What Lies Beneath

V3C19-22 An Old Friend

Setting Out
The fourth chapter of their quest found our heroes departing Aerenal for a much-desired return to Khorvaire. Three of the Destiny Arms were now in their possession: Fortune’s Grace, Prophecy’s Forge, and Eternity’s Reach. The trip had cost them dearly, however, as their friends Angladen and Rooster had perished on the elven continent and Gildor had learned some very disturbing truths about himself.

After a brief stopover in Sharn to recuperate and plan their next move, our heroes decided that they would venture to the Eldeen Reaches next, in pursuit of the Nemesis Blade. Before doing so, however, Gildor spent some time talking with the elders of Sharn’s kalashtar community, hoping to gain some information about Hope’s Aegis, believed to lie in far-off Sarlona. Hanamelk, the head of the kalashtar community, was reluctant to speak much about his homeland to this stranger, but a younger warrior by the name of Selkatari offered to travel with Gildor for a time and assess his character. Grudgingly accepting her company, the group departed.

Journeying to the Reaches would be:
Gildor Galathil (S.Dave) – Elven adventurer, recently discovered to be the last heir of House Vol and the Mark of Death
Sunrock (Marble) – Halfling druid, he claims to have been sent on this mission by Eberron Herself
Thomas Thorne (Lackey) – Shifter monk, eager to get back to Khorvaire
Thane d’Cannith (Deering) – Human artificer, wielder of Prophecy’s Forge
Liara Ghostmantle d’Phiarlan – Elven bard, entertainer, and information broker, accompanied the party through Aerenal and fought beside them at Lake Dark
Selkatari – Kalashtar soulknife, traveling with the party to see if their intentions towards her people are as pure as they claim
Grimlock -A smallish tyrannosaurus, Sunrock’s former animal companion now granted supernatural intelligence


The Reaches

Casting a greater teleport spell, Thane whisked them away, only to find the magics had gone horribly awry and scattered the party throughout the Reaches. Thane, Liara, and Selkatari had been transported to Greenheart, the capitol of the Reaches, while Sunrock, Gildor, and Grimlock arrived at the burned out and desecrated ruins of a druidic circle and Thomas was dropped yet further into the woods. Stopping briefly in Greenheart to rest, Thane scried upon his friends and cast another teleport spell to catch up with them….

Investigating the horrible carnage that had befallen the druid circle, Sunrock, Gildor, and Grimlock encountered a feral shifter ranger named Garm, who was seeking those responsible. Our heroes agreed to assist him in tracking down those responsible, and set off, collecting Thomas along the way. For two days they tracked those responsible, pausing briefly at the villains’ campsite from the night before to bury a young druidess the fiends had brought along to have some “fun” with. When they finally did catch up, our heroes set upon the foe with a brutal fury, killing two of the four almost before they could wake. The two remaining foes, a massive human clad in dragonscale armor and a slender elven assassin, made use of a staff to teleport away before they could be made to join their companions in the ground.

Rifling through the possessions of the slain and fled, the party discovered two items of considerable interest. One was a perfect copy of the Forked Path, the book of prophecy that had guided their quest so far. The other was a collection of dossiers on nearly everyone involved in the quest – Saarus, Edgar, the Vornn sisters, Thane, Gildor, Thomas, Sunrock, Angladen, Rooster, Fenian, Alexander, and even Tytalos. Surprisingly up to date, it covered a great deal of information that was not common knowledge. Someone knew far more about the party then they should, and it would seem the foes they had just slain were there specifically for the Nine.

It was at this time that Thane’s teleport spell delivered him, Selkatari, and Liara to the rest of the party, a full twelve hours after he had cast it. Something was very, very wrong with transport magics. Looking over the portion of the prophecy pertaining to the Nemesis Blade, and speaking with Garm a bit, the adventurers determined that the artifact likely lay in the Gloaming, a place where the walls to Mabar were so thin that one could pass directly into the Plane of Eternal Night if one was not careful. A twisted sect of druids called the Children of Winter made their homes nearby, for their to their insane beliefs it was a holy place. The ranger agreed to take them to the place, but no further – he wanted nothing to do with that unnatural tear in the planes. Not trusting teleportation, the party opted to use Sunrock’s Air Walk spell to travel to the outskirts of the Gloaming. Skirting or killing patrols of Children of Winter, the party made their way through the 15 miles of to the center of the Gloaming, progressing ever deeper into the darkness.

After a battle with a high druid outside a cave near the heart of the Gloaming, the party went in to investigate and found a long tunnel leading into absolute black. When they emerged, it was on to a vast, desolate plain in the darkest night. Not a single star shone in the sky, not one of the twelve moons could be seen. They had left Eberron behind completely, and stepped into Mabar. In the far distance a castle burned on a hill – the sole landmark in this benighted realm.


An Old Friend

Slowly, the party made its way through the darkness, doing battle with various horrors of the night along the way. When they arrived at the castle, they found a sprawling complex in utter ruin, the demonic inhabitants lying slain all about. Some fifty to a hundred demons lay strewn throughout the castle grounds, and the great doors had been blasted completely clear of their hinges. In the center stood a great tower, fire still licking out of its uppermost windows.

Venturing into the tower, the companions first ventured into the lower depths, prodded on by piteous screams and cries of woe. There they found a vast and monstrous torture chamber, filled with all manner of horrors. Demon and mortal alike had met gruesome and terrible ends here, and though nothing remained alive within this hall, still the screams echoed throughout.

Ascending, they came across more masses of dead demons. Whoever had come through here had been very, very thorough and very, very dangerous. At the top they found a magical laboratory, fires still burning throughout from the assault. Upon extinguishing the flames, two items stood out – a massive chest bound in adamantine, and a long table completely untouched by the flames. Within the chest they found a stack of large gray crystals containing the souls of scores of people – likely a form of currency in this hell. Set into the table was an indentation in the shape of a sword. Almost certainly, the Nemesis Blade had been here but a few short hours ago.

As the party prepared to depart the castle and track whoever now held the Blade, they were beset by a band of demons teleporting into the courtyard. The battle was swift, but exceedingly brutal, and both Thomas and Gildor very nearly joined the mass of corpses strewn throughout the courtyard.Using Sunrock’s magical divinations to guide them, the party headed out into the night, following after their quarry. How long htey qalked, non can say for sure, for there was no true way to mark the time in this endless night. Eventually, though, they spotted brief flashes of light on a distant hill, and made their way there with a quickness.

Upon their arrival, they were greeted by a mound of dead demons, and a single robed form burning the last surviving demon into a charred mess. As the form stood and turned, Thane, Liara, and Gildor drew in their collective breath. Tytalos stood before them, but he was a very changed man from their comrade of old. His skin was pale and gaunt, his bald pate now covered in a mass of long stringy hair. Darkness and shadow covered his skin, madness shone in his eyes, and when he spoke, the tone reverberated unnaturally. Convinced those before him were illusions sent to torture him further, he struck, blasting at the party with eldritch lightning and fire. His assault did not last long, for he soon found himself firmly wedged in Grimlock’s cavernous maw and told to act civilly lest the dinosaur be forced to eat him.

When both Thane and Tytalos were convinced the other was truly who they seemed, their reunion was joyous, if still a bit cautious. According to Tytalos, when he arrived, he had been rendered unconscious. He awoke in a castle much like the one they had just come from, tortured for the sport of the demonic inhabitants. Roivan ir’Vendross, the Rakshasa from Lake Dark, was still here, and had gathered a sizable power base. It was Roivan, not Tytalos, who had annihilated the previous castle and taken the Nemesis Blade.


An Old Enemy

With Tytalos to guide them, the party made their way to the fortress Roivan had claimed for his own. The place was swarming with demons, but our heroes were determined to gain entrance and claim the Nemesis Blade for their own. Gildor and Liara scouted ahead, and upon their return reported that there was no clear way over or through the walls. Not one to let a little thing like that stop him, Sunrock promptly transformed into an earth elemental and tunneled beneath the walls and wards while the party hid inside Thane’s portable hole.

Emerging just below the main tower, the party quickly ascended. At the top they found Roivan’s laboratory, along with some 30 demonic guards. There was no sign of the rakshasa, however. Releasing a blast of fire throughout the room, Tytalos made short work of many of the foot soldiers while the others concentrated on the more powerful demons. Striking from invisibility, Roivan unleashed his own potent magical blasts upon the party, gravely wounding some, stripping the magics from many, and nearly reducing Tytalos to a gibbering fool. In the end, though, the mighty rakshasa was no match for our heroes, particularly with several of the Destiny Arms in hand. Victory was only fleeting however, for by killing him here, they had only returned him to Eberron. There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that they would see Roivan ir’Vendross again ere this quest was done.

With the rakshasa and his demonic minions dead, the party was free to investigate the laboratory. The Nemesis Blade was unmistakable, a shining rapier of magnificent construction, covered in draconic imagery and glyphs. As the party looked to one another, Liara looked down at the rapier at her belt – her weapon of choice. “Well, shit. And here I was hoping to just be a tag-a-long on this.” So saying, she grasped the blade in her hand, and the all-too-familiar images flooded the minds of those who possessed the artifacts.

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V3C17 & 18 - The House of the Dead
Wherein the Nine do battle with the Emerald Claw and retrieve the third of the Destiny Arms

Following the Stillborn assassination/kidnapping attempt in Pylas Talaer (wherin Rooster gave his life in defense of his friends), the party answered a summons to the Undying Court of Shae Mordai, the gathering of ancient ancestors whose divine might guides the elves of Aerenal. Accompanying them would be Liara Ghostmantle and Fenian Vale, a renowned elven warrior and member of the Cairdal Blades. Wasting no time, the party set out as soon as transport was ready. Unsurprisingly, the vampire Veldris made a second attempt on the party, this time sneaking aboard their ship in the dead of night with a sorcerous ally and releasing a slew of red glittering motes in the hold. Just as the party leapt to the attack, the motes exploded, killing Angladen. Howling in rage at the loss of their friend, the party made short work of the sorcerer, and Thane turned his attention to the vampiress. Thinking quickly, he ensnared her with a Control Undead spell, and demanded she not resist.

In the questioning that followed, she revealed that she had been sent to retrieve Gildor by the Lady Vol herself. She was to take him to the ancient family estate of House Vol, there to await the arrival of the Queen of the Dead. When asked why, her response was decidedly chilling. “Because, your grandmother wishes to speak with you, Aldanae d’Vol. She would make you a prince among her legions.” Gildor considered the offer for a moment, and promptly drove a stake through the vampire’s heart. Gathering up their friends and the fallen, the party elected not to risk another assassination attempt, and teleported directly to Shae Mordai.

The City of the Dead proved to be every bit as eerie as one would expect from the name. Undying soldiers patrolled its walls, and undying councilors held court throughout the city. On every exposed surface was graven the complete history of the elves, and written on every cobblestone stretched the lineages of these ancient people. From all about the hushed city could be heard the sonorous chanting of the Priests of Transition, venerating the dead and preparing the way for the fallen. At the center of the city stood a massive zigguraut, the home of the Undying Court. It was to here that the party was escorted.

Within, the Ascendant Councilors spoke with the party, and revealed why they had summoned Gildor here. He did indeed bear the Mark of Death, the ancient dragonmark of House Vol, long beleived wiped from existance. The Court had been watching him for some time now, and had determined that the mark had not (yet) corrupted him. His deeds and motives over the past many years had spared him from summary execution at the hands of these ancient beings, and indeed, may yet allow the fallen house a new chance. The Court knew full well the task ahead of the Nine, and gave their blessing unto them. Additionally, they confirmed that Eternity’s Reach lie deep in the Madwood, in the ruins of the House of Vol. Their audience concluded, the Court gave a benediction to each of the assembled heroes, each save Thane. For Thane, they instead had one more revelation: Tytalos yet lived, and Thane would see him again soon.

With this, the party took their leave of the Court, and took a day to rest in Shae Mordai before heading to the Madwood, the twisted and warped forest where the Stillborn made their home. A quick teleport from Thane saw them at the far eastern side of the wood, a day’s journey from where the ruins supposedly lay. Setting into the twisted woods, the party was expecting anything. Anything but the small halfling and large tyrannosaur they met shortly upon entering. The halfling’s name was Sunrock, and he claimed that Eberron had sent him to the await the group here. She called out in pain, and these adventurers were at the heart of it. He had no idea what they were up to, but he knew he must aid them. Shrugging, the party accepted his aid. The Prophecy wills as it wills.

The madwood proved to be an utterly horrific journey, the forest warped by the close energies of the planes of Night and Chaos. After numerous disturbing encounters, the party opted to perform some aerial scouting. Thane eventually spotted the entrance to the ruins, and Sunrock called upon the spirits of the air to take the party swiftly there. The ruins were far from abandoned however, and the party was forced to deal with several Stillborn and a host of traps to make their way through them. at the bottom of the ruins lay a massive well, etched in runes. As the party entered the room with the well, the massive gates swung shut, and a monstrous form emerged. Great skeletal claws, encrusted with glittering jewels, gripped the edges of the well, and slowly a colossal skeletal dragon pulled itself from the well. “Who are you that dares trespass on the lair of the Emerald Claw? Who dares disturb me? You have the stink of the deathless about you. DIEEEEEE.” With that, battle was joined.

It was a fierce and brutal fight, and one that ended with Gildor lying unconscious on the ground and Fenian and Sunrock extremely wounded. Not once but twice did they have to do battle with the great dracolich, its rotting body continually reanimated by the necromantic powers that kept it from the Keeper’s grasp. Fenian’s slashing blades, Thane’s mighty magics, Thomas’s vicious fists, Gildor’s piercing arrows, and Sunrock’s elemental blows proved too much for the great dracolich, however, and it eventually fell long enough for Thane to grab its phylactery and make a run for the Sphere of Annihilation in the upper reaches of the ruin.

With the ancient dragon felled, Liara was able to heal Gildor, who then took Eternity’s Reach in hand. The third of the Destiny Arms had been found.

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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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V3C15 - Rumbles of the Next War
In which some of the Nine return to Sharn and learn tidings of immanent war.
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V3C14 - At Deathbringer's Door
In which the Nine make good on their promise to the drow and do battle with the Deathbringer.
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V3C13 - The Heart of the Sundering
In which the Nine come at last to Kadur-El, and acquire Prophecy's Forge
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V3C12: Home of the Fire Lords
In which the Nine become separated by unstable magics, and must make their way through a fire giant stronghold
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V3C11: On Fields of Ice
In Which the Nine journey to an ancient waygate, purported to lead to Kadur-El
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V3C10: The Halls of Making
In which the Nine find their guide to Kadur-El and learn the secret origins of the warforged
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V3C9: Children of the Scorpion God
In which the Nine encounter a drow tribe and learn of the Halls of Making
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