In-Game Dates: 13th of Deepwinter, 1470 - 5th of the Claws of Winter (roughly 20 days)
Session Dates: 12/12/19 - 09/18/20
The group returned, wounded, to Port Quinn, where they found their deeds underneath Helm's Temple had earned them a positive reputation once everything had been sorted out. For the first time, The Finger Gang felt eyes on them in a positive way, instead of suspiciously or with anger.
Heinrich invested money in The Cold Harp to build an underground space for The Finger Gang to store things, and potentially meet (if somewhat cramped.) Morwen, meanwhile, found that Morwen's Miscellaneous had done well enough that Ezra had taken over, and moved the shop to Nocturne. In a letter, she indicated that she appreciated Morwen's help but no longer needed her for the business; as a parting gift, she left Morwen a set of Glamoured studded leather armor.
The group decided to head toward Shae's homeland, and Heinrich spent the journey searching for Helm or a way to connect, his connection with Azrah now severed. He was without his abilities since awaking in the church, and desperately desired a way to help his friends.
First, the group sailed to Gulver's Bay, nearly falling into a massive whirlpool but saved by Guntir controlling a wave across the yawning chasm to coast the entire ship across. There, they resupplied for the land journey, and decided to head first to the Lorebinder Academy to seek out answers to questions Heinrich and Shae had about the prophecy.
Prior to leaving, Shae was confronted by Hylan, a mountain elf of the xinyi who was said to have slaughtered hundreds of monks single-handedly. Hylan told her that Aera, Shae's adopted mother, was not what she seems, and that she was the one who had driven her father, the ancient master Joruxa, mad. She told Shae that something was deeply wrong within the Xinyi; when she was ready, meet her on the Giant's Step.
At the Lorebinder Academy, the group met Lorebinder Boron, a massive, highly intelligent goliath who wore the blue Lorebinder robes that stretched taught, almost bursting against he heavily muscled form. They received help in doing research, and Boron acknowledged that the star posed a significant problem. He informed them he'd observed it as well, having met Bernal Ossarius prior to him traveling to Port Quinn initially. The goliath shared that the star appeared before the end of each age, roughly every 1,300 years.
The star always awoke life around the planet, but it proceeded the introduction of a new life form, and an awakening of those it had brought previously by activating the original Pillar site. He confirmed that the Pillar of Scales was one such site, and that it's awakening had brought dragons and their ilk back into the world. He reported wyverns now coasting the skies of the north above.
Boron gave the group a stone bowl, that when filled with water, can serve as a visual-sending spell. He told the group he would help where he could. Guntir spent this time attempting to gain access to the restricted sections of the library, in order to search more about how one might kill a god. The Finger Gang then departed, and headed toward Squall's End, and the monastic order known as the Xinyi, the people who raised Shae.
After tough mountain climbs, sheer cliff scaling in the midst of a blizzard, and a clifftop fight with a wyvern in near white-out conditions that nearly ended in Morwen being dropped to her death, were it not for Heinrich's quick thinking, the group pressed on. The group stumbled across the firbolg druid Laurara, who shifted her form into an earth elemental to fight the group before discovering they were friendly.
Laurara then confessed that using that ability was desperation; she was protecting the small town of Smuggler's Dug nearby, and would now not have enough magic to cast the protective illusions she'd been using to keep the town obscured from the wyverns that would come.
Feeling responsibility for these creatures return to the world of Alberon, The Finger Gang stayed, and fought the wyvern that they had escaped from previously... and it's mate. They were heroes in the town, and Laurara helped the group get to Mount Yishi across the valley... and to Squall's End, the home of Shae.
The group arrived in Squalls End, a town with unimaginable beauty, the workmanship of it's people remarkable, influenced by the nearby monks' pursuit of perfection in all it's forms. Here, currency was not used, but barter accepted. Shae introduced, hesitantly, the members of the party to her family.
Aera, the serious mountain elf mystic who served as the voice and will of the Xinyi, greeted the group. She showed a deep love for Shae, but demanded perfection of her. Shae's serious attitude made much more since to the group. They then met Gambol Overbrook, Shae's adopted uncle. Jovial, with his arm's length wizard pipe ever at the ready, and a smile constantly spread across his face, the wise old halfling accepted all of Shae's "friends" as friends in their own right. He heard of their adventures, and for helping his little bird fly, gifted each of the party an invention of his:
To Morwen, a metallic box that could record and repeat a brief bit of speech; To Heinrich, he gifted a ring that could store and return force damage; and to Shae, he saved a gift he had worked on for some time: a mask of gilded feathers, resembling a red hawk; wearing it would "...allow you to see as well as any of us, Shae."
For Guntir's part, he bonded with Gambol over their shared experiences as outsiders to traditional dwarven culture, Guntir as a hill dwarf that was considered "homeless" by dwarven standards, and Gambol for spending a decade in Kol Taram, a halfling outsider who could never be taken seriously in a dwarven citadel. Gambol gave Guntir two gifts: First, a small metal cube that could expand, and produce a somewhat protected shelter, which Guntir took to calling the "Gam-Cube" and second, Gambol gave to Guntir his very first tinkerer's set and told him he wished him to continue to work with his hands.
They decided to continue on to Kol Taram, to face this dragon and prevent it from using the piece of Aurillion's star that had fallen there. To rapidly descend the mountain, the group elected to use The Iron Hawk, a "steel and leather controlled falling device" that had only once seen testing and even that, only a 50 foot drop. When asked about the pilot for the initial test, Gambol smiled and stated: "Well he's okay now, mostly!"
Guntir helped Gambol outfit the craft more appropriately, and the group rolled off the 15,000 foot tall peak of Mount Yishi, and plunged through the cloudline, and back into the blizzard beneath. They performed well as a team, sailing over most of the distance to Kol Taram; things ended poorly during the landing, and as the craft collided with columns of stone in the Bone Meadow, Guntir was ejected, striking several columns before coming to rest, apparently dead on the ground.
Due to the distance his corpse covered, it took some time for the group to find Guntir; but as the spell "feign death" ended, Guntir sprung to life, heavily wounded by largely no worse off than the 287-year-old dwarf normally was. They traveled across the Bone Meadow, rescuing the gnome Blue-Coated Bard, Nillie Wenslow, from a strange creature lurking in the sulfur brooks. They finally arrived in The Undercity, an entire city built in a massive flood drain built before the entire north became frozen.
The group met many odd figures there, from the creepy innkeeper of the haunted Gentle Repose, to members of the crime family that held the entire city in it's grasp: Clan Coldwrought. Grunvar Coldwrought asked the group to look out for his niece, Helia Coldwrought, who'd gone up the staircase to Kol Taram to try and get supplies for the Undercity, but hadn't returned. The group, destined for Kol Taram anyways, agreed to look for her. They progressed up the stairs, finding huge beasts and deadly traps, but eventually, reached Kol Taram proper, with a large obstacle in their path...
At the top of the staircase, in a large chamber once meant to be a museum but now formed into a staging area for Kienscale's army to push into The Undercity below, over a dozen soldiers stood guard. More concerning than that was a familiar face on their side: Iluktai, a half-orc rogue the party had adventured with early in their career. He welcomed them as worthy opponents, and said that he worked for Kienscale with the mutual understanding it was so that he could one day slay her. He called for the soldiers to unleash bow fire, and fled.
The group tore through the soldiers, having significantly more trouble facing the black puddings that emerged from crates, magically bound to the stones within said boxes. Heinrich threw fire at them, causing them to explode, incinerating many of the soldiers. As the group picked through the bodies, they discovered that these soldiers had mostly been conscripted citizens of Kol Taram, forced to serve Kienscale, who used access to food, medicine, and housing as strings by which to pull Kol Taram's people.
The group used the Rat Tunnels, a series of smuggling caverns dug for use by The Shadowscavs, an organization that Gambol used to belong to. The group ascended to The Ring of Silver, and found it to be on fire. The air hung heavy with smoke and ash precipitated down heavily like snow. Many buildings were broken, blanked remains, and terrible creatures tore through the sky, invisible in the smoke above. The hundreds of fires burning the builds carved into the walls of the hollow mountain filtered through the smoke gave it the appearance of a hellish dusk at all hours.
The group lied their way passed a patrol, and eventually made their way to the Dawnfather's Zigguart, a sprawling, 500 foot tall temple that spanned the outside of the Ring of Silver all the way up to The Ring of Gold above. It had been infested by Kobolds, but undaunted, the group caused a distraction and snuck in, using the various smoke vents to traverse it quickly and relatively safely.
A group of kobolds, different than the others, were gathering in a ceremonial chamber used for blessing weapons. There, kobolds covered in a purple fungus, spreading the spores as they went, defiled the place. The Finger Gang snuck past, and found a pile of abandoned belongings, and a wombat named Doug.
The group took Doug and investigated the Ring of Gold from the top of the temple, which rose up above the first level of the Ring. They saw a shocking sight: Life as normal. Wealthy dwarves shopped, or took long walks. Well-dressed couples strolled through parks. No destruction, no snowfall of ash, or burning buildings. They saw Kienscale berate the patrol they'd deceived previously, before ripping the leader in half. She then instructed the entire Ring to stop any who didn't belong.
The group retreated and went down into a room of kobolds who had activated a massive golem. The group hid, and waited for the kobolds to leave before investigating the room. They found the corpse of Doug the Wombat's owner, and clues that gave the group ideas about how to break the kobold's command of the golem.
They pursued the group to The Gibbon Society guildhall, still intact due to it's protective magic, save a huge, golem-shaped hole in the side. The group entered and attacked the kobolds, defeating them and snatching control of the golem, with it binding to Guntir. Guntir used the golem to smash a hole through the roof of the first floor and into the second.
There, they found an ancient hill dwarf, like Guntir, named Falran Hillsbane who was guarding a cursed sword, called the Nine-Lives Stealer. He offered to show them to where the resistance fighters of Kol Taram were based if they would offer him protection, a deal that the group readily accepted. On their way out, Heinrich found a black candle with a faceted face, carved with odd runes, and took it with him.
The group found The Eternal Rest, a funeral parlor serving as a hideout for the dwarves. The resistance had dwindled to seven, who worked to get non-combatants out of the city. Heinrich learned that Euriel's Watch had been helping this group smuggle people out of the city. The group traveled with Medor, the leader of the resistance, to see a tunnel the group had dug to spy on the Halls of Atonement below. The Halls were once a prison for the criminals of Kol Taram; they were now used to house the citizens, and the criminals served as guards as often as not.
There, they found a fight with soldiers of Kienscale, and a contingent of bugbears. As they took the upper hand, a massive storm giant appeared, and challenged Guntir, who's powers had vanished after Kord judged him to be cowardly. Guntir stood his ground, despite the giant throwing bolts of lightening at him, annihilating Doug the Wombat.
The group reigned victorious in a close fight, but found Medor slain. They administered rites to all the fallen, and Guntir found his power restored. They returned to the resistance and delivered news of Medors death.
Krawtic rejoined the group, and delivered news: he'd seen a massive construction project in the central staircase that appeared to be a gateway of some kind. He saw a rune etched into it that appeared to be the symbol for the Halls of Dharma, a holy place in the Xinyi Monastery. Further, he had seen messages left in the ash in the Xinyi language, and guessed that they were left by Ninth Path members.
The group used clues from the message to travel to the doors of an ancient ward. Heinrich used the Bowl of Sending to speak to Loremaster Boron about the ward's history, and learned that it belonged to an Artificer, and that it had been sealed off centuries prior.
Within the group slowly uncovered details and clues to what had transpired in this place, known as Dinmen's Ward: They learned it was run by a wood elf named Jerrod, who went by the nickname The Architect; it was discovered that Jerrod had created four creatures of bronze known as Azers, each designed for a different task; and finally, they learned that Kol Taram was built across an elementally dam,aged section of Alberon, a wound leftover from The Elemental Deluge during the First Age. Jerrod had exploited this to gain access to several foreign planes... including The Shadowfell.
They explored the depth's of Jerrod's workshop, but found, in a massive chamber at the top of the workshop, the last Azer that Jerrod had built, but instead of elemental fire giving it life, it channeled a cold so bitter that it hurt to stand near it. It proclaimed that it carried out the will of a creature named Orvenesker, and that "Winter had arrived!"
As the group recovered, Guntir cast Legend Lore on Orvenesker, and the word froze in his mouth, the ice expanding over his face like a frosty grasp. Guntir saw The Mountain of Ultimate Winter, and heard the laughter of an ancient being.
With no time to dwell on this vision, the group emerged onto The Golden Terrace above. They crept through grapes and apples of gold, stopping to eat a few of the later, before entering the strangely deserted mansion. They saw, down a distant hall, a strange fey woman, and followed her from a distance to a room, which they saw her enter and hurriedly leave. Upon inspection, the room full of beautiful dresses on over a dozen dress forms; shelves of books ranging from the academic to the fictional; and the location of the treasure sought by Helia Coldwrought.
A single wooden bead falling to the ground was the only thing that clued a preoccupied Finger Gang in to the presence of a group of Ninth Path monks who had already stolen treasure, and were attempting to creep out. Shae and Morwen proved faster than some of the monks, and the Gang managed to lock them into combat. Already wounded, they were no match for Heinrich, Guntir, Shae, Helia, Krawtic, and Morwen; they entombed the leader in a block of stone, and interrogated her successfully.
The monks had stolen a Xinyi reliquary, and stored it within a Bag of Holding, which Guntir took. Heinrich found the woman, an with fealty eladrin of the Autumn Court. She introduced herself as Avreatome, and explained that the only ways out were located in other wings of The Goldglow Estate, which were only accessible through the Golden Terrace.
The group slowed their progress, having recognized that their fight with the Ninth Path monks had likely drawn some attention. As they approached, Helia asked of Morwen: "Have you ever lost friends?" Morwen indicated that she had. "Was it worth it?" Morwen hesitated, but eventually stated that it was. As they neared the Terrace the ornately decorated wooden bridge that crossed the shallow and perfumed pond was all that separated The Finger Gang from three platemail-clad dragonborn... and the deep dragon, Kienscale.
Kienscale offered Guntir a way out of his obligations to Kord, and to bestow upon him powers greater than any dwarf had known: "You can have nightmares, or you can have dreams, I offer you a choice, Guntir." Guntir rejected the offer with the intent to negotiate, but as his refusal left his lips, Helia stepped forward and stabbed Guntir in the back.
Morwen, Krawtic, and Shae squared off against Helia and Kienscale's champions; Guntir stepped forward to face Kienscale, with Heinrich backing him up. The group fought Helia, attempting to reason with the daughter of Doldrum Coldwrought, himself the kingpin of the criminal Clan Coldwrought. She refused, and Shae was forced to knock her unconscious in the pool.
The battle raged on, with Guntir, Morwen, and even Shae taking enough damage to knock them out of the fight; Kienscale could radiate a fear so intense, dramatic pulses of this terror caused psychic damage. Further, her ability to use her body and the terrain to separate the party allowed her to effectively fight on two fronts.
In the commotion, Helia, unconscious in the water, drowned.
Heinrich and the aarakocra Krawtic were all that remained. Krawtic took a massive swipe to the side, forcing him to his knees in front of the Nightmare of Tooth and Scale, but Heinrich seized this brief opportunity and lapse in the dragon's attention to let loose a torrent of eldritch blasts into a massive wound sustained from Krawtic. The final blast was all Kienscale could take, and at long last, the purple dragon that laid siege to the dwarven citadel of Kol Taram fell.
The "Flight" of the Iron Hawk