Arcane Renaissance: Terra Rynn

Rise of the Vilnach
Prologue and Chapter 1

our story begins in the city of vinne, one of the lone islands of civilizations in the southern kingdom of svain. the youngest of svain's metropolitan city centers, vinne houses a population around 8,000, with another 8,000 in the outlying villages, namely to the north and east. founded 120 years ago, svain lies on the southern border, and serves as a trade hub for frontier settlers and merchants that explore the southwestern frontier of the kingdom.

the kingdom of svain, at present, enjoys a uneasy peace with its southern neighbor, the empire of xianlian, as well as the turathi kingdoms and the arkoshian caliphate to the east, across the halien straits. the gnoll hordes to the west, in the howling savannah plague much of svains western expanse, their raids keeping much of the expansion contained. the other main threat to svain are the goblins of escabla. more organized than the gnolls, they still lack the organization to let them be self sufficient, and so they periodically make war on the svanesse, predominantly by campaigns in the northern end of the continent. the result is an army stretch to maintain an every growing expanse of border, and forced to prioritize threats. the city of vinne, to date, has remained relatively protected. outside its founding, the city has remained safe from raids and assaults in the years that it has grown. the garrison, remains vigilant, though never tested. however, for those who consider svain a threat, vinne stands as a small monument to svains aggressive territorial ideals.

in the year 305 after empire, our party has found themselves in vinne, each for their own reason. the ridire squire mithrellis, hailing from scietti, is on pilgrimage on behalf of his order, and has traveled to the frontier town to find a means to aide the locals against any outsider threats. the performers sorin and jace are part of a turathi troupe that is currently roaming svain in their nomadic lifestyle. sorin is a talented acrobat, musician, actor, and sorcerer extraordinaire, whilst jace is an extraordinaire musician, and gifted with 'the voice', able to harness music toward magical ends. the muscovan known as kazimir is an immigrant from his homeland, looking to enhance his skills in crafting and artifice. vinne is only the most recent location he has managed to find a mentor and develop his skills outside the observation of the federation guilds. lastly, the sciettish mercenary, boyd, is recently returned from excursions in arkoshia, where he is dealing with the trauma of losing his squad to betrayal, and is hiding in self imposed exile.

the party meet each other, a foggy night in vinne, to the sound of warning bells and shrieks of panic flood through the street. the clamor can be only one thing – gnolls. despite a history of caution, it appears the gnolls have turned up in force, and sought to take the town. the party come across each others path in a desperate fight for survival, able to kill or wound gnolls where citizens and garrison recruits do not. they fight desperately, retreating back to the garrison. all, accomplished spell casters, are able to bend their magic to holding of the wave of savagery for a time. yet, their foe is relentless, and cunning. despite not having as many numbers as would be expected, they seem to gain every advantage, and dispatch resistance methodically and deceive. in the end….they die, hold up together in a bunker.  

only…they dont.

THE DREAM

the party awake to find the event a dream, real and vivid. more importantly, as they walk the town, they recognize their faces, and the sight of recognition is returned. not in all, but for the party, there is a shared sense of suffering, if not real, than what? the party, though, were not the only ones to remember this shared dream. another, a young man named mateo, begins to gather the disparate few who recall this experience. with the parties help, he is able to give them knowledge of something deep and sinister. 

from there, the party take up his mission, scouring the city for information regarding this strange dream that has infected the town, with most unaware of it. they explore the sewers underneath the city, encountering a strange rat man that harriers their exploits, and the influence of a strange fungi that has begun to grow in the humid waters below. little by little, they track the influence, down through the broken water treatment plant, and the sewage outlet, where they encounter a vile beast that guards the way. disease for a time, mithrellis and boyd recover as the party retreat, relaying their information to mateo. as time passes, the party gain more clues, but the forces that be act in response. the party eventually finds a trail leading from the sewers to the bluffs west of the city, along the lake. tenuously, the party makes the trek, and with perserverence, finds a cave system hidden among the shoals. inside, the cave is filled with the same fungi as the sewers, the place seemingly isolated and removed. as the approach the back of the cave, though, they are assaulted by strange beasts, bat like creatures of darkness, and primordial sludge that seems on pure mindless death. the party utilize fire and lightning, and wrest themselves from these monstrous creatures, wounded but alive, and more intrigued than ever.

the party returns for new insights, only to find mateo dead, stone cold and without struggle in his inn bed. the authorities are alerted, and make to remove the body, but not before jace can lift some of his positions for the party to puzzle over.

amongst the items are a medallion of the organization mateo spoke of, the protectorate, their mission somewhat unclear. more strange, though, is an odd orb, black as the night sky, and specked with starlight within. in contemplation, mithrellis awakes the soul within, an angelic mind that calls itself eshrim. here, the party learns that he has worked to aide mateo in his hunt for the vilnach, an ancient foe, demons and worse that seek to destroy the world they know. mithrellis pledges his servitude to eshrim, in exchange for information and aide, and a bond is formed.

with eshrims gifts, the party returns to the cave, determined to find answers. past the point of the prior ambush, the party finds the cave has a pocket beyond. upon deep exploration, they find the remnants of a hideout. a home, of sorts, the lair is filthy, and barely hospitable. yet, before they can investigate, the party is set upon once again, this time, by gnolls. gaunt, ragged, and famished, they assault the party like starving animals. sorin is nearly torn to pieces, and saved only just by boyd and kazimir. once dispatched, the party explore the cave in detail. they discover strange fey script, odd alchemical work, and ancient and rather gruesome texts. beyond this layer, lies one last chamber. as the party press on, they see the remnants of a cage, seeing the gnolls where kept as captive.

THE CAVE

hearing a strange muttering, the party investigate, and are surprised to find three strange creatures around a room, with a cauldron, and a strange beast on a throne beyond. the creatures are not friendly, and appear to posses magic of their own. a desperate fight ensues, as the party struggles against the magic. as they would discover, the hags possess a powerful advantage in a group, and nearly kill sorin, jace, and boyd. the gifted voice of jace is able to rescue sorin and boyd from unconsciousness before she too falls, and mithrellis manages through deft swordplay to pin one hag to the cauldron whist kazamir utilizes his strange devices to detonate one of the hags in a gore explosion of sound. battered and burned, the party explores the remnants of the cave, and meet the strange beast, a captive by the name of pophorous. known as a mycinoid, pophorous explains how he can speak through the fungi, and his mind is one with those who have inhaled the spores. the party realize that the spores have likely spread throughout the city, infecting anyone within miles. 

pophrous goes on to explain how he has been forced here against his well. indicating his chair, he is seen to be growing on the throne, unable to move. in has lap, a strange rough hewn crystal, the size of a cannon shot, it shows cracks of dark back and red vines fractured from within. pophorous explains how he isn't allowed his own dreams, but rather the dreams of the mind within the stone. eshrim expounds, stating that this is the mind of a powerful vilnach, an otherworldly creature. the party conclude that this creature have manipulating the dreams of the entire town, making them relive the same horrific experience over and over, but yet they forget it in the morning. 

the party, then interrogate one of the hags left alive, though they don't tell much – mocking the party in a strange ancient language. they speak of one more hag, their leader, othera, and the vengeance that will be visited upon them. the party, weary and without patience, kill the remaining prisoner, and speak with pophorous on how to free him. explaining how their sun will degrade him, the party must wait till night to move him, and must develop a system to move his large body across the crag like cliffs near the lake. 

the party decide to leave pophorous where he is for the night, and return the following night with supplies. they do so, and come back to discover pophorous dead, the hags bodied burned in solemn ceremony, and a message of warning waiting for them. "return the stone, and you will be spared". naturally, the party refuses, and so a desperate hunt for othera, while trying to avoid the same plight that befell mateo. after the insights of eshrim, the party learn that othera is a master of disguise, and has made herself in the image of dilila, the mayor of vinne. in a meeting, they come to a silent understanding of each other, and later that night, mithrellis is visited in message. othera asks that the party return to the cave once more, to parlay, otherwise the citizens of the town will suffer her wrath.

the party, sensing an trap, relent to showing, in an effort to take othera, dead or alive. the party arrive, and after doomed negotiations, boyd attempts a rear ambush against othera. despite having the visage of an old woman, othera proves a formidable foe, with skin stronger than steal, sharp claws scour kazimir and mithrellis, while sorin and jace attempt to pin their foe with magic. with the tide turning, though, othera senses danger, and retreats into the ether like a ghost. nearly lost, kazimir is able to locate her moving through the earth itself by her staff, an artifact of magical power. like a beacon, kazimir tracks the item through the caves, the earth, the city, and back to the sewer. as the minutes tick by, the signal begins to wane, even as the party tracks their foe through the sewers. hidden and unseen, the party nearly fail at capturing othera, wounded. at the last moment, mithrellis and sorin are able to conjure bolts of magical force that, with kazimir's aide, find their target in another realm, and blast her back to their dimension. captive and unconscious, boyd removes her head for surety, and proof of the threat.

AFTERMATH

at this point, the parties exploits have remained secret from the rest of the cities knowledge. silent heroes, little know of the plight they have faced, from either the strange dreams, or othera's vengeance. as the party returns to the city up top, they set about alerting the authorities of the extent of the damage, and help in uncovering the damage othera has done to the council. as a member, the reach of her influence is unknown. the party meet with the council: blanca quinteros, the garrison captain, emmanuel viernez, the trade minister, oliver chapa, the artisan guild master, and lucero magallanez, the vice regent. the party detail their exploits, and are met with skepticism and supervision by some. when the party accuse dilila of masterminding corruption within the city, the council question the timeframe, arguing that dilila has been a resident of the city for decades.

quelled, the party, bent on making sure that othera hasn't done any lasting damage, seek to gather evidence of her actions. they investigate her manor, where they discover a band of mercenaries hired as guards, rather an garrison recruits. with some stealth, they find arkoshian gold, evidence of a foreign agent, and signs of graft and abuse. more questions, but fewer answers. eventually, the party gather aides to investigate the sewers, the treatment plant, and the caves, demonstrating the extent of the work. slowly, but surely, the council begins to understand. nonetheless, the party is now left confused – what was the meaning of all of this? what are the vilnach? is the city still in danger?

ONWARD

eshrim seeks to aide the party in these questions, and more, but lacks the information at this time. he explains how the mind that speaks is only a portion of his own, the rest kept in safe keeping deep within an ancient forest. he asks that the party, if willing, can take him to this place, that he can answer their questions, and find out more about the influence of the vilnach.

the party agree, though debate the means to do so. they realize that without the support of the town, they lack the resources to make a journey, nor can they hope to deal with any new complications. they decide to delay, and seek a practical means to increase their resources. as such, they decide to hire themselves out as bounty hunters and bandit hunters. inquiring with enrique as well as local merchants, the party collect assurances of payment and assistance in trade for dealing with bandit threats to the south.

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Merchants, Mercenaries, and Thieves
Chapter 2

The party has recovered a chest of a wealthy and mysterious Arkoshian dignitary, discovering several golden tablets worth a noble's ransom. With that information, Jace and Sorin spent some time carousing the town's taverns on information about Arkoshia. They learned that most of the mercenaries in town are being paid, in Arkoshian coin, for no explicit purpose. 

Meanwhile, Kazamir and Mithrellis met with the town council to explain the disappearance of the mayor and help quell unrest in the city, as well as put an end to the quarantine. The meeting didn't  go well, as the council was rather superstitious and skeptical of the parties claims without any evidence. Only later did they manage to support their case and earn some trust, but not the adulation they perhaps were hoping for.

Afterward, over the course of a week, the party took care of their own affairs. Sorin and Jace, each through their own means, managed to make a name for themselves and the party and quietly spread their tales through the town populace. Sorin even managed to do so while earning a small fortune gambling. 

About a week later,  Mithrellis 's senior, Lieutenant Charnach questioned him on his activities immediately after arriving, and Mithrellis  revealed the origins and remains of the Night Hag. He was shown the head by Boyd, which was promptly burned. Upon further questioning, Mithrellis   revealed that at least one item was recovered from the Night Hag, her staff. 

He revealed that his companion Jace, possessed it, and they both sent for her to bring it. However, Jace evaded, and after a series of poor deceptions and evasions, eventually used the staffs recently acquired power to alter Charnach's memory of the staff. This action would cause a division between Jace and Mithrellis . Now with plans to resolve the issue of bandits south of the city on the  Crownroad, the party wonder's if their new found partnership can keep the trust that has been made. 

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License to Kill
Chapter 3

Looking to pursue the bandits raiding trade caravans south of Vinne. To that end the party began making preparations before venturing south. Jace, on her own accord, went to visit some of the merchants hold up in the city. There, she spoke with Kiang Xiaoli, a Xianlian merchant who has some recent knowledge and contacts. With some persuasion, Jace was able to make an agreement with several merchants; an investment of sorts. With a small down payment, Jace offered to clear the bandits from the crown road, and open the roads for the merchants. In exchange, they would be given advance notice of the clearing, and would leave a small bounty for Jace upon her return.

Also, while haggling with the Merchants, Jace learned of a Muscovan Federation merchant, Mikhail, who was part of a small entourage. He had set out to a Xianlian outpost ahead of the rest, and was cited as missing by his compatriots. Jace agreed to look into the matter if convenient. 

Meanwhile, Kazamir and Sorin returned to the town hall to gather info on the bandits from the town officials. They were directed to speak with councilman Enrique, the trade magistrate. Terse, and skeptical, Enrique provided scraps of info on the bandits activities, operations. Between their visit, and some additional intel gathered by Mithrellis, they learned the bandits seem to be waylaying caravans crossing the crownroad that are week and undefended. These tend to me more independent or sole proprietor merchants, not guild merchants. There appear to be a mix of unscathed, wounded, and dead as a result of these ambushes. Also, while reports seem to indicate that many of the bandits were likely exiles or criminals prior, there is sense of coordination in the attacks. 

While hesitant, Enrique did agree to offer the party a warrant for the capture or death of bandits in the region. With legal protection, the party was given license to defend and attack outlaws that did not submit to local rule. Since much of the region is fairly unsettled though, the effect is more a de facto bounty, provided the party don't leave cause for retribution. 

Lastly, the party, through the merchant Kiang, was given a contact that they could 'escort' and travel with – a Xianlian iron merchant named Leng Xiang. Expecting to leave with the Xianlian the following morning, the party learned that the caravan had left ahead of them, with no hesitation or delay.

Confused and apprehensive, the party set out quickly to gain ground and reconvene with the caravan. While the party did well to move quickly, Mithrellis eventually gave way to the rest of the party, falling behind. He would gain on the party again, but only just as they were ambushed only a few hours outside the city. 

The ambush was far from a surprise, the party spying an obstacle in the road just past a bend. Jace and Sorin snuck their way forward through the underbrush, Sorin being spotted only a few feet away. A brief struggle ensued as the bandit attempted to pin Sorin, though he was able to nimbly escape the clutches. From there, pandemonium erupted as bolts flew through the trees and strange fog appears, masking the approach of several others in the trees. The party fought a harrowing battle, leveraging their magic against the cunning of the bandits. Sorin's flame and Jace's mental torments managed to sow fear and chaos in several bandit bruisers, while Boyd and Kazimir would fight a skirmish with a mage and skilled swordsman. All this took place under pinning sniper fire. 

Slowly but surely, the party would kill or injure a handful of the assailments, pressuring them to a retreat. The bandits were able to leverage magic to escape, but only just. Battered, but alive.

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Outlaws and Outcomes
Chapter 4

After the ambush, the party gathered themselves and search the immediate area for clues regarding their assailants. From their investigation, they gathered a few facts. At least one of the deceased bandits (their head imploded under Kazamir's sonic device) had the mark of the bloodhawks, a well known and powerful criminal organization, though their presence this far south of the capital is concerning. Also interesting was one of the bolts recovered from the sniper (and Mithrellis's armor). The bolt was closer to a large needle, made entirely of metal, it lacked fletching or irregularity. Lastly, was the absence of trails or markings from the xianlian caravan the party had been trying to catch up to. While a log in the middle of the path suggests a barriar, no sunken wheel ruts or footprints suggest the caravan was stopped. This caused for concern as the party wonders of the caravan was part of the ambush, or had advanced notice.

Pressing forward, the party continued along the road until they reached a branch for the night, in the small village of Terath. A small community built around a lumber industry, it boasted little more than a large boarding house and tavern. The party split up for the night, making arrangements and seeking information as they saw fit. Sorin, with his musical talents, sought to woo the local populace, and entertain the locals, gaining them local hospitality, and some gossip on bandits and affairs. Visiting with the party, they arrived at the Hostel of sorts that served as the main hub of activity for the region. Inside, they were met with dozens of wounded and injured travelers recovering from attacks, some having been there for weeks. Dominga, a priestess of Anael, tended to their hurts, and after the offer of aid by Mithrellis, warmed to their attentions and questions. They learned more about the type of attacks and personality of the bandits. Over the course of the night, Mithrellis would be able to piece the disperate locations and times of attacks from the wounded to gain an idea of where the bandits where located.

Meanwhile, Kazamir, Jace, and Boyd attended to the local tavern for other information. Not much was had, and the area was full of locals, who are more skeptical of these strange adventurers. Boyd, distraught by events, sought to relieve himself in drink, but his temper got the better of him, and nearly killed a local, who was of no real threat. Nonetheless, he did not make any friends that night. Jace, by contrast, managed to spot a struggling muscovan dwarf in the corner of the tavern. Suspecting more, she inquired and learned that he was Mikhail, the Federations envoy sent south to the outpost. Distraught, Jace learned about his plight; robbed and injured, he just managed to limp back to Terath. However, without his contract, he could not fulfill his mission, and he was ashammed and afraid to return home, fearing that he would be sent home and his families stipend recinded. 

Jace attempted to coax him to return, that she might prove her worth to the others, but Mikhail was not willing. When Jace threatened to drag him back by force, Kazamir managed to step in quell the fight. Several drinks later, Kazamir offered to help Mikhail recover his contract if possible, and they would return to the village when their mission ended.

Boyd, after unceremoniously leaving the tavern, briefly tranced before scouting the perimeter of the village for clues, and to clear his head. In the middle of the night, he spotted what looked to be a caravan, lit by torches, heading south along the road. Quickly, he gathered the party, and they moved to pursue them, hoping against hope that they may have caught a break. In the early predawn, the party caught up to a slow moving caravan, as it had stopped and voices could be heard. As a few of the party crept closer to hear, they stumbled, giving away there presence. The party just barely managed to remain hidden as guards swept the area. 

Weary and exhausted, the party retreated back into the woods a bit farther and high up from the road to camp out, deciding on their plans for the next morning. Sleeping in to the late morning, the party awoke to find Boyd gone without a trace. In his place, tangled and heaving in his bedroll, was a strange half-elven man, dressed in an odd mix of loose armor and pale robes, and brandishing a great silvered sword. Pinned and question, the man revealed himself to be Riardon, a svanesse citizen, recently returned. Claiming to have been trapped in the Feywild, he claimed that, to his knowledge, the year was 105 last he spoke to his mother and left the mortal plane. 

Before he could be questioned further, though, bolts shot out through the air and the party was set upon in earnest by a set of bandits. It appeared the forces that had escaped the previous day had returned with reinforcements, and meant to finish the job. The battle was scattered and tense for a brief moment, but soon the combatants fell. Their strange captive went to the party's aide without hesitation, and displayed an unusual and supernatural power. His fighting style was wild and ephemeral as he charged without hesitation toward foes, and lept prodigiously into the air moments before severing limbs from bodies with his blade. 

In the end, their were no survivors. Initially, two captives, the swordsman and the mage were captured alive, magically sent to sleep by Riardon and Jace. However, when interrogated, they gave little info. Uncooperative, Riardon quickly executed them before the decision could be agreed to. One piece of information was gained however; the bandits did confirm they had a base in the area, and according to the swordmaster, a passphrase (Anotha) needed to be given to the scouts to alert their party of their presence. 

At that point, the party resumed to discussion and disagreement as they worked to make sense of this new stranger. Without another path, Riardon agreed to help the others find their ally Boyd, and stay with them on their current endevor. Seeing him fight, the party found that it was best to have an experienced fighter near to them rather than alone on the road. With trepidation, the party sought to head north into the deep forest to find the bandits camp and, if possible, cut the rot from the trees. 

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Blood and Coin
Chapter 5

As the party made sense of the previous ambush,  it seemed that prudence was in order, and Riardon, for all his mystery, was a better ally than the mercenaries in the forest. The party, with new information, trecked northward into the woods. For a couple nights, they slog out through the dry brush and foliage, attempting to keep a careful eye out for the bandits.

After 2 days, they stumbled upon a sentry post, deserted. Alert, they fanned out looking for  the culprit, then laid an ambush when no signs of life were found. Later that night, sentries returned, and with stealth and guile, they were quickly dispatched by the party; no witnesses. 

From there, the party was able to locate the bandit camp in earnest, and for once they had the initiative. Riardon and Sorin flanked out around the camp, settled at the bottom of a forest ridge, working to carefully traverse the steep hills and rough terrain. Before them, they saw half a dozen tents, with at least one large pavilion and an lean-to stable. Stocks of grain, food, weapons, and water littered the camp, indicating that this was a long term operation. 

The group, eager about having the upper hand, launched a quiet assault on the eastern edge, near a corral. Upon inspection, Sorin discovered that a strange beast was being kept penned and caged on the camp outskirts, and set about trying to free the beast. As sentries came to investigate, the party belatedly began to take them out, not interested in leaving survivors. After several moments, a lull in the fighting as the commander emerged from the pavilion.

Garrett "Ironhand", the party would come to find, was a grizzled veteran who had a few tricks up his sleeve. An accomplished artificer and holding a powerful powerarm gauntlet, the Ironhand unleashed torrents of lightning and fire upon the party. Nearly overwhelmed, the party just barely managed to stave off the assault, with Mithrellis taking the vanguard position, and holding the attackers at bay while Jace brought Riardon back from unconsciousness. 

With Sorin distracted working to free the caged beast, The rest exchanged a flurry of missile attacks at the eastern edge of the camp. Slowly, but surely, the bandits faltered, as the darkness aided the party sheltering them from the vollies of bolter fire. Despite a few desperate shots by a crack sniper, the tide seemed to turn. Yet, the Ironhand had one other asset available.

A Xianlian spy, the party would learn, snaked through the foliage, and proved to foil the parties attempt at simply assault, nearly incapacitating Kazimir and Jace. Even wounded, the spy appeared an adept fighter and possessed of unnatural speed and agility. Were it not for the quick thinking of Jace, he might have also escaped once the battled had shifted. Playing a song on the flute given by Illyana, the spell within laid the spy to sleep, removing him from the field. 

After Garret was subdued, the remaining bandits fled, the camp scattered and tossed. The party searched the camp, finding a trove of stolen goods and treasures. After securing their two highest value prisoners, they sought to interrogate them for information. The Xianlian was less than forthcoming, but Garret proved to be somewhat cooperative. Bargaining for his release, and secrets on some of the treasure, he revealed that a political senator by the name of Emanuel is likely a prime actor in the creation of the camp and the banditry in the region. Garrett seemed to be reluctant or unable to reveal more than a name, but it was a enough for the party to release him with a couple rations as he escaped into the forest.

The Xianlian, agitated with Garret, appeared to be in some coordination with the operation, but attempts to scour his mind with magic or persuasion yielded nothing. The only thing of note they learned was the Xianlian appeared to be part of an elite group, a hand to the emperor, indicating the severity of the issue. Still, there wasn't much the party could learn, and with ruthless efficiency, the spy was beheaded.

With interrogations completed, the party made quickly to secure anything valuable, and make haste back to Vinne via terath. They met no resistance along the way, luckily, and arrive in Terrath the night after, loaded for bear with coin, treasure, and other easily transported goods. After some negotiation with Dilila and a few other villagers and survivors, the party decided to try and dole out a portion of the goods to those who were met with misfortune earlier. Some were upset, claiming the party did not return what was rightfully theres, but most were glad to regain something, and to be relieved that the bandit threat had been dealt with. Mikail, in particular, was elated to find the return of his trade agreements, and was able to complete his mission, if late.

With reparations made, the party returned to Vinne, to claim victory, spoils, and fame from the inhabitants. Upon returning the bounty of proof to the Trade minister, however, the party learned that the contract in question had been a ruse of sorts, and the party was shorted much of what they were promised. Sorin and Mithrellis were particular scorned, and so set about making an example out of Enrique. With a weeks work, Sorin and Mithrellis wrote, "Blood and Coin' a play detailing their exploits, and mocking the political leaders who tried to use them to their advantage. Despite some bumpy starts, the play nonetheless became popular with exposure, and within a month, the group had become local celebrities.

Afterward, the party settled on their next task, urged by the orb Eshrim, to travel north to the moutains near Algar. There, they hope to discover the lost bastion of the Aichen, and learn more about Vilnach and their resurgance.

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Inside the Ruins
Chapter 6

As the door shuddered open, the party was greeted by a wizened old man. He greeted them in archaic  Turathi and introduced himself as Akathis, the caretaker of this bastion, Kalentha. Drawing his arm from the folds of his robe, he showed an arm cursed by the Vilnach and slowly turning his body into that of a demon.  This, he said, is what caused him to search for the bastions of the Aichen in hopes of finding a cure to his malady. As Akathis led the party through the spartan halls of the ruins he explained how he managed to enter the bastion 300 years ago and survived till now, studying the works kept in the library in search of answers. 

Upon entering the main hall, the group saw what they assumed to be the entrance to the sanctuary of the bastion. Akathis said that despite many efforts on his part and others, no one had breached the door in the 300 years he had been there. Mithrellis and Riardon stayed to investigate while the others went to distract the old man in the library. Kazamir and Sorin attempted to ask Akathis about his research and the bastion, but each question seemed to further annoy the man until everyone decided it was best to leave him to his research. Jace stumbled upon a hastily covered alcove, but lacked the privacy to investigate properly. Mithrellis luckily had more luck with Eshrim, finding that the door could be opened similarly to the first one, with time and Eshrim's effort. After a brief attempt at trying to get Akathis to join them and failing, the party regrouped at the door to the sanctuary.

The party waited for about fifteen minutes as Eshrim wrestled with the locks, but eventually the door opened to a long, empty hallway. Despite looking like a culling hallway to thin the rank of enemies during a siege, the party found no traps and made it safely to the end where they were met with another door. Despite growing up inside mountains, Kazimir could not shake a sense of unease in these tunnels, and as we approached the door, Mithrellis seemed to be losing his connection to Eshrim.  After Kazimir poured some magical energy into Eshrim's orb and Mithrellis began the unlocking procedure again. Upon opening, the group saw a small room with stairs that lead down. After Riardon and Mithrellis's familiar scouted the area, it was deemed safe to proceed.

This time, as the party crossed the threshold they all felt a slight shift around them, but could not make anything out and carried on. After descending the stairs, a large hall stretched before them with alcoves to the sides and a towering statue in the center. Wary after the previous attack by statues at the entrance, the party advanced in battle formation. As expected, the large statue and three smaller ones in the alcoves sprung to life and attacked. Riardon jumped to the closest one, as he is want to do, and struck it down with a fury that easily shattered stone. Kazimir rushed in to confront the largest statue and found his warhammer wanting against the enchanted stone. After two strikes from the giant golemn, Kazimir nearly fell, only surviving because of Jace's healing words. Mithrellis cast a spell upon Riardon, causing his motions to blur at the speed of light. Riardon heard the faint voice of Eshrim say something that sounded like "Get out!" He and Mithrellis then rushed towards the door at the far end of the hall past the statues to begin unlocking it. The remaining statues closed on Kazimir, but a volley of combined spells from Sorin, Jace, and Kazimir shattered even the largest foe. With no more reason to rush, the party stood around the final door as Mithrellis inserted Eshrim to unlock it.

Inside was a massive throne room, in that it was a room with a towering throne with an equally large statue sitting in it. At the top, in the forehead of the statue, there was an indent similar to those in the doors, so Mithrellis climbed to the top to place Eshrim's orb. Kazimir weary from the fight, sat against a wall as Jace tried to convince him that he needed more healing. The others looked about the room and may have even briefly hoped to see Mithrellis slip for the entertainment. As the orb entered the slot, a bluish creature overlapped the sitting statue and then rose to stand in front of us clad in a toga with wings hanging from its back. This creature introduced itself as Eshrim in his true form.

Eshrim explained to the party first  that the room they had just been in had been temporally manipulated to slow intruders, which is why we could not reach him. Then he proceeded to tell everyone more about the history of himself and why he needed our help. It seems Eshrim was the third warden of the bastion Kalentha, though there had been others after him. He talked about the barriers between our world and the weakening of the barriers between it and the astral sea. This is what was allowing Vilnach to slip into our world, and if no one prevented further damage to the barrier, more and more Vilanch would come to ravage our world. There are a series of ley-lines that connect the planes, and each has an anchor somewhere in the world. Three of these anchors have been damaged or destroyed, and a fourth was already under attack. We would be able to repair these anchors, but to do so we would need to travel to the Turathi Empire, the Arcosian Desert, Jin-lan, and somewhere on the other side of the world. Eshrim offered the party a gift to aid them.

Starting with Mithrellis and moving to Riardon, then Sorin, and then Kazimir, Eshrim touched each of their heads and a golden light spilled out. Eshrim claimed this gift would allow them to read any of the Aichen's encrypted tomes (each rune actually existed in three dimensions, allowing for dense storage) and to use the teleportation circle in the next room to transport to the foot of the mountain or any other bastion they had visited. Jace, ever skeptical of Eshrim and people in her mind, hesitated before accepting the gift. She said she wasn't sure why Eshrim needed us specifically, or even why anyone else would want her to join them. Mithrellis went off about how it's the noble and right thing to do. Riardon seemed happy to be allowed to kill things. Sorin seemed to understand the best, but said that he couldn't sit by as people died when he could be helping. Kazimir pointed out how Jace had quite literally just saved his life minutes ago and that it had not been the first time she had done so. Finally she relented and accepted Eshrim's gift. As Eshrim touched her head though, there was a brief struggle and a purple flash before the golden light. Eshrim explained that a Vilnach taint had been placed on Jace, and anything she had seen or heard till then was also seen by the Vilnach. Mithrellis did something right for once and wasn't a smug ass about it.

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The Vault

 

This letter is on a fine piece of slightly creased parchment with fluid cursive script. The handwriting suggests the author was writing with some haste. At the bottom of the letter is a large wax seal with the image a thin-bladed sword crossed with a quill. A paragraph postscript details at length that these letters are classified information for the eyes of the Ridere Etherium, and that any  unauthorized reader in violation of clause 43 B, paragraphs 3 – 7 of the Sciettish Statutory Acts and Measures.

The Honorable Knight-Captain Caelthalsur Tyrvalsa,

Today proved to be no less enlightening than the last. The aeichon Eshrim, having been restored to his former glory, bestowed upon us gifts in thanks for our service to the cause. He entrusted a shining blade made of a pure white light to me, along with a beautiful longbow that enhanced the distance of my spells. Upon my companions he presented gifts no less powerful, each of which seemed to fit the wielder's temperament and style.

I have not had the chance to study these items at length, but upon a cursory glance it is clear the magicks that empower these items are far beyond our current capabilities. The items themselves are made out of a strange white metal that is both durable and light, and seemingly hollow. They seem to be crafted out of the same material as the walls I have described in my previous correspondences.  I will attempt to procure a sample to send to the alchemists, I know that Rutherion would be pleased to experiment with this material.

The magicks of the weapon themselves are intricate and complex, with multi layered thread that cross each other to form a more sturdy weave. I know that Pangrem had theorized that such a thing could be done, but I still cannot comprehend how the underlaying abjurations were able to support the flow of the essence without causing any negative feedback. Perhaps more interesting is that the wielder himself supplies the impetus for the enchantment. It would seem that the very life force we provide acts as a link which completes the chain of the multi layered weave, that is to say without a wielder these items will not function. This supports Amandir's thesis that the intangible, or the soul acts as a conduit for magick as we know it … but this would go against hundreds of years of research proving that arcane magick is independent of the Gods. If you can find any copies of Amandir's research, I humbly request that I be allowed access to the banned tome pursuant to regulation 56c, allowing access to dangerous materials while in the field. I strongly believe this warrants more research.

After receiving the artifacts the strange mage Akathis returned. It would seem my suspicions of him proved correct, because after a verbal disagreement regarding his access to the aeichon's knowledge, he removed the illusions surrounding his form and revealed himself to be a Nothic. He chanted a deadly conjuration which spewed forth billowing green clouds of poisonous gas, and attempted to steal the receptacle in which Eshrim was contained.

We were forced to engage him and his hordes of undead minions in battle. I understand you had your earlier suspicions about my companions, especially the tiefling Sorin, the human Jace, and the warlock Riardon. I am pleased to report that if it were not for their heroic efforts I would not be alive today to write this letter. Jace saved my life several times with her healing magicks, Sorin displayed an incredible aptitude for evocations and incinerated most of the horde,  and Riadron fought the ferocity of a caged beast, cleaving undead apart with his sword.

This is not the first time they have saved my life, and I am officially repeating my request that I be allowed to cease reporting on their activities, and they be no longer classified as subjects of interest.

I am pleased to report that thanks to the heroics of my companions we were able to slay the Nothic and his thralls. Our next steps shall be to investigate the weakening between the planes in an attempt to seal the rifts the Vilnach are pouring through. I pray that Mystra will guide us and the brave Knights to seal the wounds our plane has suffered before it is too late.

Dutifully Yours,
Knight-Errant Mithrellis Lathurna

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Gnoll Hunting
Chapter 8

After tying up any loose ends the party had in Kalentha, they decided to head back to Algar to gather their gear before heading to one of the ley line locations. Bembe was no longer outside the ruins, and after contacting him magically, Kazamir found out that they had been inside for twelve days and that Bembe had headed home by himself. Taking the teleportation circle out of the Sanctum, the party backtracked through the mountains and down to Algar. During a days rest in the city, Kazamir unlocked the chest they had found near Akathis's work place, Mithrellis bought some maps, and the party heard two rumors. First, as it was nearing the winter solstice, there would soon be a large festival held in the town to the west. Second, the number of gnoll attacks had greatly increased in the area and the military was busy fighting them back.

Though the party had originally determined the capital city of Cieron to be their best bet for teleportation circle to one of the cities near a ley line, they decided something needed to be done about the gnolls and that they could then head south to Jin'lan. Seeing an opportunity to make some coin along the way, Kazamir wrote up a contract to form a mercenary contract to be officially recognized as "The Wardens" in Svain. The party headed South towards the Howling Savannah and the military camps fighting the gnolls there. Upon arriving in the camp, the party met with a familiar commander that Mithrellis and Sorin had talked to on the way north. While they did not want a mercenary company disrupting the disciplined ranks of fighters on the front lines, they did need scouts and did offer the party a two-week contract to scout north and west of the camp. The first two days of scouting were relatively slow, only finding signs of old battles and camps. On the third day however, Riardon found a recent gnoll camp and followed after the footprints that headed north. The party gave chase, and after some deliberation, decided to ambush the pack of twelve gnolls they had found. Having fought a group of gnolls before, the party believed they could easily defeat the pack, but the gnolls seemed strangely tougher than before. Perhaps this had something to do with the cabal of shamans leading the hord, one of which was among the pack.

After a brief surprise, the gnolls rallied back and attacked. Kazimir and Riardon jumped into the fray while Sorin, Jace, and Mithrellis hung back to throw spells and songs among the enemies. While some gnolls fell quickly, more leapt towards Jace and Mithrellis. Mithrellis turned into a blur of flashing steel as his blade deflected blows left and right and struck back in retaliation. Kazimir began tracking the cabalist that fled the battle, but just as he was about to enter the cave he had just discovered, the vines and branches around him struck out.

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Mercenarys All
Chapter 9

Near their arrival to Sapabel, the party began collecting rumors of other travelers ahead of them, and picked upt he trail of the likely thieves that had framed them in a svanesse village a ways back. In the interest of payback and curosity, the party tracked down the rogues to the Quiet Monk, a converted temple to tavern on the northern edge of the city.

There, they found Tajana and her crew, the self ascribed mercenaries that the party deduced must be the culprits of the crime. Tajana shown to be an astute social agent, and tripped up both Rhiardon and Sorin who attempted to gain more intelligence about their activities. They learned little else about her compatriats – ‘Quint’ and Zhidkov.

What they did learn, is that the group in question was, for hire, in a sense. Tajana offered more information, contingent on the collection of an item held by a Mabusi merchant noble housed here in the city. Upon following up on the location and Sorin attempting to fast talk his way past the guard, they realized that the noble was shrewed, and perhaps somewhat paranoid.

Prevented from moving forward, the party then set about following Tajana and her posse around the city for a day, hoping to learn more. Rhiardon set to the task with a will, and stalked her from the rooftops of Sapabel. For the most part, Rhiardon was able to track his prey unhindered. After sufficient patience, he located Tajana’s hideout in an abandoned manor home in the center of the city.

From there, Mithrellis outlined a plan in which he disguised himself as the group, seeing them split up, and infiltrated the manor. He walked into the front door without a worry, noting the Bloodhawk insignia on the members stationed around the home. Investigating the upstairs, he found Tajana’s room, and quietly managed to slip into the room, with no one the wiser. After a brief moment to scan the room, though, he was met by a knock on the door; it appeared he had not entirely evaded detection. Searching quickly, Mithrellis scanned the room, and found a hidden box that held the object they sought: The Horn of Anael.

From there, it was a blur as Quint bust into the room, Mithrellis had changed to look like Tajana, though not enough to entirely fool Quint. There was a window, and Mithrellis portaled out it, on to the city streets below. A brief chase ensued as Mithrellis ran from Quint, nearly evading him.

It was then that Mithrellis met a mercenary of comparable skill; for Quint appeared suddenly in front of him. A quick exchange of arcane juking ended when Quint lay bare his power of divine magic upon Mithrellis, reducing the mage to the size…and form of a mouse. With the object in question dropped, Quint recovered the Horn, and proceeded to slip back into the shadows as Jace and Sorin caught up.

Meanwhile, Rhirdon, hoping to sound the alarm would be found later by the rest of the party drinking deep of ale and spirits, and prying an arrowhead out of his shoulder; he would recount a meeting of an unseen assailant with excellent aim that plucked him out of the air on his dash back to warn the party of Tajana’s unexpected return. Left without another meaningful lead, and fearing time slipping on their main quest, the party decided to let sleeping dogs lie, and set back out on the road.

The next few days would be uneventful as the party licked its wounds, pondering what-ifs and could-ofs. Kazimir remained pensive and quiet along the road, Rhiardon absorbed in self reflection, Sorin aloof, Mithrellis absorbed in distracted reading. Only Jace seemed to have some hesitation and concern about their future.

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Were not in Orela anymore
Chapter 10

It would only be a few days out of Sapabel before the party would be set another unexpected task. A few nights before, Rhiardon had been sighted having poor sleep, and at least one possibly heard speaking while he slept. The stranger from the feywild had always kept the party on edge, but his eager willingness to aide them in their quest has abated their concern.

However, with the Full Fae Moon in the air, the party was once again reminded of the eerie power of the fey world. As the party camped, Mithrellis noticed a voice on the wind. Boyd, his one time brother in arms he had known from long ago, and lost to the mists, could be heard again. Not just heard, but pleading for help.

With some trepidation, Mithrellis nonetheless pursued the voice, keeping conversation as he and the party trailed it deeper into the nearby grotto. Beckoned by tails of strange creatures threating void, they moved with haste. Eventually, they found a small glen nested low in the forest. There, other voices could be heard. From what they gathered, they learned that strange fey creatures where hunting boyd: redcaps.

As the party approached a cave mouth, they discovered a few of these small creatures. Individually, they were ferocious and bloodthirsty, but not seriously threatening. Two creatures quickly felled, they tracked the third into the cave only to find the way barred, and no sign save a bloody smear on the wall.

They did not exit the same way they entered. Instead, they found the hairs on their necks raised, and Rhiardon letting out a sigh of lament…for they had stumbled into the Feywild. With Kazamir left back with the camp, the rest were left to follow the voice further, hoping to make this jaunt worthwhile, and recover Boyd from whatever danger he lay.

Before they could get far, however, they were set upon in full force by a large gang of redcaps. In the high brush, these small creatures proved difficult to pin down. Further still, there appeared to be one amongst them that was harder to pin down than most – some quick creature able to move at ease amongst the Shrubbery. Yet, the battle would prove the party victorious – Sorin taking little enjoyment at the harrassment set about torching much of the nearby trees, leaving a few redcaps exposed. From there, Rhiardon was able to end them in one short blow.

With the creatures dead or fled, the party chose to regroup, and decide on their next course of action. Do they continue the hunt for Boyd, or seek to return to the mortal world quickly by means they can still comprehend?

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