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In-Game Dates: 14th of the Claws of Winter - 11th of Claws of Storms (36 days)
Session Dates: 09/25/20 - 05/21/21 (236 Days)
With mere moments to spare, Dithmae Goldglow, the matron of the clan, approached, and declared the Finger Gang heroes of Kol Taram. The group was rewarded handsomely, with Guntir getting a full set of platemail at long last, though he immediately returned it to be outfitted with the scales of Kienscale.
After basking in the glow of being legitimized as heroes, the group (in particular Guntir) pushed for peace between the Goldglow clan in Kol Taram above, and the Coldwroughts below. The Finger Gang spent significant funds on an urn for Helia, the Coldwrought who had passed in their fight with Kienscale.
The group returned to The Undercity, where Guntir and Morwen had an emotional encounter with Doldrum Coldwrought, the ancient dwarven patriarch of the crime clan by the same name. They informed him of his daughters death, and he revealed to them he'd named her after her mother, who'd passed in childbirth. "I never thought I'd have to mourn that name again. She was my youngest. She was supposed to bury me!"
Guntir surprised everyone by embracing diplomacy and employing a shocking amount of tact. He persuaded Doldrum to at least consider the possibility of coming to a truce with the dwarves above. It seemed for all the trouble he had caused, Guntir may have also prevented a war.
The group departed Kol Taram and traveled back to Squall's End, Shae's hometown, assisted by the dog sled teams run by Sally Abletoe, and her ward, Pine.
Morwen and Guntir caused trouble, engaging in a race and sabotaging each-other's sleds. Guntir raced ahead, gaining nearly fifteen minutes on the rest of the group. He found himself surrounded by aarakocra monks of the Ninth Path, and debris fallen from the monastery above. They cut him down, though Guntir used a last-minute feign death spell to evade being fully finished off. The Gang found him impaled upon a spear, as a warning.
Guntir was healed with Heinrich's help, and together, The Finger Gang ascended Mount Yishi and returned to find Squall's End in an uproar in the wake of an assault by the rogue monastic faction called The Ninth Path; what's more, the assault stemmed from WITHIN the Halls of Dharma, the labyrinth of halls and passages beneath the mountain designed to aid the monks in their meditations.
Traveling down the Path of the Soul, a tract in this place reserved for the masters of the order, The Finger Gang found themselves beyond the material plane, and adrift within the astral sea. They fought invisible stalkers employed by the ninth path that seemed to harry them at every turn. Finally, ascending a spiraling staircase up and into the darkness of the astral sea, the group was confronted by el'Hidiyat al'Amir, the djinn who served as the Xinyi's Listener, and who had not been seen in over a month.
As the approached, his blue eyes gazed upon them sadly: "You must go; but I must not let you pass. Approach." What followed was a tense battle; Shae was nearly killed, and each of the party badly wounded. Heinrich delivered a devastating blow with a psychic prison spell, and Morwen finished him off, shrieking in fear from the darkness in the process.
With no time to consider what had just transpired, a gateway to The Giant's Step flickering almost out of existence, the group raced through the portal, and found themselves in the ancient, floating cloud giant city called Yorn. The rune magic of the early giants permeated the place, making it both dangerous and beautiful.
Avoiding patrols and finding an ancient siege tunnel, the group fought through 9th Path monks to reach the nerve center of Yorn. Within a gigantic stone basin filled with swirling mist-like clouds, small hunks of stone symbolized the various districts of the city, although most were frozen in magical ice, alongside the corpse of an ancient frost giant.
Heinrich realized that this giant had been frozen while attempting to destroy the map, and surmised that those pieces that were encased in ice had collapsed to Alberon, thousands of feet below. He melted some of the ice, and discovered that sections thawed out would again rise to rejoin the rest of the city in the clouds. While doing this, the tiefling also managed to lift an entire mountain, along with it's inhabitants. This diverted a portion of the River of Colors, who's mineral-rich waters are a lifeline through much of the central region of northern Dominion.
With the ground rising to the sky as a distraction, The Finger Gang snuck into The Aperature, a huge building of glass and twisted metal. In a race against time, only Shae was fast enough to enter building, and witness the opening of a vast portal. Through it, she saw a red world, not Alberon, but alien and harsh; she saw a massive sword, the size of a skyscraper, plunged into a red mountainside beyond that; but stepping through the gate was what caught her attention most.
Joruxa, known affectionately as "The Roach" amongst the Xinyi, was father to Aera, and had purportedly lost his mind centuries ago. Yet there he stood, one foot in Yorn, the other in the red-sanded battlefield of Kalipsos, a keen intelligence blazing out of his eyes. He told Shae that he had found what he needed: "Tell Markavir I'll say hello to his mother for him." With that, he stepped through, the portal closing behind him.
Shae watched The Breaker, one-third of the Staff of Twisted Fates, shatter into dust as the mechanism Joruxa and The Ninth Path had built to open the portal began to melt down. Shae seized The Maker with one arm, her skin burning and sizzling, but managed to pull the staff free from it's housing before it, too, was destroyed.
Dejected, the group rested, and then traveled down the Giant's Step, and back to the relative safety of the ground. They made their way north, and found themselves once more at Kol Taram, being warmly greeted by the citizens of the citadel they had saved just liberated a week and a half prior. Having heard a perceived threat to his mother, Heinrich sought to cash in a favor to teleport to the rich suburb of Pendleton, and from there make the trek west to the military city of One-Thousand Gates.
Aieshelvise, a drow enchanter they had met previously, met up with the group, bringing Guntir his commissioned set of platemail armor, now inlaid with scales from the deep dragon Kienscale herself. Heinrich asked if she would be interested in purchasing a beautiful necklace he had found in The Goldglow Estate.
The drow's purple eyes shone bright. She noted the mountain rising into the sky to the north, and told the group of an older prophecy of her people:
When twilight begins to run red/
and the banner turns to ash/
When azure light rises ‘bove your head/
and the dead find their speaker at last/
When the earth returns to the skies/
and when many minds become one/
When the tears of our people return to their eyes/
Gan-Machan has begun/
Silence the dead in the cradle of man/
And dig beneath the rot/
Break the Weavelock, end the curse/
And remember what we forgot/
She pointed to the banner turning to ash, relating it to The Burning Banner, a massive legion of aasamir who reside in Kalipsos, and it's possible downfall, not knowing that Joruxa was already in Kalipsos. She guessed that the "azure light" was Aurillion's Star. Aieshelvise also pointed at the earth returning to the sky, and mentioned the massive swathes of ground Heinrich had raised up to join Yorn. She then told them that this diamond necklace that Heinrich had offered, The Tearstrand, was a lost item from a slain leader of her people, and that it's return may symbolize the tears of her people returning.
Looking together at the last part of the prophecy, the group determined that The Cradle of Man may be within the Pillar of Life that brought them to Alberon, located deep within the Gated Marsh, which sits to the west of One-Thousand Gates. With their course reaffirmed, The Finger Gang, assisted by a member of the Bearded Consortium, teleported them to Pendleton.
From there, they traveled west to One-Thousand Gates, a sprawling military city that has slowly built up along the walls and castles that separate The Gated Marsh from The Kingdom of Serentyl. At One-Thousand Gates, they met up with Rhodesia, who had joined the Garrison there after her husband died. She was overjoyed to see the group, though was sad to find out that Morwen had sold The Sandy Assortments.
Through talking to locals and Rhodesia herself, the group learned of a large attack on the city two weeks ago, which destroyed a section of the city. Upon learning that the Church of the Six had sectioned it off, the group headed over to investigate. There, they were met by Euthilius, the Harbinger Heinrich met back in Port Quin several months ago. Heinrich managed to talk his way into the crime scene, and learned of Azrah's involvement in these attacks.
The group was torn: Through the dreaded fens of the Gated Marsh, Nazarra was operating in Dungannon and could serve as a powerful ally; back in the North, the pieces of the broken weapon, The Breaker, lay scattered in the Aperture in Yorn, and could be re-forged; The Lorebinder Academy seemed to offer a potential next step in Heinrich's quest to find a way to Kalipsos; and always, the star of Aurillion shines above. Heinrich resolved to ask his book for help, and in the meantime Guntir and Morwen decided to find something to occupy themselves for the next hour.
As the pair began to scheme, Knight Starxarx, a senior member of Guntir's old order of clerics known as the Priesthood of Thunder, approached. The blue-scaled dragonborn knew Guntir as Jasper Honeydew, and demanded Guntir return to the order to assist in a task. Guntir refused, and in for his obstinance, was challenged to a duel.
The battle grew steadily fiercer, and when Guntir redirected lightening from Starxarx into the crowd of onlookers, the tone shifted significantly. Citizens ran, panicked, and other forces converged. Though Starxarx offered Guntir a chance to yield when he learned that tge Church was involved (really Heinrich casting Wall of Light) Guntir continued his attack.
As the battle threatened to reach a crescendo, Shield Urishma Boltav intervened. This tall, bear of a woman with cheekbone exposed from a deep gash across her face that never fully healed, arrived. Knight Starxarx immediately dropped his weapon. As Guntir approached Boltav to talk, the dragonborn told the Shield that Guntir had caused the problems surrounding them.
With no prisoners being taken within 1,000 Gates, the shield drew her war hammer and slammed Guntir's face into the ground, knocking him unconscious.
All the while, Morwen took keys stolen off a distracted guard to a bell tower and looted everything not nailed down. From her spot on the top of the tower, Morwen saw Guntir slammed to the ground, unconscious. In a moment of impulsivity, she leapt onto the bell, ringing it loudly in the hopes that it would distract those below. This activated a city-wide battle response, and the gates and walls that formed the barrier between The Gated Marsh and the Kingdom to the east swarmed with activity. Shield Boltav departed, but not before turning to her side and speaking to the air: "Do what you must."
From thin air, a lean figure clad in matte black armor appeared, with twin, hooked swords crossed behind is back. As Shae moved to help the unconscious Guntir, this Shadewarden, a warrior employed within the Walled City of Nocturne, bade her stope. Shae asked if she could help Guntir, to which the Shadewarden responded: "He is dying, because that is what he is meant to do."
He stepped overtop the downed dwarf, and as Shae pled with the man, he placed eachof the hooked swords on either side of Guntir's neck.
"Whatever this man may have done, this is not justice. Please, I need him." Shae stated, hesitating in the presence of this strange entity.
"I am a Shadewarden of Nocturne, and this man is not who he says he is. He is The Gazelle, and he has been hunted for some time. His crimes may not have originated here, but they will end here." The figure, whose face seemed to draw the shadows to it like a mask, responded.
"Please, he can help me fix something that I've lost, I will bring him back to you when I am finished, but I need him." Shae reaffirmed. The figures eyes flickered up once more in a moment of indecision.
For just a moment, Guntir's storm-blue eyes fluttered open.
"Shae... are we going north now?" As his finals worlds left his lips, in a flicker of motion, the Shadewarden separated Guntir's head from his body, and after 287 years, Guntir finally died. The killer looked up at Shae and spoke before vanishing:
"I am sorry for what you have lost, but the world has lost nothing today." By herself on the street, Shae spoke to the clouds:
"The world has lost everything. The world will burn, and when it does, this place will burn first."
Chaos erupted in the streets, and in the confusion Heinrich and Shae made their way to the outskirts of town from whence they came. Meanwhile, Morwen followed the decapitated corpse of Guntir, after a bronze automaton collected it. This led her to the Black Keep's dungeons, where she was stopped by a guard. After a terrible round of negotiations, Morwen was able to obtain a finger from Guntir "as a practical joke for when he wakes up"; it quickly became clear that Morwen was having some trouble accepting her friend's death.
The three survivors gathered on the outskirts of town, and struck out east toward the wealthy suburb of Pendelton. On the course of their journey, Morwen became more and more sullen, slowly coming to terms with the old dwarf's passing. The group came across chanting, and followed it to discover a cultist and hired guards attempting to summon something, as well as a strange elf watching from the outskirts as well.
The group quickly overcame the strangers, with Aca bearing witness to the might of the Finger Gang as the dispatched or disabled all five of the brigands in under twenty seconds. After a tense standoff, with Aca fearing for his life, Aca introduced himself, and explained he had been following a wand that the cultists had been using as a reagent in the summoning.
When Aca learned of the group's involvement with The Staff of Twisted Fates (one of the Triwards) he agreed, provisionally and for a small salary, to accompany them for the time being. He sent a message off to his group. Aca also told the group of teleportation capabilities that existed just a day's travel east in the Walled City of Nocturne. The group decided to try out the notoriously shady city.
After an unexpectedly easy trip through the Poison Willow Forest thanks to the icy rain suppressing the pollen which normally causes creatures to break out in hideous rashes, The Finger Gang arrived in Nocturne. After getting their bearings, they decided to pay a visit to Calico Amaer, a tarroka reader said to be able to access powerful magic.
Amaer told Morwen's fortune, and then agreed to teleport the group to the Lorebinder Academy, if they would travel to the Jade Exchange to acquire the arcane chalk the spell called for. Despite knowing that the Exchange is controlled by the dangerous Circle of Silence, the group agreed.
Upon reaching the Jade Exchange, the group quickly found the person Amaer had mentioned and dropped Amaer's name in the hope of getting a discount; it turned out that Amaer owed this individual a great deal of money, and demanded payment. As the confrontation began to grow tense, Heinrich turned Morwen and Aca invisible. Aca missed the chalk, but Morwen was able to snatch some with her rogue-like agility.
The Gang escaped to a safehouse used by Aca's organization, and set about readying themselves to teleport to the Lorebinder Academy. Morwen and Aca traveled to retrieve Amaer, stopping to gamble along the way, and convinced him to travel to the safehouse to cast the spell.
Amaer teleported Heinrich, Shae, Aca, and Morwen to the Lorebinder Academy, where they met up Loremaster Boron after more than a month. He had much to report on the research the group had requested of Boron. He had found a map, and much information, of the demiplane Kalipsos, the prison of Azrah hidden between both time and space; he found information on a tiefling who had defied Azrah; he had narrowed down a small area that probably contained the entryway to the Coldforge; he also gave the group a missive on an item known as The Helm of the Voidcaller.
Aca received a letter from his superiors wishing him luck on his new mission; they also mentioned that they had sent Elrich, another Dungannon Antiquities Collective member, to retrieve The Forgekey, the legendary item needed to power the Coldforge, the lost dwarven citadel. Shae sent a message to Krawtic asking him to retrieve the pieces of The Breaker, one third of the powerful Staff of Twisted Fates.
The group met Caranza Billows, a transmutation wizard who offered to teleport them to Smuggler's Dug. Laurara, the firbolg druid they had encountered several weeks prior, greeted them warmly, and agreed to help the group reincarnate Guntir... with an unintended outcome.
When he opened his eyes, the 287-year-old hill dwarf was now a blue-skinned Grung! Initially, after having had his soul captured in one of the burning layers of the Hells, Guntir's mind was completely shattered, and he ran off, screeching, toward the woods. With quick thinking from Morwen and Caranza, the group polymorphed Grung-tir into a pygmy boar, and Shae managed to capture him.
After they deposited the big in a stable, the group slept, and overnight the board reverted to a grung. Upon waking, the grung stated that it's name was Glub, and that "Guntir" was just a man from his nightmares. Glub seemed unable (or unwilling) to recall his past life, but the group brought him along.
The Gang, now consisting of Heinrich, Morwen, Shae, Aca, Caranza, and Glub, to Yorn, where they recovered the shards of The Breaker. They then traveled across the clouds, to a stone structure labeled "Flowers on Air" in Yornish interface that allows travel between the iron rings on each segment of the city that still floated high in the clouds.
The structure was an old botany lab that had been owned millennia ago by a cloud giant named Waerton. Waerton had modified a ficus tree to become a sprawling being that spawned across the entire structure, though it seemed to now be inert. Within these halls, the group confronted a Ninth Path recruit who had been wounded, and unable to get through the Aperture with the main group.
Through intimidation and deception, the group confirmed that Azrah had become Joruxa's patron, and that he sought to break her free from her prison in the demiplane of Kalipsos. He confirmed the presence of Krick, Aera, and Hylan on the plane, but refused to give more information. He refused to return to Squall's End, or cede, and Shae was forced to kill him.
The group returned to the main entrance of the city as a storm began to rage over the ancient city above the clouds for the first time in centuries, and so they quickly sought shelter with the hunter they had met recently in his cabin that had been lifted, along with a mountain, when Heinrich manipulated the map beneath the city.
You all found rest as the storm howled around you, but Glub stepped out into the sheets of precipitation to rehydrate his amphibious skin. Suddenly, lightneing struck him, imbuing him with protective power, and a wrought iron door of dark metal unfurled itself through the air. The portal opened, and through stepped a barbed devil that sought to bring GUntir's soul, within Glub's body, back to Phlegethos, the fourth of the Hells.
Heinrich interceded, and with enormous radiant might, slew the devil where it stood, saving Glub.
The group left in the morning, with Caranza the transmutor able to teleport the group the Squall's End. They found the space even more damaged than before, the huge canyon carved by The Listener's blade seeming to contribute the the crumbling of the town.
Shae's hometown was emptier but still busy as the monks and townsfolk made plans and preparations to travel south-west to the Valley of Y'Gor before erecting a massive lift to enable easier transport from the ground to the floating city of Yorn above.
Shae learned that Gambol, her adopted uncle and a legendary halfling inventor, had been named Listener, though he disliked the honorific. She shared in her loss with him, the Xinyi now scattered to the winds, but Gambol told Shae: "I have seen you grow so much, each time you return you are so much stronger. But Shae, no matter how strong your wings are, without a destination, you will never truly fly."
Gambol bade Shae follow her journey with the group through; but, as the leader of their people, Gambol gave Shae an order to return. The group then teleported to the Coldforge using a rough map.
The group found themselves in howling winds of snow so thick that visibility only extended a few feet until it disappeared into an oppressive gray: they had found themselves nearly 140 miles off-course in the raging storm known as The Squall, and around them, as they sheltered against a cold that threatened to freeze the flesh to their bones, something heavy landed beside their make-shift shelter.
A powerful burst of icy breath ripped the group's makeshift shelter apart, as the white dragon Zazastar the Keen attacked the gathered heroes, freezing Caranza Billows solid. Zazastar would strike, and then fly up and into the furious, howling winds of the blizzard that raged around them. Heinrich managed to illuminate their space within the tempest with the spell crown of stars, but it was Aca, pushing his armor and body to their limits, who managed to end the fight.
As the dragon sought to escape, it flew 160 feet into the blackness of this night storm. The hasted Aca followed with his winged boots, pushing his armor and body to their limits, and reaching roughly 47.3 miles-per-hour as he caught up with the dragon, and dealt the fatal blow.
The group then gathered material from the dragon before finding an icy ravine to shelter in while Caranza recovered, and in the morning teleported to Squall's End, a safe and known point to reset before teleporting to the Coldforge.
There, Heinrich used the Belt of Stone Giant Strength to life boulders, allowing the group access to the Hallway of Heroes, the antechamber to Kol Erasta. There, a group of dwarven refugees had found shelter and were attempting to navigate further into the legendary Kol, but had trouble getting anyone through the Driarstun Maze, a series of tunnels that wrapped around each other, and that were rife with danger and obstacles.
The group immediately travelled into the maze, and with expert navigational skills, quickly found their way through twists and turns, and through, into the Everbright Band of Kol Erasta. They explored the citadel for diotic metal to use to reforge The Breaker, as well as some way to progress toward the Granite Overwatch, the strategic fortress erected to guard the entrance to the deeper layers beneath the rock the Everbright Band was built into.
Before too long, the Gang began to find signs of something odd: jars of eyes, floating in murky liquid, and ominous signs warning of an entity known as The Gray Lady. They eventually came to a place where they could no longer travel along the main avenue of the Everbright Band, but laid out before them was an open door with a single candle seeming to light the way.
The group staked out the doorway to see what entities might pass through, and were rewarded by catching a glimpse of a six-and-a-half-foot-tall teddy bear that swapped out the candle for a new one. They followed, and found a house that tested their will to push on: a room of massive spiders and a hallway full of creepy chalk drawings were the easy parts: a stairway led to the exit they needed, but was lined by spectral figures representing each of their pasts.
Aca saw Mr. Gift; Shae saw Aera; Heinrich saw Erdos; and Morwen saw Finn, the leader of the pirate crew she had served with. The group pushed on but was unable to bring Caranza, who could not bring herself to face the fifth, small figure.
Through a strange nursery, the group descended back to the Band, and eventually made their way into the Moradintram, an ancient temple to the dwarven deity Moradin, and the six angels he sent to help free their people. As they entered, they found the place to be suffused with dark energy tinged with the aura of the Shadowfell, before being confronted by one of the Gray Lady's allies: Baby Edward.
Azrah and Euriel vie for Heinrich's devotion