What Lies Beneath

V3C16 -Death in the Family

In which the Nine travel to Aerenal and elements of Gildor's past haunt the party

With two of the Destiny Arms in hand, the Nine have set their sites on Aerenal, the ancestral home of the elves. It is here that they believe they will find Eternity’s Reach.

Opting to save a few days, Angladen, Rooster, and Thomas teleported back to Sharn to charter an airship, while Saarus, Edgar, Thane, Gildor, and the ir’Vorrn sisters remained behind to deal with the undead army in Xen’Drik. Being quite successful in their task, Saarus, Edgar, and the sisters decided to briefly return to Stormcaller Keep, so that they could lend their efforts to preventing the resurgence of war upon Khorvaire. Thane and Gildor, meanwhile, wished to continue the quest, and so joined their companions aboard the airship Second Chance, just as the Lyrander vessel was arriving at the Aereni port of Pylas Tylaer.

The elven city was a truly bizarre sight to the adventurers, wholly unlike the cities of Khorvaire. Constructed entirely of wood, many of the buildings were indistinguishable from the surrounding jungle. In the harbor, great darkwood ships sat moored, with still-living trees serving as masts. Though the harbor bustled, this was without doubt the quietest city the group had ever encountered. To their amazement (and slight disgust), what appeared to be a troop of zombies marched down the street, their undead forms clad in beautifully ornate breastplates and with master-crafted weapons hanging from their belts. As these undead marched through the city, any of the local elves they passed would bow or touch their forehead in deference.

At the docking tower, an elven official awaited the airship’s arrival, a stylized skull tattooed upon his aged face. Captain Jensral spoke with him briefly, and soon the crew and passengers were free to disembark. Grabbing their bags, the adventurers headed out into the city, eager to find their artifact and quit this bizarre place. Their first stop: the Nightlily, a tavern and inn recommended by Jensral.

Travelling only a short way from the wharf, they soon came upon the inn. Inside, the common room was light by magical flames of orange and purple, filling the room with a muted twilight glow. A few dozen patrons sat at various tables sipping while or partaking of colorful elven dishes, while others lay sprawled about on vast swaths of cushions, taking long hits off of ornate hookahs. A low stage contained a single performer, a beautiful elven flute-player well known to the party—Liara Ghostmantle d’Phiarlan. As her ethereal music filled the room, drinks arrived. Eager to sample everything Aerenal had to offer, Angladen also opted to take the serving girl’s offer of darkeye, a popular local drug.

Reclining upon cushions, Angladen took a deep hit off of the hookah and collapsed, his body going rigid as the drug’s paralysis took hold. The world went dim as he hovered on the boundaries between life and death. Visions flashed before him, visions of the life he had lead, of the life he might have lead had things gone otherwise, and the voices of friends and family long dead spoke to him.

As Angladen related somewhat of what he had seen, Gildor grew curious and decided to try some himself. He saw much the same thing, but amongst the visions was a curious revelation – A vision of himself as a small child beside a riverbank, desperately trying to rouse his father, whose dead eyes stared up unblinking, and whose hands were cold and limp. Soon, two elves came upon him, and took him away from the gruesome scene. He was not a child of the man and woman he’d called Mother and Father all his life. He was a foundling.

Gildor spoke to no one of what he had seen. But shortly after his reverie faded, Liara stepped down from the stage to speak with her friends. She claimed that she was in Aerenal on a pilgrimage of sorts. She wished to learn the stories of the ancient elves from those who knew them best – the Undying Court, those revered ancestors who had joined the ranks of the deathless and now guided the Aereni people. It had taken her several months of work, but she had finally been granted the Right to Counsel, and would soon be journeying to Shae Mordai, the City of Dead. She was quite curious as to what the party was doing in Aerenal, and why Rooster had a drow sigil etched into his face. The adventurers remained fairly tight-lipped about their recent exploits and plans. As Gildor put it, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that everyone has their price. And, well, our families have price lists.”

Saying goodnight to Liara, the adventurers headed to their own room, whereupon they were surprised to find Taldus Aldur Torranil d’Sivis, the gnome who had set them on this quest in the first place. He was very pleased to see that they had recovered the second of the Destiny Arms, but warned that other factions had become aware of the party’s actions. The Lords of Dust and theit allies, the Talons of Tiamat, would undoubtedly soon be sending assassins after them. Worse, the draconic Chamber was uncertain of the best course of action to take regarding the Arms, and may send agents of its own to retrieve the artifacts, as might the Eyes of Chronepsis, a sort of draconic secret police.

Taldus also told the party a bit more about their foe – The Daughter of Khyber, or Tiamat. Each of the Rakshasa Rajahs held dominion over a specific portfolio. Tiamat’s was dragonkind. Her very presence could corrupt even the noblest of dragons, and bend them to her will. That was why the Destiny Arms had been created, so that champions of the “lesser races” could do battle with her on the dragons’ behalf. If she were loosed from her prison on Argonnesson, likely all the world would soon perish in dragonfire.

Before bidding the party a good night, the gnome also revealed to the party his suspicions as to the locations of Hope’s Aegis and Fate’s Edge. He believed that Hope’s Aegis lie somewhere on Sarlona, a place the prophecy was blind to. Fate’s Edge, on the other hand, likely lay in Haka’torvhak, an ancient demonic prison in Q’barra that held dozens or even hundreds of captive fiends.

With the gnome’s departure, the group settled in for the night. In the morning, they would meet a contact of Liara’s to see about patronage for travel papers, allowing them to investigate the place they believed held Eternity’s Reach. Sadly, Taldus was not the last of their visitors.

In the dead of night, as Rooster patrolled the hallway of the inn, Shira spoke to him, warning of someone furtively approaching. He readied his weapon and prepared to strike at the intruders. Much to his surprise, a pair of hazy, indistinct forms floated through the wall, passed him by, and phased through the wall to the room of his companions. Before he could do anything about the two forms, though, a pair of elves, their skin treated to give the appearance of death, appeared next to him, driving their blades into his armored body again and again. The warforged raised a barrier of crackling electricity around himself, but the elves just grinned as the nimbly dodged the arcs of energy. They drove at him relentlessly, a maelstrom of violence filling the hallway.

Meanwhile, in the shared room, a pair of dread wraiths attacked Angladen, Thane, and Thomas, their mere touch draining the lifeforce from the heroes. Angladen called upon the power of the sun and let loose a mighty searing light spell, gravely wounding one of the wraiths, while Thomas launched flurry after flurry of attack and Thane swung Prophecy’s Forge with all his might. As the last of the wraiths fell, Angladen teleported into the hallway where Rooster and Liara had been battling the elven assassins. The fight was not going as well as one might hope – One of the assassins lay dead, but the big warforged had fallen to the floor, inert, and the other assassin was steadily advancing on Liara. With a scream of rage at seeing his friend fallen, Angladen let loose a mighty orb of force, blasting into the other assassin and splattering her all over the hallway.

In Gildor’s room, the true reason behind the attack became apparant. While his companions were otherwise occupied, Gildor awakened to the the sight of mist seeping under his door, mist which then solidified into the form of a beautiful, if pale, elven woman. “Aldanae, my mistriss would like to speak with you. Will you come quietly, or shall I be forced to drag you before her?” she said, her voice dripping honey.

“And who is your mistress?” asked the cautious Gildor.

“Oh, I think you know,” the elf replied, revealing two long and wicked fangs behind her blood-red lips.

Gildor leapt forward to attack, but his weapons could not seem to do any lasting harm. Laughing, she drew a longsword, its length covered in blood red runes. As it was obvious he could not win in a melee with this vampire, Gildor retreated, pulling forth a wand and levelling several blasts of fire into the woman. Shrieking as she burned, she collapsed into mist once more. “I’ll see you again soon, Aldanae…” she whispered, then vanished completely as Angladen and Liara burst into the room.

Returning to the hallway, Angladen rushed to where Rooster had fallen, calling Thane over as well. As the artificer looked over the inert warforged, he stated what they all knew, but none wanted to admit. The boisterous, nearly invincible warforged was dead. Angladen took the body into the room and bergan drawing a ritual circle around him, attempting to call Rooster’s spirit back, but nothing answered his call. He was gone, for good.

As Gildor related his exchange with the vampire to the group, a cold rage settled upon Angladen. “Anyone else have some little secrets from their past they want to tell us? Seeing as how Gildor’s mysterious backstory just got Rooster killed?”

There was little time to argue or mourn however, as a Sentinel of the Cairdal Blades arrived at the inn, summoned by the innkeeper. He took a look at the fallen assassins and informed the group that they were members of a heretical sect of necromancers that called themselves the Stillborn, a sect with close ties to the Blood of Vol. The governor would want to hear of this immediately, so he escorted the party through the dawning light to the governor’s palace, there to meet with Governor Syraen Melideth and her undying councilor, Satarial.

After a brief explanation of what happened, Satarial excused himself so that he might commune with the Undying Court on the matter. Conversing with the governor in Satarial’s absence, the group determined that they would need to travel to the far off Madwood, the site of ancient House Vol’s ancestral home, long in ruins. As they came to this comclusion, Satarial returned.

His cold grey eyes staring intently at Gildor, the ancient councilor intoned, “Aldanae d’Thuranni, you are hereby summoned before the Undying Court. Gather your companions and make all haste for Shae Mordai, for the ancestors wish to speak with you.”

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