's horn, which is made of pure runelite.
One Small Favour
After regrouping from having a week off each, the party heads down to Palebel at Javid's request to find someone to help him with his peoples water problem. It ends up being a wild goose chase of small favours, but eventually Dr Wellbuck informs Javid of what he knows of portals and the technology he uses to transport liquids, and gives him a new magic vial that can produce vast quantities of water.
The Jack of all Trades
Ivo tells the party of something he learned. A sunken ship of the old Lamna family off the coast of Sanlos that is supposed to have sunk with vast amounts of treasure on board. They begin to depart, but the Ivory Crest manager informs Illy of someone wanting to meet the party. They meet with Nic Jack 'of Trades'. A rather unusual person who wishes to travel with the party because he needs money. He says he can do just about anything, so the party decides to give him a shot on this job. They go to Sanlos where Nic says he knows some people who can help. The party gathers the crew of Captain Pinky (after helping him avoid jail for something he didn't do) from various places around the city and work together to steal a large deep sea trawler from the sea outside the port. There is a large stationary storm out to sea towards Vaiti. After battling through the harsh weather, they reach the eye of the storm, and a sunken structure. The Stampede decide to investigate as it seems to be the source of the storm itself. Diving down they find a temple like building with Drakan writing throughout it. One side of the temple has workers dismantling ships, and the other has working labs. In one of the labs, the party find another Elephant. This time it is a claw like ring. Temp takes the ring and Devlin tries to identify it, but any time someone tries to cast magic, it damages them instead. The party are caught snooping so they fight their way out back to this ship. Captain Pinky starts to sail away, but says there is something coming through the water. Several small krakens appear and start attacking the boat, holding it in place. Fighting alongside the crew, and trying their best to work around the antimagic zone of the claw, the party manage to kill all the krakens and escape before anything else comes after them. Thankfully, the Stampede managed to raid the labs stores of many platinum and gold bars.
A Much Larger Conspiracy
The party meet with Humi Lem at the suggestion of Enoch, as he could tell them about an incredible weapon of Murghel. Humi accepts some gifts from the party, and tells them what they need to know. He also says he would like to manage the Stampede as a business, but the present party members decline the offer. They then go on to see Hans Olo, a Praetorian and leader of the Emorian navy. He is there along with another Praetorian Malum Castus. Temp wishes to ask about his brother and Illy wants to ask about the Bronze dagger of Naurel. Hans says he can help but they must help him first. He asks that Humi Lem leaves Vaiti. To do this, the party hire him as a manager (after a full discussion with all members of the party). They negotiaite his terms, and the only 2 things he needs is 100,000 gold coins to work with and a letter from Lord Luman with permission for him to move into Strassburg. (He doesn't want to move withou permission as he is the former Champion of Emoria).
The Stampede travel back to Strassburg and head to the Donjon to see Lord Luman. The city is incredibly empty and when they get to the Donjon, it is completely destroyed. They do some investigating and discover that he may have fled to Telam under the archives. They go there and find that Telams chamber is empty, and there are many dead spiders. They follow the trail and find themselves faced with dangerous shadows that drain a persons strength. It was very bad down in the sewer, and Nic ended up dying after being assaulted by shadows. Thye party carry on, carefully taking Nic with them and find Luman, Vylqwyn and Telam fighting for their lives. Vylqwyn and Luman are exhausted, but the former managed to place the white Cigam amulet around Nic's neck to revive him. The party fight out of the sewer with the 4 wounded being protected the while way out, and they return to their base under the Ivory Crest. The next day Luman and Vylqwyn explain that they were attacked by the same mysterious shadows in the Donjon. He also informs Devlin that his uncle General Evans was present at teh Donjon during the attack. After searching the city for informationm Devlin learns that everybody present at the Donjon is assumed dead. As a symbol of gratitude, Luman writes a letter to Humi Lem giving him permission to move to Strassburg.
The party return to Humi Lem in Vaiti and give him the good news and his funds. Humi thanks them and goes to Strassburg to aid Luman and set up the business. The Stampede go back to Hans and inform him that Humi has moved out of Vaiti. Hans respinds by helping Temp with finding his brother. He uses a magic compass (presumably an Elephant) to locate Sax Eyst, but bcomes confused as it points to Malum Castus. With his cover blown, Malum takes the bronze dagger from Hans and murders him with it, before tossing it to Illy. He warns Temp to stop intefering with his business and leaves. A shaken Temp and the rest of the party return to Strassburg.
Upon their return, the party sits down and meets properly with Luman, Vylqwyn and Humi. There are many things thatm ust be done in order to regain some control over the city, as Humio reveals that almost every major city, including Emor, has had an attempted or successful coup. Luman suggests that the other royal families of Emor, the Lamna's and the Kaisers need to be found. He will work on finding the Kaiser family, and asks the party to find Pecun Lamna, as he has been reported missing since the coup 2 weeks prior. Vylqwyn also suggests that the party works on locating powerful weapons and artefacts to aid them with whatever conflict is coming. The party forms a plan and head off the next day.
Finding Pecun Lamna
The Platinum Dagger
First stop in the plan is to head to Praige to find Leo Nardo, one of the heads of the Third Hand. It is he that stole Illys amulet many years ago. They find him in the base under the river and he informs them (for a price) that he no longer has the amulet. He kept it for many years trying to return it, as he didn't want the responsibility of owning an Amulet of Naurel. He ended up selling it to a merchant named Sam who owns an antique emporium. They go to Sam's shop where they reveal that something he has traded may have been stolen. He is hesitant to share details of the client, but is persuaded after Javid buys a Drakan Usekh from him. They go to meet with the client, a Naurelian artefact collector, but have to go through his lawyer for a meeting. In order to see if they are wasting their time or not, Devlin uses the mirrors power to sneak in through the door and have a look round for the amulet. To his surprise, all the inside doors are locked. So the party returns at night time and sneak into the house. They search every room and find no trace of the amulet. They do however find a platinum dagger in an ornately locked case. The get the case open and Illy claims the platinum dagger. The following day they meet with the client who informs them that he traded the amulet to Pecun Lamna in exchange for the dagger that Illy just claimed (unbeknownst to him). The party thanks him, and heads to Emor to find Pecun. When they arrive, everything is in flames, so the party quickly divert to Cigam HQ instead.
A Bump in the Road
Upon arriving at HQ the party are rushed off the teleport circle by Nil who informs them that there was an attack here also. They clean up the floor and return to their rooms for the night. Devlin lets Temp use the power of the claw to increase his dexterity. The following morning the party are summoned to the council chamber. They face almost the entire White and Purple Council. Temo, and by association, the rest of the party are on trial for being careless with their use of magic against the Cigam rules. More specifically using teleportation and magic for personal use, and not Cigam business. The council does not wish for the party to stay together so vote between allowing the party to progress to blue robes, or banishing them from Cigam and erasing their memories. The council vote to remove the party from Cigam, and Nil volunteers himself to erase their memories personally. They seal themsevles in the chamber and Nil instead informs them that they have too much to do to have their memories and powers gone, so instead he gives them new gear and some money to send them on their way. He also gives everybody a runelite signet ring and a small piece of advice each. He then teleports the party (except Ivo) to Emor to continue their search for Pecun Lamna.
The Amulet of Naurel
They go to the main bank and find it almost empty. They ask the clerks to see Pecun and instead an agent of Enoch speaks to them. Illy shows her Enoch signet ring and they are taken to Enoch's home in the Royal District. They wait for a while and in the evening they are taken to the Imperial Palace where they meet Enoch, Emperor Vagran, and Furari Domin, who was assumed deceased. They tell the party about the attempted coup, and in return the party tells them of the death of Hans Olo and the truth about Malum Castus. They give the party advice on how to find Pecun, and also ask to relay the message to Luman that they would like to get in contact. Acting upon this information, the party goes to Phillotte,the home of the Lamna family.
In Phillotte they ask around about the Lamna family, and this leads them to the Emor's main bank. They speak to a Third Hand bank clerk who gives them a clue on how to find Robert, Lamna's butler. With this information, they go to the market district and stake it out for Robert. They find him and ask for hjis help to take them to Pecun, but her refuses. The next day they try again and Illy uses a special passphrase in order to get him to help. He leads them out of the city to a farmstead where Pecun Lamna is waiting. He gives Illy her amulet of Naurel. Unfortunately, the party has been followed by Castus assassins, so they handily beat them and teleport back to Strassburg with Pecun. Upon their arrival, Devlin relays Enoch's message to Luman, and Illy gets the fifth Naurel dagger from Telam.
Before heading to their next stop, there is someone to meet the party. An old elf, and Illy and Temp's drill sergeant form the military, Aedieus Navita. He wishes to join the party because he is bored of retirement from the navy. They decide to let him tag along for the next trip.
Caelum's Moving Castle
The next task on the list is to head down to Burdor and begin searching for the cloud giant Caelum's sky castle, and powerful air staff for Javid. Upon arriving in Burdor, they ask around the town and learn that Caelum never arrived in Burdor as the legend says. So they go back to Muncill to speak to Mortimer at the airstone factory. He lets them see all the documents they bhave on Caelum where Temp finds an old letter between Caelum and Gelus, a well known cold mage that Temp is interested in. It revals that Caelum left with his sky castle to go towards Burdor from the lab east of Maltee. The party decides to go to the lab and find more information. When they get to Maltee they see a large stationary storm out to the east, in the direction of the lab. They grab supplies and mounts and head off in that direction. After getting out the other side of the storm, Temp flies up to see if the sky castle is the source of the storm. He finds the castle and grabs a stone from the floor. He returns to the party and teleports them up to the castle. They walk through the castle and are attacked by air elementals. After defeating them, a large creature lands on the roof and calls out to the party to come to the top and see them. They go up and find a grown blue dragon, who seems to be holding Caelum's Air Staff. The dragon is amicable for a minute but then engages the party in combat.
After defeating the dragon, Javid takes the air staff, but 3 more dragons approach. They talk with the group and explain that they killed Caelum because they did not want the castle in their sky over the Dune Sea. The party agree to take the castle and never bring it to the dragons territory again. The dragons say that if they do, they will take it as a declaration of war from the humans, then leave. The party spends the next week repairing the castle and also getting a smaller airship made in Muncill. The Stampede now have an airship and sky castle for themselves, and while sorting out the rooms, Devlin found an old spellbook that belonged to Caelum.
Gelus Frigor's lab
Over the next week the party sets out to find the lab of Caelum and Gelus Frigor, so Temp may find the spell he needs. When they are close to the lab they are attacked by a number of young blue dragons. The party just manages to defeat them (at the expense of losing all their camels) and manage to find the entrance to the lab. After digging it out of the sand, a process that took over 10 hours, they enter the lab where they find the skeleton of Gelus, and a note telling them what has happened. Temp found the Frigid spell, and Devlin found Gelus's spellbook, and an ornate gold tome. A magic item that makes it incredibly easy to copy spells into it. As Devlin took the tome, it recognised him as its owner and his name appeared on the cover, making it the Tome of Devlin.
The party returns to Strassburg to regroup, and Aedieus leaves the party to work for Humi. Here, Luman has left Eliath's Claw, the sword previously wielded by David Evans, saying there is bad news. Nic suggests to the group that they should seek out Raygar, one of the Jacks, and the Capitaine du Est. Nic leads them to his home, but instead find Dimik, who says that Raygar has dies when he went out into the desert. Nic then explains the Passions to the group, and the process of choosing a new Jack, which interests Temp. Dimik decides to travel with the Stampede. In order to better equip themselves for the coming conflict, the party seeks out Groth in order to learn the location of Morghal's spear for Ivo.
The party arrives at New Groth, and begin to search for the Tomb of Groth. They place a ring of Groth in the palm of the Groth statue in the centre of town that points them in the right direction. On the way out of town, the party encounters a crowd of people who object to the idea of elves being in their town. Devlin duels the apparent leader of the crowd and defeats him in a swordfight to gain passage. The party walks far out of town and eventually comes to a false wall in the cliff which leads to the Tomb of Groth. The party enters and has to fight Groth in order to knock some sense into him to be able to speak properly. It is a tough fight, but the party are able to overcome the awesome power of Groth. The party asks their questions and Groth gifts Devlin and Temp with rings of their own, and also giving Illy the scabbards of Naurel and the last dagger.
The party locates Morghal's tomb, but decide to stop off at Whitepond first, to look into Devlin's family, They find the city is completely deserted, Devlin uses the Mirror to do some quick scouting, but instead a small explosion of energy occurs and he finds himself in a mirror realm like place, along with the entire population of Whitepond. The party does some investigating, but eventually decide to stay at an inn. This turns out to be a mistake as they all wake in the middle of the night, disrupted by Cigam. To get out of it, they show their rings of Nil to the blue robes in charge, and ask to speak to Nil. Nil arrives and gets the party their gear back, but indicates they will have to fight their way out. The party fights past the Cigam agents and retreat to the castle. From the castle they do some more investigating, Temp and Devlin enter the Mirror realm and run to Whitepond, but find it surrounded by an impenetrable barrier. They also run to the barrier with the Dune Sea to confirm a suspicion that Illy and Devlin had. When they arrived their a wall was in place that was impossible to pass through, and seemed to stare back at them. Armed with this new information, the party heads to Morghal's tomb.
The party are greeted by a statue of Morghal who asks if they are there for the trial. The party agree and enter into a mind maze. It was a gruelling challenge of combat. Room after room of waves of creatures. Part way through the maze they come across a mute child being attacked by ooze monsters. The Stampede rescue him and guide him through to the end of the maze. At the end they are greeted again by Morghal. He dismisses the child and fights the party himself. He chains Ivo to the floor with lightning and attacks. The party manage to hurt him, but as he was about to be defeated, he regenerated health and dealt massive damage to Ivo. Ivo told the others to leave him behind, and after some hesitation the party left him. It turns out that this was the final test and Ivo was awarded Morghal's Spear, which became Vio's Spear.
Preparing for the Dune Sea
The clock was ticking for Javid's quest to provide water for his people. Groth informed him that the solution to his problem, and the dragons that were preventing him from progressing, were the same. So, the group decided to head into the Dune Sea and confront the Dragons to sort out their problems. Nic says that The Stampede would need a map of the east to help them travel, and that Xerxes Zulu in Enz would be able to help them with that. So the group travel to Enz and seek out Xerxes. They also purchase some enchanted rings from a jewellers there that would help them with desert travel. They find Xerxes in a bar and the rest of the party attempt to talk to him, but to no avail. Devlin approaches him and makes conversation about his new Tome, which Xerxes is interested in. Xerxes makes Devlin a map of the Dune Sea and the Eastern Lands. Devlin also asks Xerxes about Slayers, as Nil Rem said to talk to him about them. He tells the party what he knows of Slayers, and says they need to travel south to see Sugam if they intend to try and harness that power. The party also takes the time on the way to Maltee to purchase a portable hole and other camp equipment, including desert adventuring gear, food and water for their trip to the Dune Sea.
The Drakan and The Suvres
Their first stop on their journey is Javid's Monastery. They arrive and speak to the elder in charge and find that the Abbot has taken people east after something crashed into the Monastery a few weeks earlier. People left in fear and the Abbot took a group after them. The party sets off East towards Dra and after a few days they find some tracks of other people. After following the tracks for some time, they hear some stones clacking together and a voice telling them to get down. They do so and something very large passes by them under the ground. After it has passed by and they hear another set of stones clacking, they are greeted by a group of very large people in heavy desert gear. The leader introduces himself as Char and asks the party what they are doing. The party explains that they wish to see Blu. Char takes them back to the cave that serves as the base of operations for his group. He tells them that he will take them north to Wadjet to see Lady Ven, who is his superior, and she can help them.
The next day, the party along with Char and a group of Myckal head north to Wadjet. When they get there they are brought to Lady Ven, who invokes the law of Col Raw. Nic explains that only one person may speak for the group until Col Raw is declared again. Through this medium, the group learns that Blu is in Dra, but the city is also inaccessible at the moment. Ven will help them with that task if they were to kill a young moff that has been sighted near the city. The Stampede head out of the city and set off a large explosion using a device Ven gave to them to attract the moff. The only way to effectively kill a moff is from the inside; so one by one they party get swallowed whole by the creature and defeat it from the inside out.
As thanks, Ven holds up her end of the deal and gifts the party a set of Myckal armour each, which is a huge upgrade over their standard desert gear, and gives Devlin an enchanted stone and quarterstaff that points north when laid down on the ground. Char guides the group south towards Dra for part of the way, and then the group encounters another group of Myckal, who warn them not to go to Dra otherwise they would die. Taking this warning into their minds, the party heads on and soon realise why Dra is inaccessible. The outside of the city is crawling with the same shadow creatures that attacked them in the Strassburg sewers. On their first attempt they are forced to retreat, but after some strategising, The Stampede come up with a plan that gets them to the entrance of the city.
Upon entering they speak to Red Rem, who takes them inside, under the condition they lock away all their gear, including their clothes. The party does so and Red takes them in and explains the situation with the shadows. Javid explains his situation and expresses his interest in speaking to Blu. Red tells him that Blu was injured in the initial shadow attack and is not available, but the party can stay in Dra for a few days and work and he will get them an audience with Blu. The Stampede hesitantly agree and they are set up with a house in the city and given jobs based on their skill set. A few days pass and Red has not held up his end of the bargain, and the party discover that there is a group of people who rebel against the dragons rule. They are told where to find Blu's house, they find it unlocked and go in and straight down hundreds of stairs into a large basement. There they are greeted by the huge Elder Dragon: Blu.
Blu asks them why they have entered here, and Javid and the party explain their situation. Blu reads each persons mind, giving her access to some of their memories and allowing them to use her power in return. Blu reveals to the party that Slayers, as they all are, are descended from a single person, and questions Devlin about his family. This leaves the party with several questions about who they are. Blu says she will make the arrangements for the group to leave the city and speak with The Suvres in order to secure a peace treaty. Ivo stays with Blu as her and his family have business together, and the rest of the group leaves on this new task.
The next day, a large army of humans and dragons decimate the shadow creatures on the outside of the city, allowing the party to leave. They are met by Blu, Red and Lufic Rem (the Empress of the Drakan) and they give Javid an amulet that allows him to speak on behalf of the Empress of Dragons. They also give them a magic carpet to help them travel, and a hat each that wards off the full effects of the desert heat.
Thanks to the magic carpet, the trip to Suvres only takes a couple of days. When they arrive they present the Amulet to the guards and express their intent to speak to Emperor Yro Gerg. They climb the thousands of steps up to the top of a giant pyramid and are greeted by the Emperor. He discusses with the group why he should accept the peace treaty, and what the dragons are offering in return. The party explains about the sky castle and how the dragons are offering to replicate it so they can live in teh sky. This catches Yro's interest. He asks the group to take him to the sky castle so he can inspect it and decide whether it is worth peace for if he is able to have one for himself. The party comply, and they ride a young moff with Yro all the way to the border, which takes no time at all. They then take the carpet to the mountains where they left the sky castle. Here Yro looks around and asks if they can fly it back to the Dune Sea. At this time, the party also finds a not has been left for them from Humi Lem, saying not to go back to the Strassburg base and to find them in 'not Varland, north'.
When the party gets to the Monestary, Yro's people attack them in the middle of the night. After a strenuous battle which actually kills every member of the party (excluding Devlin, who is forced to retreat on the magic carpet), Yro uses powerful magic to revive everybody in the castle on both sides, and asks the party to go with him. He explains that he wished to see what the castle was worth to the group, so attacked them to see if they would defend it. He also reveals to Javid that his people have built a well in the Monastery, and their water problem is now over. He teleports the group back to Suvres and they find it has been all but burned to the ground by the Drakan Empire. He asks the party to consider which side they believe to be the 'good guys' and also asks to have the sky castle for 6 months in order to replicate it, and he will agree to the treaty. The party agree to the terms and take the news back to Blu, Lufic and Red back in Dra. The dragons are seemingly surprised that the party has returned to them, but agree to the terms of the treaty also.
Sphera and Torque
Now that peace has been tentatively agreed by both sides, the party decides to go after a pair of artefacts that Xerxes informed them of when they met him. Sphera and Torque are two artefacts that have been split into 5 pieces each and scattered around the desert. From their conversations with Ven and Blu, they learned the locations of each piece. Their first stop was the city of Drakan, the old capital of the Drakan Empire. It has been badly damaged from the shadow attacks, and most of the inhabitants are injured. They speak to someone who has them led to the temple where the pieces of the artefact are found. Inside they face many trials all to do with Revelation, all while being teased by a mirror that mimics their speech. In the end, they make it through the trials and Devlin attunes to Sphera, and Temp attunes to Torque. After emerging from the temple, the party are asked to act as Judges for some trials. There is a dispute over a hunt, a deserter, and interestingly, a small elven child from the Eastern Lands who is accused of being a spy. Nic determines the child is form Eystland, and takes the child from the party to return him home, so Devlin and Temp can carry on with the quest of assembling SpheraTorque, so as not to break the geas that has been placed upon them. Nic promised to meet the party back in Suvres in 15 days time.
The next stop is Atum. The party are led to a temple that deals with Manipulation. After successfully traversing it they claim the second piece of Sphera and Torque. As they emerge, they see humongous dust storms on the horizon as every moff in the desert is attracted to the power of the artefacts. The group flees to a great height on the magic carpet. The next day, Illy and Javid go back to Suvres to speak to someone about their new moff problem. Yro speaks to them and reveals that over a week has passed, even though they've only been gone a couple of days, thanks to the Temple of Manipulation. He introduces them to Jayden Nightbane and asks them to take him with them for combat experience. They then meet up with Temp and Devlin at Schule for the next temple that deals with Modification. The party succeed and claim the third piece of their artefacts.
The fourth piece they go after is at Vallar'Hail. They are directed to a western looking building, being told that people from teh west came and set something up there a few months ago, but moved out a couple of weeks previously. When they venture in, they find a lab, very similar to those of The General. The group explore and find a pieces of arambarium, and a note that indicates that each mirror they encountered in the previous temples was also an artefact. They reclaim the piece of Sphera and Torque from the temple of Destruction, and leave only seconds before the moff swarm and destroy the town.
The final piece of Sphera and Torque were in Lux. The following day the group teleported to Lux, only to be spotted by some dragons. The dragons retreated and came back with allies. At the same time, Emperor Yro teleported in with an army of Suvres, and a huge battle of tens of thousands of soldiers started raging in the skies. Yro compelled The Stampede to go after the final piece while he dealt with the dragons. But, to make matters worse, an enormous Imperial Moff was also making its way towards the group, and would engulf them within a couple of minutes. Racing to the pyramid nearby, the party managed to enter the Temple of Creation before the moff was upon them. The group traversed the puzzles in the temple, and claimed the final pieces of Sphera and Torque. But, unbeknownst to the party, the two artefacts had been trying to possess their wielders, and this is when they made their final push. After a valiant effort to push back, Devlin and Temp overpowered the souls in the artefacts and maintained control of their bodies, and taking full control of their new weapons. There was also another piece of Imago's Mirrors here, so the group invited it to come with them and they teleported out.
The Imperial Moff and War's End
Unfortunately, the space where they went in had already been swallowed by the Imperial Moff, so now it was up to the party to fight their way out before they were killed by the acidic atmosphere, or the dangerous immune system they were surrounded by. Working their way through the various tunnels and chambers in the moff's digestive track the party did something very few people had ever done before. They killed the imperial moff and emerged from the body as victors.
On the outside the Battle of Lux was reaching its culmination. Two forces, each led by Empress Lufic Rem, and Emperor Yro Gerg went head to head in a huge clash. Lufic was slain, and Yro emerged, and a Col Raw was called between the two factions. They each declared the war was over and they each had rule over their respective empires in the Dune Sea. The dragons teleported away, but Emperor Yro was left with many injured soldiers, and a sandstorm was coming near, which would surely kill those who could not make it to shelter. Yro ordered a retreat to the ruined pyramid for shelter and advised the party to do the same.
The Stampede did not wish to abandon the injured troops to die so worked valiantly to be able to save them all. Devlin opened a pocket dimension using the Magnificent Mansion spell, and Illy, Javid and Jayden along with the magic carpet hurried people through the portal to safety. Temp used the newfound power of Torque to be able to do some minor healing on several of the injured troops. Ultimately, by the time the sandstorm hit, The Stampede had managed to save all 400 Suvres soldiers, with no fatalities. After the sandstorm died down, The Stampede emerged from the Mansion, and met with Yro, who was completely in awe that all of his troops had survived. Extending his deepest gratitude he took off to aid his people getting home, but not before relaying the message that Temp's brother, Malum Castus, extended his thanks as well.
Now that the party knew that each Sphera Torque piece was also accompanied by a piece of Imago's Mirrors, the party split up back to each temple to claim the mirror piece. The party had to collect them separately as no person could attune to each piece at the same time. Taking the individual pieces back to Suvres, they each had to spend 72 hours unattuning from the individual piece, so Devlin may attune to all pieces simultaneously. After a lengthy porcess, Devlin was able to attune to Imago's Mirrors, a set of adventuring gear that when fully activated, acted as an extremely sturdy set of plate armour, along with a shield and retractable helmet. The boots allow him to teleport to anywhere he can think of, and the mirror he held previously now functioned as a bracer with the same properties. It was a very impressive piece of equipment that would aid him greatly alongside Sphera. During this time the 15 day deadline had passed since Nic had left, and he had not returned. After 19 days, the party decided they must leave and return to the west to find out what has occured in the 3 and a half months since they left for the Dune Sea.
The first stop was Javid's Monastery to see what has changed in the 2 weeks since the well as installed. The Monastery is incredibly prosperous, the surrounding lands are fully irrigated and crops and plants are blooming. The drought was over, and the people who had previously left and were being held by the dragons had been returned to their home. After staying for a short while and getting the tour, the party take the magic carpet to Maltee and enter the tavern (after changing into their normal adventuring gear from their Myckal outfits). Their server was hesitant to serve them and was outwardly saying the party needed to eat and leave as soon as possible. Confused as to what was going on the server told them there was a bounty on their heads. He claimed he wouldn't call the authorities until after they had gone, but he didn't want any trouble and just wanted them to leave the establishment.
After eating quickly and leaving, Illy went on a stealth mission through Maltee to figure out what was happening. She found the bulletin board, and a wanted poster for The Stampede posted by Cigam, with a reward of 10 million gold for the whole group, including Humi Lem, or 500,000 per individual member. The last communication from Humi was that hew was hiding in 'not Varland, north' which the party deduced to be at Hylz, the Elven capital. They teleport to Eladris to Temp's house and Illy and Devlin go on a stealth mission to figure out what is happening. The streets are almost empty and all soldiers are on high alert. Disguising themselves, they head to the Third Hand base in he city. After having a frosty reception, Illy revealed who she was and the Guild members present told her they have orders not to claim the bounty, but also not to aid The Stampede either. He does also say the Third Hand are holding a member of their group 'in the place they said they would meet us'. The party takes this to mean Humi Lem. Getting no more from the Third Hand, the party left and trekked to Hylz on foot, as the Cigam have advised that The Stampede are able to fly.
The trek takes a few days, but the party arrives in Hylz with no troubles. They locate the Third Hand populace in a tavern (though it takes a couple of tries), and ask around about Humi Lem. They say there is only one place in the city that would cater for a human, and gives them directions. They talk to the owner there (which also takes a couple of tries, as they had to drop their disguises because the humans there don't want business with elves), and they Meet with Humi Lem and two strangers.
The two strangers reveal themselves to be Alloran and Theodore, the other two remaining Jacks. They ask about the whereabouts of Nic. The party explain that he went to Eystland to take the elven child back home, and he went alone as that is what he wished to do. Seemingly dissatisfied with what they were told, they asked the party to relay a message to Nic if they see him before they do, to 'meet at the Enz'.
State of the Continent
They are then able to meet with Humi, who begins to give them all the information they missed from being away for so long. Emperor Vagran had been assassinated, supposedly by Enoch. Enoch had been arrested and was supposed to be held in prison in Austrim, but Humi's agents found rumours that he had actually taken a fleet and sailed south and settled somewhere in the ruins of Guloc, the southern Gnome kingdom. Malum Castus assumed the position of Champion, but has yet to appoint an Emperor, so is filling both roles simultaneously. He also appears to be massa rming the civilians of Emor in preparation for war. King Gulec of the northern Gnome kingdom has been killed and the Queenmother Gael has also been injured. Guloc is said to be in charge, but is also rumoured to be injured. The elves have begun offering refuge to the gnomes, as their northern kingdom appears to be under siege. King Burto of the Dwarves has also been killed. Mon Deye (the parties ally and former Sun Deye) was blamed and was forced to hide 'where the Dwarves fly', being Muncill. The former Mon Deye, who framed his own assassination in order to assume the throne before, re-emerged and claimed the throne for himself, with Tuze Deye rising to the position of Mon Deye. Cigam is under a lot of pressure as the shadow creatures have been attacking and they are taking the blame for it. Humi has aso not heard from Luman in the whole time the party has been away.
The party ask what has happened to Vylqwyn. The shadow creatures attacked the base while they were away and hit much harder than when they were in the sewers before. Vylqwyn had been gravely injured and was currently in a hospital in Hylz. Humi takes the party to visit him. His entire left side has been charred, and his left arm is amputated above the elbow. He is very happy to see the party and warns the party that the war is beginning. The Stampede must go to the Draziw statue as soon as they can, and head south to harness their Slayer powers. He also talks more about Caesum and his work with him, and gives Illy a handwritten note from Naurel to her descendant. The party gives their best wishes to Vylqwyn, and return to the hotel with Humi.
Searching for Allies
Two New Faces
Upon returning, Humi introduces the party to two people who say they wish to be hired by The Stampede. He sent them on a task to prove their worth and they succeeded admirably. He introduces them to Michael Crimm and James Ars, seemingly relatives of some kind to Enoch and Sien, two of the Praetorians of Emor. They discuss why they are here; that they wish to be hired by the Stampede, so they can see whether they want to hire them for their own mission. After some debate about price, the party agree to pay 175 gold each per day for their services.
Humi then discusses with The Stampede on what their next step should be. Without Nic, they cannot go south, so for now they must aid their Dwarven allies in Muncill, and bring them back here to Hylz.
The House of Ton
The party teleport to Muncill using one of Javid's airstones to head straight to the airstone factory. The door is blocked, so they have to find another way in, and using the power of Illy's dagger, they cut a hole through the wall. They find Mortimer's apprentice in an enchanted sleep blocking the door. When they find Mortimer, he explains that his apprentice is a member of the Cigam, so he put him in an enchanted sleep to prevent him from alerting Cigam HQ when the party arrived. He informs them that the former Mon Deye was here, but relocated to the Third Hand base down in the Dwarven portion of Muncill where there was more accommodations for him and his allies.
The party travel down to the Third Hand tavern; The Frosted Pony. Inside they speak to Raph Aiel, the Dwarven Third Hand leader, and he leads them to the former Mon Deye. He re-introduces himself to The Stampede as Agnor Ton, and he reveals that he managed to get hold of King Burto's Amulet of Naurel. He puts it on and the gem embedded in the Amulet changes to a green colour and shines very bright. (According to the Pact of Naurel, King Ton was the one present to receive the amulet, so it is likely that Agnor is a descendant if his.)
Raph Aiel returns and informs them that Cigam are on their way, and they have about 90 seconds to prepare. Temp and Devlin give Agnor a Vitality potion each to get him in fighting shape, but there are still 64 exhausted and injured House Ton dwarves to keep safe. Temp and Devlin are able to teleport 32 of them back to Hylz and Illy, Javid, Michael and James move the rest of the dwarves to a more defensible area. The Cigam arrive with a force of around 20 wizards. After a hard battle which drained many of the party's resources, the remaining Cigam retreated and awaited backup. From what the party could gather, they had about 3 minutes until a force of about 50 Cigam descended upon them.
There was no way The Stampede could hold off 50 Cigam wizards, so they had to quickly come up with a plan. Devlin would summon a Magnificent Mansion, and the dwarves along with Temp, Javid, Michael and James would rest there until Temp could teleport them to Hylz. Illy and Devlin would lead the Cigam away from the Frosted Pony and attempt to lose them in the city of Muncill.
The ruse was a success and a large force of Cigam, including purple armoured hunters and a white robe, gave chase to the two. Using Illy's skills as a rogue, along with a splash of magic, they managed to cross the town square before the Cigam were able to spot them, and they disappeared into a residential area. Choosing a house that they were confident was empty, they entered the residence and hid, deactivating all their magic in the process. A few hours later, the owner of the house returned and, in order to give them time to plan what they could do, Devlin polymorphed him into a frog. After the dwarf reverted to normal form, they managed to calm him down and figure out a bit of what was going on. He and Devlin connected over the fact that the authorities were hiding the truth from the common folk, and along with a payment of 5 platinum for beers, the dwarf allowed them to stay in his home.
Devlin rested to get his spell slots back, but near the end of their time hiding in the home, a purple robed Cigam knocked on the door. Devlin recognised the voice as his old childhood friend Darua, but the dwarf sent her away, and Devlin did not want to reveal himself until he knew they were safe. Soon after, Devlin teleported himself and Illy to Hylz and waited for Temp and the others to return. The next morning, Temp and Devlin teleported the remaining dwarves and the party back to Hylz.
Devlin's Family History
Devlin wrote a letter to Darua and requested to meet her alone in their old hometown. Devlin, bringing Illy as backup, stopped by his mothers home on the way to the rendezvous. When they arrived, they could see out onto the roads of Riverdale, they were full of battalions of soldiers, all marching south. After he introduced Illy to his mother Scarlet and they had a good time making fun of him, he asked her about this and she said they had been told there is a war being fought in the southern Gnomish kingdom and the residents were being told to pack up and evacuate north. He also asked Scarlet about his father, who he had a few questions about since their initial meeting with Blu.
She told him that his father was a friend of his Uncle David. He wanted Evans to fulfil his birth right, but he wasn't interested which caused them to have a falling out. He and Scarlet then conceived a child together as he reasoned that this child would be able to take up the right that Evans refused. Scarlet did not know about what this birth right was, as Evans kept it very secret, but she did reveal the name of Devlin's father: Cane Ablebody.
Before leaving to meet Darua, Scarlet gave Devlin a box from David Evans. He asked that it be given to Devlin if anything happened to him. Upon opening the box, a bright red light shined from it, and Devlin obtained an Amulet of Naurel.
Cigam Inside Information
Devlin, along with a hidden, eavesdropping Illy, met with Darua. She revealed that the Cigam were on very high alert in tracking down The Stampede. If they were to be notified of their presence, a task force would be present within 60 seconds, and a white robe would be there within 5 minutes. It appears their interest in The Stampede comes from 2 instances. The first is an incident where the Cigam were attacked at a Dietomic enitities activity, and the second where 300 Cigam officers were attacked and injured/killed when they attempted to arrest Humi Lem at the Strassburg base. She also revealed that the Cigam are being recalled from every corner of the continent and are being prepared for conflict at HQ.
From here, the pair decided to investigate Whitepond again. After an initial physical and magical investigation. They discovered that the entire area was under the effects of some sort of magical dampening field. The higher level magic you try to use, the more severe the effects are. It made it impossible for them to enter the Mirror Realm using Imago's bracer. They looped around the town a bit more and decided to stealthily enter on foot. But what they found was astonishing.
On the first step into town, everything looked normal. But upon taking a second step, everything around them appeared to be a desert. Step back: normal, step forward: desert. It was as if another realm was bleeding into Whitepond, and it looked like the impact of the Dune Sea was acting upon a very localised area. Inside this alternate Whitepond, magic and magic items appeared to work normally, so they used Imago's bracer to enter the Mirror Realm. Once again, they found a place where everything was normal, and the people went about theri daily lives. Obviously new people in town was a big deal as they were completely isolated, so they were approached by the Mayor. He didn't know much, but form this side it appeared that Whitepond was as normal, and the rest of the world had turned into a desert. They have been isolated here for 6 months with no communications. They asked if anyone had moved to town recently before this had happened, and he told them that the last person to arrive in town was Trent Jackson.
Devlin and Illy met with Trent and asked what happened to him, as he was supposed to have died. He told them that he didn't remember much, just that he suddenly woke up and Cane offered him the chance to live in exchange for doing some work for him, and in order to help convince Evans to work alongside him. Trent was there to assist with an experiment. Cane was attempting to reverse the effects of a 'cataclysmic plane flip' which Cane applied to Whitepond (Whitepond was chosen because of the abundance of resources so the townsfolk could survive for a lengthy period of time). Ideally, Cane wanted to reverse the effects as quickly as possible, but something happened to prevent him from learning the power he seeks. Illy and Devlin hypothesise that it is the staff, the first elephant they gave to Vylqwyn so long ago.
After discussing it in detail with Devlin, Trent helped to clarify that he had been revived because Cane hoped to entice the heir to the Northern Kingdom to assume a role as leader within the Emorian Empire. The northern kingdom, currently ruled by the Lamnas, but originally ruled by Egar, and his family, could be reclaimed by one of his descendants. Cane believed Evans to be a hidden member of that house. Devlin apparently was fathered by Cane, who mistakenly believed his mother to be David Evans’s blood related sister. In the event he was incapable of convincing David to help him, Cane could sire a son who might help him.
Not knowing how to act on this information right now, he and Illy turn their attention to the staff. They are able to see the ghostly images of the Cigam on the other side, unlike the other townspeople, and can see there are a number of them around and under the lake in the centre of town. They take a swim down and can clearly see a tangible object that is the staff on either side of the realms. They are tempted to take it and help free the town, but they are unsure of Cane's motivations and what he will do with a cataclysm reversing power. Vylqwyn had been the one to bring the staff here, so they decide that now is not the time to choose a side on impulse, and return to Hylz. They attempted to speak to Vylqwyn, but he was not in a state to answer any questions, and only asked for Nic to be brought to him.
One more for The Stampede
Illy and Devlin return to the tavern and find several dozen of the dwarves have got bored of being cooped up in their rooms, and are in the bar drinking. They meet with the rest of the group and inform them of what they have learned at Riverdale and Whitepond. Humi asks that they have their conversation out in the bar so he and Agnor can keep an eye on all the dwarves. As they all take a seat at the table, a human woman with wild hair approaches and joins them. She introduces herself as Fafnir Adfeck, and is seeking the party to help her in her quest. She is also on the run from Cigam for obtaining information about the location of the Axe of Durm, and wishes for the party to help her obtain the axe so she can study it. The party inform her that they have a lot goin on, but if she is willing to tag along, they will help her in turn.
At this moment, Nic makes his triumphant return to the group. He is followed by a terrifying individual dressed head to toe in dragon scale mail. Nic introduces him as the Drakan's Hammer, General of the Drakan Armies. They take a seat at the table and remove their helmet, revealing the face of their old friend Ivo Arend. Ivo says nothing, as he cannot without it being an unquestionable command; instead he places 3 Amulets of Naurel on the table before Illy, one blue, one yellow, and one orange. With that, Ivo puts his helmet back on, and leaves. Agnor, seeing that Illy has amassed 5 Amulets of Naurel between her allies, gives his Amulet for her to hold, and sings an old Elven song. One by one, all the dwarves join in and exit the tavern and sing towards the great white tree of Hylz.
Now that Nic has rejoined the party, The Stampede take him to see Vylqwyn. He seems better than when Illy and Devlin saw him earlier in the day, so he allows them to ask their questions. They ask Vylqwyn what his goals are when he placed the staff in Whitepond, and what Cane is planning. He tells them Cane is most likely planning to release his father Groth from his condition by bringing down the doors. Draziw and Groth, along with others, put the doors in place to prevent Gods from entering or leaving the plane of existence, and keep them powerless when they are here. He believes that Cane, while he may feel he is doing the right thing, is being ignorant to the consequences of what he is doing. Vylqwyn, and the Cigam, wish to keep the doors in place, and fix any gaps that crop up. Vylqwyn also tells them more of the nature of Slayers. They are essentially demi-gods; descended from a God on this plane (Col Raw for Temp, Draziw for Illy and Devlin, and unknown for Javid). The final piece of advice he gives them, is that they have no allies. If anyone is a servant of a god, or a god themselves, they are against them, and those who aren't against the party, may not necessarily be their friend. It is up to them to be the villains in charge in order to protect the people beneath them. Vylqwyn then turns to Nic and asks him to help him play his violin one more time. Nic obliges and aids Vylqwyn, who proceeds to play his music, and then collapse back into the hospital bed, dead. Nic breaks the violin and bow, lays them on Vylqywn's body, and he and the party, somberly leave.
Upon leaving the hosptial, the street from the white tree to the tavern is lined with soldiers. They head back to the tavern and wait, and son an elven man arrives and introduces himself as Psyqwyn. He speaks to Agnor, and gives him a box filled with 10 white tree acorns and an invitation to see him in the white tree the next day. Agnor in turn gives the acorns and invitation to Illy, and suggests that an acorn should be planted at the Citadel of Naurel.
The next day, the entire party suits up to see Psyqwyn in the white tree. They fire their invitation on and arrow towards the tree and in return, a walkway is made for them and they are greeted at the base of the tree by some guards, who lead them up and direct them to Psyqwyn. When they meet him, they find him dressed ready for adventuring, and he seems unsure as to why the party are dressed so formally. He asks Illy what it is she wants, and she says she is looking for one final Amulet of Naurel to open the tomb beneath the Citadel. He gives her his own purple amulet, and with that, the party make plans to move out.
Devlin uses the power of Imago to enter the tomb directly, and bring back a teleport focus. He then teleports the group back to the Tomb. All Amulets are placed in the casket, and a rainbow light shoots from Illy's Amulet and out of the top of the tomb. Returning to the outside of the Citadel, the rainbow light falls on a dirt patch a little way from the building. Illy goes to it and plants one of the white acorns in the dirt. Almost immediately, a huge Whitewood tree sprouts to the size of the Citadel, inadvertently scooping up some party members into its branches. The tree roots wrap around Illy and the tree speaks to her, and transports her to the white tree at Hylz and back. It also gives her ten whitewood rings, in order for her allies to traverse between trees aswell. The party returns to the tomb to find the tree roots have lifted up the top of the casket, and Illy claims the prize within, the skotadi sword once belonging to Naurel; Hex. Having got what they came for, the party uses their new rings to traverse the whitewood tree network back to Hylz.
Illy asked Psyqwyn about the Judge, the other sword that pairs with Hex. He asked they speak somewhere more privately, so Devlin conjured the Mansion and they all entererd for a private talk. Psyqwyn explained that there is nothing stopping Illy from claiming the other sword and taking her place on the throne, except the complicated political state the Kingdom is in. He suggested that the stewards and high ranking elves in the current system would not be happy to simply let all their power go, so it would be wise to appease them somehow. After some discussion Illy decided that she would attempt to claim Judge the following day, in order for Psyqwyn and the stewards to prepare.
The following day, Illy and the Stampede met with Psyqwyn and he escorted them up the tree to the Throne Room, where the sword was lodged in a Whitewood Branch above the throne. Illy made her way up to the sword and attempted to pull it free. She realised it was missing a pommel, and she secured her Amulet of Naurel to the hilt, which enabled her to pull the sword from its resting place. The elven warriors that were present took a knee and bowed to their new queen.
At this moment an army of over a thousand Cigam, led by Xander Zulu, was surrounding the tree at Hylz and demanding that The Stampede be turned over to them. Xander attempted to step foot on the concrete circle surrounding the tree, but was instantly killed by a volley of 5000 arrows. His allies brought him back and he instead opted to come in and talk with the Stampede on his own. He explained that the party is under arrest and asked them to come peacefully. The Stampede tried to explain that the shadows were nothing to do with them, and that the Cigam should focus their efforts on the monsters attacking the other kingdoms, but Xander did not listen. He said they will leave Hylz today, but from tomorrow they will continue their hunt for The Stampede. With that, the Cigam left.
Tyqwyn, the previous steward of the elven throne then came to speak with Illy. He explained that the elven kingdom is currently preparing for war, and that they should continue that effort, while also banishing all Cigam from the Kingdom to protect Illy and the group. Illy asked that Tyqwyn hold the fort while she is gone, and she ad the party leave to deal with the world's goings on.
To the Enz of the Earth
A brutal battle occured in the streets of Enz
Using the magic carpet, the group travel north to Enz to take Nic to see Alloran and Theodore. When they arrive, Devlin uses Imago's Bracer to scout the city and try to find them. He does not see them, but sees Xerxes Zulu still in the same tavern, so the group go to speak to him as they reason he may know where they could be. On their way through the town, they are ambushed by many of the towns thugs who wish to claim the bounty placed on them by Cigam.
After a brutal battle in the street, it comes to a climax as the artefacts the group are carrying all seem to spring to life and take their own combat initiative. It finishes as all the artefacts create a vortex of energy that explodes and decimates any non living object within 200ft. Standing in the crater, they are approached by Alloran, Theodore and Xerxes, and surprisingly, Furari and two other Praetorians are there. They travel back to the tavern and briefly speak with everyone to catch up on what is happening in Emoria. Temp makes it known to the other Jacks that he wishes to invoke the Passions. The Jacks leave to discuss business away from everyone else, and Xerxes asks Devlin about the party's trip to the Dune Sea. Devlin then shows him Sphera and Imago's Mirrors and asks about their power. Xerxes has an odd expression on his face as he see's the Mirrors, as he was not aware that Devlin was going to claim them. Using magic, he makes Devlin subconsciously activate the power of Imago's Mirrors, and he prepares to take them for himself.
An underwater fight againt Xerxes Zulu
In the time it took for the Xerxes to take the party to their destination, he and Devlin had a telepathic conversation where he told him about the power of the Mirrors and those who would to whatever it takes to get their hands on them; most notably the Jacks. He warned not to give him the mirrors, and that the only people he would trust with them are Xavier and Xander. Then, to the party's surprise, he attacked them straight away without any room for negotiation. The party managed to hold their own for a while, though it was clear that Xerxes was not giving it his all. After the fight, and with no way to return to Enz, Temp teleported the party to his house in Eladris to begin preparing for the passions.
With 2 days to prepare for the Passions, it was time to gather allies. Though, after some thinking, the party did not come up with a very large list. Most of the allies they had made in their journey are now either dead, missing, too far to make it here in 2 days, or are hunting them for a huge bounty. After a bit of planning, it was decided that Illy would go north back to Enz with an Elven military escort to see if Furari Domin is still there and recruit him, and to see if the allies they left behind are still around. The rest of the party would start by going south and try to recruit Mortimer the giant, and Fretzlytz, the giant prince. They went via Durmstrang to locate the Prince, and thanks to Javid, he agreed to make his way to Eladris for the Passions. He also told them Mortimer is on his way west so they should be able to catch up to him if they wanted to ask him too. They take the carpet and catch up to Mortimer and he readily accepts the invitation and teleports them all to Eladris.
Illy made it to Enz but Furari and her allies were no longer there. She speaks to the bartender of the tavern they were in the previous day and he tells her that Furari left already but he didn't know where, and her allies are making their way to Eladris. He also says that lots of people, especially sailors are all making their way to Eladris to try and claim the title of Jack for themselves.
Devlin writes to Darua once again in order to meet and ask her for assistance, while Temp, Javid and Fafnir go to Gulec to see if they can find Queenmother Gael. When they arrive it is destroyed and they are attacked by mysterious opponents using bone arrows. They swiftly escape back to Eladris. Devlin meets with Darua in their usual meeting spot and asks for her to join them for the passions. She agrees to aid them and Devlin brings them both to Eladris. From here, Temp writes a note to Nil and asks Darua if she can deliver it to him at Cigam. She does so and returns with another note. Nil says he cannot attend the Passions, but says 2 of his brothers will be there, and 2 of someone else's brothers will be there too.
The group generally agrees that it would be bad for the Zulu's and Cigam to be there when there is the huge bounty on them, so Devlin devises a plan to attempt to lift the bounty and make it so Cigam is no longer working against them. Armed with the new knowledge given to him by Xerxes, Devlin proposes that he trades Imago's Mirrors to Xavier and Xander. He is met by some resistance for this plan, as it would involve walking into a Cigam Office and demanding to speak to the two people who want to capture them. But, he manages to convince the party it may work, and they all teleport to the 201st Floor of the Citadel of Naurel. The one wizard working there leaves to get the 2 Zulu's, and very soon they are surrounded by Hunters and Xavier and Xander arrive. They are surpirised that Devlin would want to entrust them with the Mirrors, but after some negotiation, they lift the bounty. They say they cannot support Temp in the Passions, but wish him luck, and Xavier gives Devlin some Moff silk in order to replace his lost gear.
The party then return to Eladris with their allies in order to prepare. They begin construction of a small fort on a hill just outside of town, and Temp and the core party members travel into the city to see if they can find the Jacks or their other allies. They don't find them at first, but do spy some purple tents with Emorian guardsmen outside them. Travelling over to them the party meet Abhord Sen and Bryesing Ler, the two Praetorians they met in Enz. They reveal their plans to challenge for the title of Jack, and wish Temp the best of luck. They then are able to meet with their allies again, and spend the rest of the day conserving their strength ready for the Passions, and speaking with Mortimer about how the Passions work and what they have to do.
The party must fight Abhord Sen and Bryesing Ler
That evening, a commotion is heard from the city. Travelling into the centre they find the Jacks have set up a podium and are sitting atop it. The Passions have started, and anyone wishing to make the claim may step up and make their intentions known. Temp is the first to climb up to the podium, followed by Abhord and Bryesing, and a stranger wearing bone armour. Then to the party's suprise, Tafo Skavo also makes his way to the podium, but doesn't climb it. He appears to be very excited for what is about to come. The Jacks have the candidates drink a concoction from out of their hats, which severely weakens them. The time of the Passions is decided by Temp, giving a total of 56 minutes to hold the hill and return to the Jacks. With that, the Stampede go to the fort and prepare to hold out.
King of the Hill
Very soon, a group of combatants arrive. An assortment of bandits, pirates and thugs attempt to assault the fort from all sides. Working together, the party and their allies repel them. But soon after, another group of combatants approach. Abhord Sen and Bryesing Ler make themselves known, holding the severed head of the bone wearing stranger. They are seemingly working together, so the party must fight them both at the same time. After dropping a few area spells to deal with they guards, the party turn their attention to the Praetorians. After a tough fight, they manage to get Bryesing down (Devlin used a disintegrate spell on him, but somehow he didn't turn to ash) but no matter what they did, it was impossible to harm Abhord Sen in any way. Sen then used an incredible amount of power to restore Ler to life. Between them, the party come to the realisation that any magic attack is ineffective against Sen, so must go back to their roots and use non-magical weapons against him. The party then deal some good damage to Ler and Sen, but before they are able to finish them off, Malum Castus appears and orders them to stop. He scolds Abhord Sen for desecrating the dead body of the bone wearing stranger, and warns him that now Tafo Skavo is coming for him. He offers Temp a deal; If the party help him hold of Tafo, he will support Temp in the Passions. Temp agrees to this and the party get ready to fight their old friend Tafo.
Fafnir reveals herself to be the giant Fenrisulfr
Tafo approaches the fort and seems to be going straight for Abhord Sen. Sen and Ler begin to flee while the rest of the party attempt to hold Tafo back. It proves to be a rather futile attempt. Even though the party did some good damage against him, upon seeing his true form (a flaming skeleton, which continued to fight even after being decapitated by Crimm) Malum Castus began to retreat. The party opt to let Tafo go after Sen, but Fafnir, who doesn't know Tafo or what he is capable of decides to keep fighting him. In order to stop her from getting herself killed, Devlin (who had previously polymorphed himself into Temps dragon form) grappled her so Tafo could move on. Fafnir did not approve of this however, and removed her headband and transformed back into her natural form, the giant Fenrisulfr. Devlin and Fenrisulfr had a small scuffle, but eventually they went back to dealing with the animated shovels Tafo left behind. Tafo made his way to have a clear line of sight on Abhord Sen, and dug him into a trench hundreds of feet deep, and buried him. It is unknown what happened to Bryesing Ler.
The New Jack
With Malum gone and no other challengers remaining, the party make their way back to the podium, and Temp climbs up to the Jacks. It was time for the Braggings to begin. Temp loudly claims his titles and achievements to the exhausted crowd, who respond with as much enthusiasm as they could muster. They ask who in the party would support him, and the rest if the party brag about their titles and achievements. Malum Castus also makes his appearence at the braggings, and declares his support for his brother. With that, the Jacks ask Temp if he is truly ready to become a Jack, and Temp replies that he is. They produce a cannon and ask Temp to place his head by the end of the barrel. He does so and Theodore fires the cannon and produces a fine silk hat for Temp. But now the price Temp must pay. The Jacks tell him he is no longer allowed to hide. He must show his form always (only being allowed to wear a loincloth) and never hide his thoughts or feelings. Temp accepts this price and he is named Temp de Jack.
The party return to Temps house and wait for him to return from his meeting with the other Jacks, and have a chat with Fafnir about the spell she uses to disguise herself, and why she wants to get the Axe of Durm. She and Devlin also have a conversation about what happened in the scuffle between them, and they each apologise to each other for how they acted. But now with the Passions completed, the party wish to find Malum Castus and figure out what it is he is doing. But from there The Stampede must decide their strategy on what to do next.
Catching Up with Castus
Having learned Sending from his friend Darua, Devlin contacted Malum Castus and asked to meet him. Castusd said he was heading west, and would meet the party in Domini. Flying there on the carpet they find that the entire city has been completely locked down, due to the large amount of Emorian soldiers currently passing by to the south. Temp and Devlin go to the marching army while Illy stays behind in the city. Castus approaches Illy disguised as a green haired elf and they begin to speak. Temp and Devlin soon return and they can begin properly. Devlin uses Sphera's true seeing to determine that it is merely an illusion standing before them.
Temp questions his brother about his intentions, and his artefacts. Castus reveals that he is marching his army west to the coastline to slow down the invading army from the west. They ask if he knows about the western continent and about The General, he denies any knowledge, but it is not clear if he is lying or not. Castus also reveals that he has little authority in the Emorian Empire, not enough to form an alliance with the Elven Kingdom when Illy asks. There is no Emperor right now, and there won't be until another Championship, as Castus has no one he would like to be on the throne. Devlin and the others question him about how to become Emperor, and reveals his heritage as a descendant of King Egar. Castus says that if Devlin can find proof that he is a descendant of Egar, such as a crown or artefact, then he would endorse him as Emperor.
With that, and a five day deadline until Castus is unreachable, he disappears.
The Mask of King Egar
Old Friends Not Forgotten
In order to find such an artefact, the group decide to speak to Humi Lem, who is on his way into Domini with the Dwarves. He disembarks at the docks and they ask him about any such object. He is not able to hellp them a great deal however. He has not done as much research into King Egar as he did Morghal, so suggests that they speak to someone who was alive during the time, or see if Sam's Emporium has anything they know. Humi also tells the group that he is taking the Dwarves to the western coast to help slow down the advance of the enemy. He is unsure of what they will face when they arrive, so he bids his farewell to the group.
Seeking someone who was alive 9000 years ago, The Stampede travel to Cigam HQ and speak to their old friend Nil Rem. He and Fafnir have a small wrestling match and the group catch him up on their escapades over the last few months. As they are mopping the floor together Devlin asks is he knows about any artefacts that belonged to King Egar. Nil has a think and tells him that the legend that surrounds Egar is that he wore a mask that would change faces. If the mask was angry, you were about to die. King Egar was present at Groth when it was destroyed so the mask is most likely there. The party thanks Nil and set off to the Dune Sea once again.
Back to the East
The core party make their way into the desert and use their discs to teleport to Het-Hert to speak to Lady Ven. Upon entering the room where she resides, Fafnir's illusion wears off and she becomes a giant. Lady Ven gives her warnings about going to Groth, and calls a Col Raw with Fafnir. She asks Fafnir about why she is here in the desert and why she is travelling with the Stampede. Fafnir tells Ven she is searching for the Axe of Durm. Ven tells the group that the axe is located in Kazimore, and that the party needs to be equipped with radiance if they wish to succeed. She says that she will provide them with radiance if they can bring a replacement part for the Great Pyramid back from Groth. She warns that they must make two trips if they wish to recover the mask and the replacement part. Fafnir agrees, Col Raw is ended, and the group set off for Groth.
The Colossal Construct
The Stampede fight the Colossus of Groth
As they approach they see a swirling vortex of sand, lightning and energy. Eventually they come to the wall of the vortex and must push through in order to get to the centre of Groth. When they enter the air is still and the earth is barren. Before them is a huge amalgamation of artefacts. Twisted and banded together to form a colossal construct over a hundred feet tall. The construct turns to look at them when they arrive. Javid spies the mask on the right arm, and some pyramid headstones in either foot. Heeding Ven's warning of not staying for too long, they opted to go for the mask first, and the timer began.
Straight away the construct showed its power, and hit the party with something they hadn't faced against before; radiant damage. The Colossus of Groth was slowly increasing its power, so it wouldn't be long before it was too tough to stay. The Stampede quickly dispatched the arm holding the mask but it retracted itself into the body before they could grab it. Instead the group focused their fire on the torso to see if they could dislodge the mask again. Just as it was beginning to get too dangerous to stay, the party managed to deal enough damage to the torso in order to separate the artefacts from each other and attempt to grab it. It was difficult to get close and pull it free but a valiant combined effort from Illy and Fenrisulfr meant that the party could escape with their prize. With that, they flew up and rested in the mansion before returning the next day to get the headstone. Armed with the knowledge of what they would be facing, they quickly dispatched the foot and torso to claim the headstone (after having to retreat once because Fenrisulfr was removed from the vortex). And with that, Devlin had claimed Egar's Mask and had his proof he needed to show Malum Castus.
Bringing the headstone back to Lady Ven she gives them what she promised; 7 pendants that each bear the lighting bolt symbol of Draziw which give the power to resist undead and necrotic damage, and imbue a weapon with radiance. Illy also asked about planting a Whitewood tree in Suvres. Ven said she was not going to Suvres any time soon, but if she wished to plant one there would be no one stopping her. Because it would be beneficial to have a tree in Suvres for easy movement of troops and the party, they decide to fly to Suvres and plant a tree there. Finding a place just outside the city - because they knew it would grow very large - Illy planted the acorn. No one was prepared for what would happen next.
Make it Rain
At first it was small. Just a few small saplings rising into the air and weaving themselves together to form the tree. But then the ground erupted as hundreds of thousands of saplings all sprouted at once and the roots and vines spread like wildfire towards the city. The vines scaled the walls and dispersed into the city as the confused population began to scream in panic. No where in the city was safe from the vines as they sped through the streets before they were wrapped around each building in the city. Then when all buildings were safely in the grasp of the tree they were raised up 50ft into the air. The city of Suvres was now nestled safely in the boughs of it's great protector. But the tree wasn't done yet. Branches still were growing higher into the sky, stretching out above the new streets and sprouting their first leaves. The leaves grew and bunched together, covering the city in a blanket of shade. In the distance was a crashing, rumbling sound. Dark clouds were rolling in from every direction and the sound - while familiar to the Westerners - was foreign to the people of Suvres. Before long the storm clouds were stretched over the city and amongst the thunder and lightning, raindrops began to fall on the people. The Dune Sea had its first rainfall in 9000 years.
The Stampede relished in their accomplishment but were soon disturbed by the distinctive *click* of stones warning of approaching moff. Unsure if the moff were coming because they are attracted by the tree, the party made their way to the southern edge of the city to see what was happening. 50 moff - including an imperial moff - were racing towards the city at a much faster rate than the party had ever seen. They stopped about 5 miles outside the city and waited. Then as the party watched in awe, and the Suvres guard in confusion, the moff flopped out of the ground and let the rainwater wash over their mile long bodies. The gargantuan creatures played in the water and chased eachother as if they were children. The moff also began to dig a ginourmous pit and trenches, letting the rain fill it up and creating a large reservoir outside the city. Finishing their play, the moff disperse in opposite directions.
Their work in the desert done for now, they head to the main palace to inform someone of their deed and ask they pass the message to Yro. Then they take the white tree network to go back to the Citadel in Emor. Devlin contacts Malum and asks where they can meet as he has proof of lineage. Malum says he will be in Emor in 2 days.
Long Live the King
Revealing the Truth
Given they had 2 days to spend before their meeting with Malum, the Stampede decided to make some progress on the Axe of Durm. So they headed to Varland to see if they could parley with King Loc. However, they did not get very far from the Cigam HQ in the city before they realised that the population of Dwarves weren't going to let them pass. So they headed back to Hylz to speak with Agnor about their options. Agnor said that Loc would be unlikely to speak to any of them unless they could prove his innocence in the assassination of Burto. For the first time they asked him who it was who killed Burto. Agnor described a rather plain looking human man with brown hair and only one person came to mind. Cane. They discussed amongst themselves about how to convince Loc of the truth and Devlin suggested there are spells that could work, but only when used together which he did not know how to do. Seeking assistance they headed back to Cigam HQ to speak to Nil.
Nil listened to the request and agreed that it could be done using a combination of Dream, Detect Thoughts and Zone of Truth. He gave Javid the ability to cast Zone of Truth and also instructed Devlin on how to cast Dream and Detect Thoughts simultaneously, by casting them through his allies to use as conduits. With the means at their disposal, Devlin cast a spell to appear as an illusion before King Loc in the Varland throne room. He asked for permission to bring Agnor to him in order to plead his innocence. Loc agreed and Devlin teleported them all straight to the Throne. Performing an epic feat of magic, The Stampede cast their spells and all saw the images of what happened that day. Cane murdered Burto in one punch to the chest, and Agnor was accused, thrown in jail and had his name stripped away before he was able to escape without killing a single person.
Loc saw this and he lifted the charges against Agnor. Loc also let it slip that he was just holding the throne until someone worthy came to claim it. Agnor asked the party if he had their support, to which they agreed, and he challenged Loc for the title of King. Loc accepted the challenge and told them they had 2 dawns.
Challenge for the Throne
In order to take the throne, Agnor and the party must beat Loc in a crafting contest, so he took them to his ancestral home in order to access the vault, which has many materials they can use. But first they had to decide what they would craft. Devlin conveyed the idea of a 'mech-suit', a theoretical construct that the user can climb inside and control for use in combat. The group eventually decided that 2 dawns was not enough time to construct a full mech-suit, so instead they could modify an already existing construct to have some of the same abilities that would be in service to the Dwarven King. Working tirelessly for two days, they took the dragon construct from Gelus Frigor's lab forged armour for it, equipped it with spell gems and gave it the ability to fire a beam of radiant damage with a piece of arambarium. Finally, Illy planted a whitewood acorn on its back, causing it to become entwined with roots and leaves, and also be a movable whitewood tree to teleport to. They took this back to the palace to be judged against Loc's creation.
After waiting overnight for the judges, and having Javid for a spokesperson, they named Agnor Ton the new king of the Dwarves. He named Loc as Mon Deye, and the minigun wielding Mon Deye as Tuze Deye. Illy approached him and asked for an alliance between the Elves and Dwarves which he accepted.
Long Live the Emperor
Finding a Champion
After this time, it was the day to meet Malum Castus in Emor. They headed back to the Citadel of Naurel, but ended up travelling to the Imperial Palace to meet him. The Military District was busy with civilians and adventurers rather than just military. They met Malum who explained that he had called for a Championship of Champions for the following day. He also said that he had instructed the current Praetorians, and whoever he could, not to participate. All that Devlin needed to do was have his own Champion. With the Championship taking place in less than 24 hours, there was only one person who th eparty had considered within reach. They travelled to Laketown, south of Strassburg, to seek out Wolffi 'The Wolf' Kaizer, a former member of the party and leader of the Kaizer family.
The party fight in the Championship of Champions
The group arrived in Lakeport and found it destroyed, but with no bodies. Cautiously they made it to the lake and began to cross it towards the island holding Laketown. They were met by Kaizer guards who led them up to the keep after they asked to meet with The Wolf. As they went in they found themselves in a pitch black room with only 2 other doors. Opening either of the doors led into a trap that either filled the room with water, or with flammable oil. Relying on their other senses they found a way through the floor and met with Wolffi. After a brief reunion with Illy and Javid, Devlin gave him his request to be Champion. It took a little bit of convicing, but Wolffi agreed on the condition he was back by noon tomorrow, and they left for Emor.
The Championship of Champions (Again)
The following day they made their way to the Military District and met with Malum. He explained the rules and let them know that he had organised it so they could begin in the middle so as not to get eliminated early. Devlin was unable to participate as he was the candidate for Emperor, Nic chose not to take part as he didn't know if he could trust himself not to take the title himself, Psyqwyn didn't participate as he was an Elven politician so it would be awkward if he won, and Michael also opted to stay out so his out of control rage didn't mess it up for everyone else. So fighting for Devlin were Wolffi, Temp, Illy, Javid, James and Fenrisulfr.
After a tough battle against a group of monks and warriors, (in which Fenrisulfr and James went down, but were subtly brought back up by Devlin) the allies of Furari and Malum laid down and surrendered. One by one, the party lay down until only The Wolf and James remained standing. Wolffi knocked James down and claimed the title of Champion, and in turn, named Devlin the Emperor.
Temp took The Wolf back to Laketown, and Emperor Devlin and the others went inside the Imperial Palace to speak with Malum Castus. Devlin asked him to tell him everything about the attacks on the west coast. Malum explained that there were an estimated 2 million enemies in the south, and an estimated 1.5 million enemies in the north. Most of the human forces were concentrated in the south as the Elven kingdom was holding out in the north. Luman and Enoch were supposedly spotted behind enemy lines in the south. Conscription had been enforced of any male between the age of 15 and 45 and women were starting to be conscripted too. The enemy were not any creature known to be on this continent, they were taller than the average human, but twice as strong. There was also an effect similar to the threshold on the border of the Dune Sea that was slowly moving inland. The final order of business was between Illy and Devlin, as they formally allied the Human and Elven Kingdoms.
The Axe of Durm
Preparing for Hell
Malum, upon hearing that Devlin planned to go get the Axe of Durm, cautioned him and Illy against it as they are the leaders of the two nations. Devlin understood the concern, but believed that there was no one else willing or able to do this, as it was the only way to get the Giant Kingdom fully on board with the war. Devlin dismissed Malum to attend his duties, and Fafnir presented a document to the group that detailed the burial of Durm and his axe by the giant Kyln. Kyln and four other giants took Durm to the Bailrock and were told they must pay the debt to the king of Kazelmoore. Kyln was cursed to be Kylnlytz, and all his ancestors were cursed also.
This new information made the party very aware of the horror that would await them on the other side. So they went to speak to Fretzlytz to see if he would mobilise the military without the Axe of Durm. He said he would send a small expeditionary force of 200 men to the mountain range, but would not send the entire army. Realising that in order for the giants to survive, they would need to go and claim the Axe of Durm. So first, they would need to prepare.
They went to the best place they knew for magical items, Sam's Emporium. Fafnir, much to her delight, bought herself a new staff that looked like a chain of monkeys. Illy bought a set of xardasic chain armour and the whole party bought a set of Rings of regeneration and several types of rare potions. After spending most of their money to prepare for the craziest shit they have ever done, they travelled to Varland where Agnor let them down underneath the throne.
Descending the spiral staircase they found themselves at a giant statue with its hand out. The inscription read "Lend me a hand, and I'll open the way". Temp tried to open it by placing his hand on the palm of the statue but it did not open. The Stampede came to the grim realisation that one of them must cut off their hand and place it on the statue. Nic volunteered, as he said he can open the way, but will not be joining them on the other side. Lighting his rapier, Nic severed his hand onto the statues hand and opened the gate. The rest of the party traversed the gateway and emerged on the other side, and stood face to face with a tall, purple skinned dragon like figure who stared them down. The God, Col Raw.
The party meet Col Raw at the entrance to Kazelmoore
Col Raw quickly assisted the group with retrieving items from their interdimensional spaces, as they wouldn't be functional here, before he answered their questions. Col Raw welcomed them to Kazelmoore and explained the concept of the plane. It was made up of 9 rings, you can traverse to the next ring down from only one point, a portal controlled by the Lord of that ring. The portal to the next ring was 7 days trek away. Flying is strictly prohibited, only the Lord may fly in this realm. There is no need to eat, as their body is not physically here but sleep will be needed. One major setback for the group is that they did not have access to their magic. Col Raw offered them a deal: He will let them use his power, but in return they must either kill him, or bring him back to Emoria with them. Seeing litle choice, the party agreed and set off for the portal.
It was a long 7 day trek through limbo, where the party was cornered by burghers on a couple of occasions but they managed to fend them off. They came across a surprise as they were trekking through the desolate land, when they came across a denizen of the realm that looked very familiar to them. Vylqwyn smiled as he saw them and his soul disappeared. Eventually the party made it to the portal where the Lord of the ring, named Trapped by Col Raw attacked them. The fight was long and tough. Whenever they seemed to kill it, it would instead possess one of their party, forcing them to fight their own unti it reconstituted outside a host again. After it possessed Temp twice and Javid once, it decided to cut a deal with the party. It would let them pass but they could not travel past the fourth ring without bringing it back something from Lust, or it would curse them to exhaustion. With no alternatives, the party agreed, Trapped gave them some power, and they travelled to the next ring.
Lust's lair at the top of his tower
The next ring was Lust. Upon entry, half the party (Devlin, Illy, Temp and Psyqwyn) succumbed to temptation. Not seeing any where obvious to go, the party chose a random direction and started to walk. Eventually they saw some of the denizens and burghers. The burghers were punishing the denizens for chasing their desires. A group of burghers approached the party and forced the tempted ones to kneel. The other half of the party fought them off and they all quickly moved in the direction of a large castle, which the party assumed would be the location of the next portal. It was a 3 day trek this time, where they party had to avoid a large mass of denizens and burghers, which were successfully turned away by Temp. Eventually the group made it to the tower and when they were let in, they were tempted once again. It was a lot stronger here. Devlin, Fenrisulfr and Jim were able to resist, but Temp, Illy, Javid, Michael and Psyqwyn fell to temptation and began to indulge in the facilities of the pleasure palace, leaving the the others to form a plan to get the tempted back onside and find the portal.
Working together, the three who were not tempted managed to bring the others back to their side, then they climbed the tower and confronted Lust. Eager to avoid conflict, they made a deal with him. Psyqwyn would stay behind as collateral, and he would allow them to pass through to the realm below until they returned to him with a slab of dark ice form the realm of Sloth, and a trophy from the realm of Greed. Only then would Psyqwyn be returned to the party. They came to an agreement and they went through the portal to the next layer.
Gluttony meets with the party in his maw
The party appeared on a small island in a large ocean of blood, they had arrived on the realm of Gluttony. They commandeered a small boat from nearby burghers, and sailed off to see what they could find. Eventually they came across some denizens and asked what they were running from. They said that something roamed the oceans and swallowed anything it came across. The party thought this could be Gluttony himself so sailed towards the beast in order to pass down to the next layer. Soon they came across a ginormous whirlpool that threatened to consume them, but with great skill - and a bit of dumb luck - they landed in the maw. Gluttony appeared before them and challenged them to a game. If they could remove him from the portal, he would let them pass. They tried to attack him and force him off, but he split into many parts in order to stay on the portal. Devlin used a bit of magic to summon a wall of force and push him away from the space. Slightly annoyed, Gluttony let them pass, but he wanted them to destroy Greed's tower in the realm below, and also bring him some dark ice to settle his stomach. In return he would let them down into his stomach and help themselves to any gear they could find to help them.
The Stampede advanced to the next layer. To those holding out against its power, it was nothing but a barren rocky land, but to those under the realm's spell, it was filled with gold. The group made their way out to a humongous pit. Theorising that Greed may be at the bottom, they traversed down in a minecart to the depths. At the bottom they did not find Greed, but a pillar they were continually moving lower and lower into the ground. Illy climbed the pillar and took what it held, a vicious looking Warhammer which would be given to Lust. The party back tracked and made their way up the levels to Lust.
Lust gave them a Ring of Lust for the Warhammer, and also asked they annoy the Daemon on the level above as part of their deal. So the party went up to Limbo and spoke to Col Raw again. He explained that the Daemons do not have control over the realms below, so Trapped was bluffing when he said he could curse them in the levels below them. On their way back to Trapped the party fell in a pit with a rune that asked them where they wished to go. Fenrisulfr said they wished to be back at the top of the pit, and they were teleported to the huge pit on the realm of Greed where they found the Warhammer. Going back to the portal and beyond, they found the tower that Gluttony wanted them to knock down. It seemed to be building up continuously and it was impossible to climb and reach the top. They asked a denizen where Greed could be found, and they were told that he was back between here and the pit. They travelled back following these instructions and eventually came to a palace where Greed sat. Greed attempted to make a deal, by keeping a party member as collateral until they retrieved a trophy from the realm of Wrath. The party refused, not wanting to repeat the mistake they made with Psyqwyn and they attacked Greed. They fought to a standstill but Temp went down, Greed ordered that they not revive him so he can gamble Temp's soul as part of a game to let them pass. Temp stabilised himself and the Party won the gamble, which let them pass through to the next layer.
Sloth tells the party how to find Black Ice
The realm of Sloth was freezing. They arrived on an island with a ruined building. Using 'See Invisibility' and 'True Seeing', Illy and Devlin were able to see a fountain with a blue gem freezing everything around it. As it was up high, they instructed Fenrisulfr on how to reach up and grab it. She did so and started to become exhausted. With no other way to go, the party began crossing the frozen ocean. After several days they came across another land mass, it was covered in denizens and burghers, and had a large ice castle at it's centre. The party managed to sneak through using a makeshift disguise and entered the castle. Inside they found what they assumed to be Sloth, and many other blue gems. Assuming the gems to be dark ice, they collected them, but SLoth began to stir and asked them what they were doing. Explaining they needed the dark ice for Gluttony and Lust, Sloth told them where they could find it, on the promise that they would return the ones they had taken from the fountains. The party agreed and left the castle and headed up to where Sloth had instructed. After a fight with some snake-like creatures, the party carved out some dark ice and made their way back to the portal, replacing the ice they took to the fountain. They went up to Greed's level, and he was there to meet them. He demanded they play another game with him, and if they won he would send them up to Lust. Temp once again put his soul on the line. Much to Greed's pleasure Temp lost the first game, but a revive later Temp won the game and Greed teleported them all to Lust's tower.
The Stampede presented Lust with the slab of dark ice, and as negotiated, he returned Psyqwyn and several more Rings of Lust to the group. They then went down to Gluttony and gave him the dark ice for his stomach. Gluttony also told the party that he had changed his mind about knocking down the tower, because if more people came up to his layer there would be more for him to eat. But as the group gave him the dark ice, he would still honour his agreement and let them into his stomach. The group went down and found themselves in another pit, similar to the one with the rune they fell into in Limbo. After questioning the rune a bit more, they asked to be sent to the Throne.
Lucy Fir challenges The Stampede for control of Kazelmoore
The Throne of Kazelmoore
At the Throne they were confronted by a woman calling herself Lucy. Lucy explained that the price that was refused and resulted in the curse placed on the Giant kings was to take her place as ruler of Kazelmoore. After a brief discussion, Jim steps up and says he would do it, as it's what he has been trained for. Lucy says they must fight and kill her to take her place, and she gives Fenrisulfr the Axe of Durm. After a tough fight against Lucy, 4 mutated gaints and the boiling hot lava that threatened to hit them from behind, they won. Jim and Michael took their place on the Throne of Kazelmoore and teleported them out of the realm and back to Varland.
Queen of the Giants
Upon returning to Varland, they found the city completely abandoned. Every single Dwarf has gone and was marching west. Flying on the carpet, they caught up to the marching Dwarves and Giants. They went to King Grandlytz and showed him the Axe of Durm. All the Giants and Dwarves, including Grandlytz, took a knee and praised Fenrisulfr as Queen of the Giants. Fenrisulfr addressed her people and for the first time ever, the Giants marched to war. They gave Grand a White Tree acorn to plant in Strassburg when they arrived and asked the whereabouts of Nic. They were told Nic headed ot the statue of Draziw and would meet them there. The Stampede then flew off towards Cigam.
At Cigam, they spoke to two White Robes who infomred them that Nil went west towards Emor. The party told them of the Giants and Dwarves marching to Strassburg and also of the White Tree. They planted another tree at Cigam and gave them a ring so they could easily transport to Strassburg when the other tree is planted. They dropped Psyqwyn off at Know-on-the-Sea so he could charter a boat to the Elven territory to assist there, and the core party went on to the statue of Draziw.
The Statue of Draziw
Nic was waiting for them at the statue, hand fully restored. He said he wouldn't go with them there, but he would wait for them to return. Everyone put their hands on the statue, and were unable to remove it. When Javid put his hand on the statue last, however, Draziw spoke with them. He answered their questions about the Gods and Slayers and began the process of activating their powers as a Slayer. The party was left significantly weaker, as knowledge they had was just out of their reach. It was now a race against the clock, and against their enemies, to get to Sugam on the souhtern continent to finish the process of becoming a Slayer.
Nic revealed that he had swapped the Dwarven dragon for the small potted white wood tree, which they used to travel to a white tree cactus that had appeared in the Whitepond desert. From there they took the carpet to Strassburg and arrived before the Giants and Dwarves had. They went straight to the Donjon where they met up with Humi, Luman, Enoch and Wolffi. They asked for their help in crossing behind enemy lines to get to the south coast. Humi, Luman and Enoch all volunteered. Devlin also had a reunion with his uncle David Evans, who was severely injured after the attack on the Donjon. He gifted him a Ring of Regeneration so he could heal himself, and before long, they parted for the south.
Last Stand of the Champions
Stealthily crossing the bottom of the lake, they made it to a relatively unprotected portion of the enemy line. The plan was simple, run and don't look back. The three former Champions would cover their flanks. The group got far, but eventually they came to a line of enemy camps. Seeing they were about to be overrun, Nic, after asking Temp if he had a problem with him using his power, was able to inspire all three Champions and they made their heroic last stand. And as the Hammer of Groth broke, the three former Champions fell.
But there was little time to rest; flying low on the carpet the party made their way to the south coast, stole an enemy ship and sailed south to Sugam.
With Nic's skill as a sailor guiding them, they made it to the southern continent in good time. They also found the enemy forces had already arrived, so they made a stealthy landing and made their way towards the volcano in the centre of the island, as that is where Nic says Sugam makes his home. As they were resting, an enemy patrol came across their camp and began chasing them. As they came to a clearing, enemy forces rained arrows upon them, one of which broke Nic's guitar. Letting loose a horrific scream, Nic unleashed his full power upon the Orcs. He showed a power of magic that paled anything the party had ever seen or done. Immense storms, wildlife came running and the enemy rooted to the spot, all brought into being by the power of music. Nic's true identity was at last revealed: the God Naicisum. The leader of the Orc forces demanded a Col Raw, which the party accepted and Illy was chosen to fight for them. Illy deftly defeated the captain, but spared his life upon his surrender. From then on, the Orcs vowed to leave them be, and Nic explained why he was unable to help them with their Slayer journey. He is the one who refused to give up his power, but vowed to his wife, Diurd, that we would not interfere. Leaving the party to go on alone, as he said Sugam would not be happy to see him, he returned to the boat.
The following morning, The Stampede scaled the volcano and saw a huge 5000ft dragon. But upon Javid's closer inspection, it was revealed to be just a construct that appeared to lifelike it could be mistaken to be real. Making their way through the teeth and into the mouth, they found a door and entered the building, past a snake acting as a door knob that called itself the Butler. The Butler cam ewith them to the next room which was just an empty room with an apple tree. Illy was compelled to eat an apple and was severely weakened, but gained a sight that none of the others had, which allowed her to see the door to the next room. Following Illy, they came upon an impossible sight.
The next room was an endless garden, Illy was led along the patch to a ring of 12 obelisks. Upon inspection, the obelisks were revealed to be accumulators, and if Illy kicked them she was granted some of her power back. But they did nothing to anyone else. Soon they were approached by a creature that had the body of a horse, and the torso of a man. It was similar to some of the statues of the creatures that littered the continent. Sugam. He questioned why they were here and eventually, he started to help the party with their Slayer training.
The Stampede meet Sugam in his realm
He explained that they each needed a focus, something better than what they already had. They needed to create it themselves, to be a reflection of their character. It must be created 10 different ways, to reflect the bucket problem, the concept they learned at Cigam that was created by Sugam so long ago. Devlin made a sword, Illy a tiara, Temp a book, Javid a flask and Fenrisulfr made a hat. 10 ways, 10 versions they toiled away until it was perfect. Sugam explained to the group that to be a Slayer is to control the creation ad destruction of energy. The soul is the only form of energy that matters. They each created a soul when they forged their foci, and now they must learn to destroy a soul. With this, Sugam left them to ponder their next move.
Left on their own, the party attempted to come up with other ways to become slayers without destroying a soul. They attempted each others spells and nearby plants but to no avail. As they were waiting a large tortoise wandered into the circle. Fenrisulfr communed with him and asked if he knew anything about what they must do. The advice he gave was that destroying energy and killing are not the same thing, and that the reason Slayers must destroy is so that things that must never have been created can be destroyed. The tortoise left and left the party wondering. Soon after, a lady passed through the circle but the party did not entertain her, and she was followed by a heavily armed kobold who attacked the party. After subduing him it was revealed to be Sugam who scolded the group for being weak.
To aid them in their understanding, he allowed them to ask questions that he would be sworn to answer truthfully with a yes or no. Through this line of questioning the party was able to understand that the amount of energy they need to destroy must be significant enough to make an impact, and the souls of the many citizens of the island would be suitable. Sugam also told them more of the truth about the end of the God War. The Gods were all tricked by Nic and imprisoned, with the only escapees being Sugam and Col Raw. Killing Sugam would make the path to this realm open which the Gods could use to leave. Having many more questions about what really happened in the past, the party left Sugam behind to release the souls of the islands trapped inhabitants. Having successfully completed this task, they all awakened their Slayer Powers.