Avesta

Adventure Nine: Danger at the Arkane Akademy
Lost Secrets and Forgotten Pages

An official invitation has been delivered to your doors. The scholarly praise of the Arcane Akademy has selected you, petitioning your group to attend a lecture and forum to discuss the anatomy, behaviours and combat techniques of the Scathebeast. It seems news of your triumph in the dune sea has travelled fast, and many are interested in your encounter with the mythical monstrosity.

Keen to share your tales of heroism, hopeful in your ability to exchange such knowledge for money, or power, or an impressionable sorcerous student from the sorority, you all gather together to recount your memories at the Akademy.

An instructor, Tevors, meets you at the revolving gates of the Abu Ma’shar, ushering you within its rumbling walls. Polite and friendly, he takes you about a brief tour of the grounds, showing you areas you did not wander through during your last visit to Sahireen the Warder. The arboretum, the dormitories, the astrolabe and the Headmaster’s Hall are shown by your guide. You are introduced to a dozing headmaster, who cuts Tevors short with an angry bellow, sending you skittering out. It seems that the headmaster is not yet ready to participate in the forum, so Tevors instead directs you to an arcane duel some students are starting, to pass the time.

As a young swordmage adept squares off against an apprentice warlock, something stirs amongst the magical energies in the training fields. Sounds of whirring cogs and spinning metal drown out the clashes of dulled practice blades, as the practice mannequins suddenly burst to life, shaking off their binding schema and tearing themselves from their supports. Lunging violently at the students, the dummies knock a few to the ground before Elika and Sebastian can leap into the front line.

The animated machinations of the programmed warriors are no match for the battle-hardened combat experience of the heroes, as they are quickly smashed into the ground, battered and shattered. Tevors and a Tir wizard, Obrak, come rushing to protect the students and attend to the wounded.

Anger flares when Tevors confirms your suspicions, that this sort of malfunction has never happened before. Aych’s growing paranoia is barely kept in check as Tevors pontificates on a solution. The instructor informs you of a tome, Holman’s Treatise on the Imbuement and Maintenance of Armed Conflict Training Mannequins, deep within the Lost Secrets Library, that will shed some light on the original enchantments placed upon the practice mannequins. Tevors implores the party to seek the tome out while he attends to his students, and gives them a small crystal shard that will guide them to the Library to their destination.

Through sensations of warmth and chill, the guiding crystal leads you quickly through the first floor, which is a well-lit warren of book-filled nooks and crannies thoroughly seeded with comfortable chairs and desks. Once you reach the back stairwell, the journey becomes more surreal. The crystal guides you down several flights, then leads you out onto a floor that appears identical to the first floor but has no windows or students. It glides up a flight of stairs, into a small corridor that opens into another flight of stairs, and then down another two levels to a door.

Elika opens the door, as the rest of the group cautiously wander into the library. A large sphere set in the ceiling gives off a flameless glow, and the dry smells of cracked leather and ancient paper from the shelving in the walla nd the freestanding wooden cabinets hang in the air. The door slams shut behind Aych as she enters, and the room falls into complete darkness before the sphere in the ceiling flickers back to life, though it does not shine as brightly as before. A pair of luminescent eyes watches you through the gaps in the freestanding bookcases, and a chorus of whispered voices sounds in your ears, “I was never allowed to leave. Neither shall you be.”

Phasing through the walls and shelves, ethereal poltergesits hurl bolts of kinetic energy at you, smashing into the tall bookcases and toppling them over, covering Gavri’el in a shower of scattered parchments and chapters. The lithe elf leaps out from the mound of tomes, like a trapdoor spider, and joins with the Sarosh sorcerer in an artillery war, exchanging missiles with the ghosts. Sebastian and Elika struggle with the skirmishing spirits, pushing the other shelves to the ground to get a clear line of sight at the phasing assailers, and to protect themselves from the toppling tomes. As the last poltergeist is defeated, its insubstantial body collapses inward and manifests a thin book, which drops to the floor. Rejoicing, you move to pick it up, but are disappointed when it’s title does not match Holman’s tome that you seek.

Gavri’el’s keen eyes skim the book titles and spines, disqualifying any with titles too short or not correct, and finds the book in good time. Turning to leave, Aych finds the door sealed shut. Quickly identifying the magical aura around the door, the sorcerer skillfully unweaves the minor spell of binding that was used to seal the group inside the chamber; presumably until they starved and joined the poltergeists in death.

Stepping back out into the halls of the Lost Secrets Library, the group soon get lost and disoriented in the maze. Walking down flights of stairs brings them back into previously visited rooms, and corridors double back upon themselves. There are no windows to help guide their way, and the party are untrained in the ways to combat such dungeons. After a number of twists and turns, the group realises that the library is reacting to what the party says and does, such as putting them in a room with comfortable chairs when Sebastian complains of weariness. After some thought, you surmise that there must be some sort of guiding mind, one that can be fooled or dealt with perhaps.

Relying on her naturally deceptive mind, Aych bluffs the library, moving to open one door then dashing to another. After a few such tricks, the party finds a window through which they can climb to escape. Tumbling out of the library into the open air, you look up to find Obrak, the Tir wizard, standing above you, informing you that Tevors awaits the party at the arboretum, by the sundial.

The arboretum welcomes you with exotic foreign trees and bushes that exude several scents, some sharp and some soothing, and they are engaging to the eye. Even the small landscaped fen is pleasant to walk past. A short stone-and-brass sundial stands at a widening of the path ahead, and a bench stands near it, but there is no sign of Instructor tevors. Standing close to the sundial, you marvel at how time seems to slow down, but you do not have long to ponder this before Gavri’el shouts out an alarming warning.

Bark-skinned humanoids camouflaged against the bark of nearby trees and writhing masses of vines rise from the nearby swampy ground. From the fen erupts a shambling mound, flanked by vine horrors that send out shocking orbs of crackling energy. Elika engages with the plantoid brute, and suffers greatly from a heavy rain of blows, becoming enveloped within the beast countless times. Blades of grass shift, and the faintest ripple in the air precludes the lurking arborean reaper, who shifts in and out of visibility to harry the arcane heroes, stopping them from aiding their frontline fighters. The fight is tooth and nail, as the party struggle, but ultimately succeed agaisnt the surprise attack from the swamp.

It is obvious that something is not right, and you go searching for answers. The true perpetrator is unknown, as you consider two suspects. Is it Tevors that is trying to dispose of you, or is it the Obrak, who has directed you to danger ever since you met him? Asking a student at the administrative hall, you are told that Obrak is currently lecturing, and Tevors was last seen heading to an audience with Headmaster Marovic.

Choosing to question Tevors first, you dash towards the headmaster’s residence. Through the magister’s wrought-iron fence, you see a person in a heavy sky-blue robe standing over the headmaster, where a moment and a few steps ago you saw nothing. Though you can’t make out the details, something about the person looks askew. Moving about outside of the fence, the illusory effect comes and goes. Sending Nebrakazool forward, Dharzon uses his familiar to break through the threshold of the magical veil. Pushing forward past the gate, you can see now what bothered you about the person standing over the headmaster. Six thin, blue-skinned arms emerge from beneath the robe, two of which are tracing patterns in the air towards Marovic. The creature’s head looks completely alien as it turns toward you.

Fingers flash forward, signalling binding arts and evoking elemental forces. With deft strikes, the spell weaver touches Elika, banishing her to a mirrored plane. Sebastian hurls himself at the alien, but is promptly hurled aside by esoteric force, the blue-skinned controller blasting the warlord through the glass double-doors and skidding along the ground into the house.

Gavri’el skulks in the shadows as the weaver teleports up onto a balcony overlooking the courtyard, but is knocked off by an accidental, uncontrolled burst of wild chaos magic unleashed by Aych. Returning from her planar prison, Elika pushes through the house to the stairwell, joining with Sebastian in an effort to trap the alien inside the house. The surrounding wall of steel and iron poses little threat for the weaver, who continues to banish the fighters with binding signs.

Clearly targeting the arcane heroes, the spell weaver attempts to collect and harvest Dharzon’s arcane soul, but the eccentric Kshathran warlock’s mind is a puzzle the alien cannot fathom. Cornered and surrounded, the weaver fights back with repulsing blasts of force, flametrap invocations and chilling runes of arctic frost. Combining arcane and martial might, the party cleave through the alien’s six-arms, carving red slashes through its sky-blue robe, until it crumples to the ground. The fallen body of the weaver shimmers with chromatic light, as bright twinkling orbs spill out, pockets of extracted arcane energy returning to their original souls.

Marovic stands now by his own power, if only barely, and thanks the party. The magical veil now dropped, students and teachers rush to the residence to see what’s happening. Obrak is among the crowd, but Tevors is not. Examining the crumpled body of the weaver, Marovic finds a crumpled page, torn from Holman’s Treatise on the Imbuement and Maintenance of Armed Conflict Training Mannequins.

It seems the spell weaver had infiltrated the Abu Ma’shar, in an attempt to lurk within its feeding grounds, and collect arcane souls for its voracious appetite. Marovic had discovered the alien’s presence, but was caught off-guard by its strength and had been unprepared to fight off the weaver’s attacks while simultaneously trying to protect the students.

Once rested, the headmaster is able to hold the forum dsicussion on the Scathebeast as planned. The party hold an entire lecture hall entranced by their stories of battling the mythical beast amongst the shifting sands of the dune sea. You are rewarded with magical trinkets, training in many rituals and enchanted armour. The members of the Abu Ma’shar will not soon forget your deeds within the akademy’s walls.

Group XP: +1120 (9662 total)

Gold: +870 gp (3000 total)

Treasure: Summoned Hide Armour +2, Bracers of Archery, Gloves of Eldritch Admixture, Map of Orienteering

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Adventure Eight: The Catacomb of Koptila
Dark Sunrise

Shimmering strands of sunlight welcome you back home to Avesta, as you trek down from the eastern escarpment and stroll through the palm-lined streets. Hadaad the Ironfist, surrogate father of Sebastian, grasps his charge in a bearhug, and offers to set up the members of the adventuring group until such time as they can organize lodgings for themselves.

It only takes until the next morning, before you can wipe the last blurry smears of sleep from your eyes, for correspondence to arrive from the Sacred Flame, requesting the party to report on the Luca mission. Once again, you find yourself waiting at the sandstone steps of the holy Cathedral until a pair of robed acolytes gathers you into the glass church.

Ahead of you appears a nimbus of light, reflecting brilliantly through the mirrored hallways, growing in intensity until it is like an approaching inferno. From around the corner, a figure strides before you, tall and beautiful, a cascade of flaming hair trailing behind her that dances in the gloom, creating a playful performance of silhouettes against the walls. Sharp eyes regard you, as the girl steps over, clad in a uniform of pristine white shirt and jacket, with contrasting sections and designs of stitched black fabric. A bejeweled hilt sits within a silver scabbard slung casually at her hip, leather-gloved hands resting softly on the belt.

The acolytes escorting you through the Cathedral prostrate themselves immediately upon sighting the woman, uttering a short word of prayer.

The red-haired lady extends an arm, and speaks, her voice wry yet intense, friendly yet stern, “Please, rise from the floor. You can conduct great many works in the service of the Creator on two feet, rather than on your knees.” She nods to you each in turn. “Elika, Dharzon, Alheck, Sebastian and Hidnaan…” Upon spying the two latest additions to your adventuring party, she pauses briefly. “And for you two, who were not called here today, but I must thank equally for your aid in our mission, and its successful outcomes.” She steps past the group, and heads down the hallway in the direction you have just come from. You feel compelled to follow. “That will have to do for a show of gratitude for now, as pressing matters demand attention. Matters I think a group of individuals such as you are suited for.”

You find yourself descending the steps and exiting the Cathedral’s cloisters, as the lady leads you on, briefing you on a task upon your acceptance is already assumed. The blaze of her hair continues to leap behind her, like a burning rope. “Invokers from a small shrine of our Lord Ahura Vairya have attempted to augur a communion with a lesser Yazata, Koptila. Through deception and deceit, Koptila has hid its corruption from the priests, and now it attempts to piece together an existence within the shrine’s walls from which is can spread its malicious corruption.”

You have been walking through the streets of Jamaga Ward, surrounded by the monolithic constructions of the temples to the Amesha Spenta, and each space in between filled with bustling hawkers, doomsayers and philosophers. There is a cluster of robed clerics outside one of the smaller shrines, observing a few of their members attend to a warding glyph that covers the barricaded entrance. The facade is dominated by images of the rising sun, flaming orbs and the forever extending horizon.

“The people of Avesta are lucky to count amongst their number such daring heroes that have experience in fighting the unwanted minions of the corrupt Daeva. I trust you shall not disappoint them with failure.” There is a flash of a cheeky smirk on the flame-haired woman, so brief, you are not sure if it was just your imagination. The sealed doors lie before you, and the clerics huddle around the group, pressing you all closer to the barred entrance. The sound of chanting stops as the glyph is dispelled, and the doors swing outwards. The press of bodies pushes behind you, ushering you into the shrine.

The girl calls out to you just as the heavy doors slam shut, sealing you inside the temple. “The love of Avesta is earned through trial and fire. Trust in the Flame of the Church and the Flame Within, and it shall be returned.”

Aych grumbles in the darkness of the shrine’s antechamber, “Who in the Nine Hells is that bitch?” Elika’s reply confirms the suspicions of many. “Ignis. The Executor of the Sacred Flame.”

Feeling your way through the darkness of the chamber, Dharzon strikes a sunrod, and lowers it to the ground. For a moment, it seems like the rod moves by itself, squeaking intermittently, before you realize it is being carried by a enigmatic rat; the warlock’s new familiar, Nebrakazool.

Sliding open the chamber doors, the party enter a prayer room. The stone walls are patterned and engraved with images and aspects of the yazata, lesser deities of the sun and day, yet still resplendent and powerful, worthy of worship. As Elika pushes forward to the door leading further into the shrine, otherworldly whispers stop her in her tracks. What once appeared as flickering shadows, ghostly wisps shape and take form. Confused and surprised, glorious figures of astral beauty flourish into existence. Without the guiding knowledge of their divine companion, the group stay their weapons in caution. The beasts mean them harm however, and cry out, leaping at them with feathered arms that end in large, club-like fists, and hurl barbed, steel wings.

The warrior-lady engages and holds up the larger aspects, suffering a brunt of powerful blows, as the ranged fighters hurl bolts of martial and arcane fire from behind, ducking and dodging the dagger-like feathers flung at them. It is only mere minutes before the group triumph, and begin to delve further into the shrine. Scouting ahead, Hidnaan returns with news of the room beyond: more astral beings lie ahead, deep in prayer, chanting over a religious glyph.

Armed with this knowledge, the party surprise the maul-winged aspects. As they trade blows with the astral warriors, divine energies curse the group. Your feet feel heavy, and your physical and mental constitution is taxed. The longer you fight, more and more of your comrades are afflicted by the curse. Gavri’el keenly observes the flaming braziers at the back of the room, noticing that they flare each time one of the party receive the cursing weakness. The party fight through the pain, and focus their attentions on defeating the hulking maul-wings, pushing away the spinning flail attacks of the commanding chain-demon. The effects of Angra Mainyu’s corruption are more evident in these fallen beings, and it brings peace to your soul when you defeat their debased forms.

Triumphant, but still weakened from the curse, Gavri’el tries to step past the burning braziers, only to be smitten by astral fire. Together, the ranger and rogue deactivate the smouldering pyres, and discover compartments beneath containing healing salves. Runes inscribed upon the steps between the braziers are incomprehensible to the group, none of them trained in the divine histories and alphabets enough to decipher its meaning. The curse remains on them, as they slowly trudge forward past the extinguished braziers.

Stepping into the private chambers of the now-corrupted shrine, you stand before a crackling portal of blue energy. Two faceless giants stand guard, and assail you with meaty fists. From beyond the swirling monolith of energy appears a hollowed suit of armour, a cackling, fanged maw in the place where a normal creature’s stomach would be. The beast spews forth insults from its twisted mouth, inviting you to enjoy your demise at the hands of Koptila the Accursed. Still cursed and weakened, you now must fight an aspect of divine power, a corrupted yazata, a lesser daeva.

With a beckoning claw, the demon sends members of the party into the realm of shadow for a brief moment, long enough only to glimpse a tiny second of the horrors and nightmares of the place beyond, before transporting them back, into the center of the raging monolith, stripping them of their life force.

Cutting down the corrupted sentinels is wasted energy, as the hulks rise again from the energies of the crackling portal whenever they are cut down. Dharzon notices at the back of the chamber, a glowing sun icon, that shares the same arcane properties as the monolith. Sending his loyal servant forward, Nebrakazool darts ahead to dislodge the icon from its berth. Shifting through the fey portals, the warlock grasps the icon and hurls it into the maelstrom of corrupted magic. In an instant, the portal disappears, leaving the gloating Koptila now frothing with anger and rage.

Without caution or thought, the Accursed swings wildly, attempting to destroy the party, but without the monolith, its hold on the material plane becomes tenuous, as it begins to weaken. Pushing Koptila into a corner, the party launches their last vestiges of strength against the corrupted yazata. With a final, unhallowed howl, Koptila’s body becomes insubstantial, and swirls into its maw, like an imploding vortex.

Rummaging through the quarters of the shrine’s clerics, you take whatever spoils you deem valuable before slowly moving back to the entrance. The locked shrine doors now open for you, and you are welcomed by the soft evening light of Avesta. Ignis stands amongst a throng of priests, albeit a smaller group than what was gathered outside the temple when you entered. You later learn that the priests responsible for the failed communion that led Koptila into this realm have been disciplined through holy fire. Such is the penalty for those not vigilant against the deceptions of Mainyu.

Ignis acknowledges you with a nod, and turns to leave. You wonder if this had merely been a test of your skills, to see if you are worthy of the rewards of the Sacred Flame. The lack of any monetary compensation so far, makes you wonder even more.

Group XP: +975 (8542 total)

Gold: +750 gp (2130 total after equipment purchases)

Treasure: Crown of Infernal Legacy, Potions of Healing x2

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Adventure Seven: Clearing the Way
They see me Gnollin, they hatin... Patrolling, they tryin to catch me ridin dirty

The pangs of homesickness become unbearable as you spend more time in Luca. Amongst the cool sea breezes and the river-streets, you long for the harsh sun and the dry sand of Avesta. Not wanting to wait and see what new jobs might be offered should you hang around the water-city, you strap saddlebags to your steeds and head back out west, into the dune sea.

The sun begins to dip towards the horizon as you approach the first waystation along the highway, but something seems amiss. Only traffic leading out is seen, and the streets are hardly populated. Catching a civilian for a moment, Elika asks if anything is amiss. It appears that a protective ward has been stolen by raiding gnolls, and the people of the small waystation are keen to evacuate before the horrible roaming beasts of Navarre come to destroy the now-defenceless town. Not wanting to continue travelling after a full day, and never one to shy from an opportunity to fight and profit, you seek out the town’s leader.

Captain of the City Watch, Huhtamaki, explains the events of the past two days. A magical artefact, the Thurible of Proksha, had been gifted to the town generations ago by the Church of the Sacred Flame. It’s sweet scent had protected the waystation from a Scathebeast, a legendary destroyer that shifts through the sands. The other night, raiding gnolls had stormed the belltower and stolen the Thurible. With the implication that many merchants and townsfolk would shower gifts upon any saviours of the day, Gavri’el goes about tracking down the gnoll’s direction of attack and leads the party off into the desert to find their lair.

Spying cuts in the rocky cliffs in the distance, the group approaches a weathered entrance into the earth. The stinging sound of approaching missile-fire brings you to attention, as you call a charge upon the gnoll’s guards, spurring forward under a hail of arrows. Elika wades in, Hidnaan nimbly following, tearing into the mottle-furred fiends with vicious slices. Aych lays down suppressing bolts of chaos magic, as Gavri’el dashes towards the cliff face, hurling himself against the sandstone walls. Dharzon weaves veils of illusion about him, disappearing from view before striking out at the assailing archers as Gavri’el spies a precariously positioned boulder. Slamming into the stone with full force, the big rock tumbles down, smashing into the marauding gnolls below.

With a maniacal cackle, Aych overreaches into the primordial chaos, and draws too much power, sending a dazzling burst of magic that sends a gnoll hunter twirling through the air. As the archer struggles to get to its feet, an elven ranger leans over, and staples its head to the rocky ground. Dharzon disappears from view for a second, then reappears, bleeding. There are more gnolls inside, obviously, but now they are ready.

The protective metal-encased form of Elika strides into the dim caverns, and is soon beset upon by ravenous claw fighters and a howling gnoll fighter, frothing at the mouth and striking with demonic strength. Elika falters, falling to the ground from the focussed attacks, and the group hurry to return fire. A bloody skirmish plays out amongst the murky darkness, as clashes of steel ring out and echo deep into the caves. Haggard and tired, you prevail, and take a moment to wipe your blades and explore.

Stepping up a natural staircase, you find the gnoll’s cache of victuals and treasure. No doubt, stolen items from the waystation, and of significant monetary worth, the Thurible of Proksha is no where to be found. The artefact, and more gnolls, must lay further within the cavern.

The path twists and turns, splitting up. The stealthier members scout ahead, and find a hyena pit, filled with prowling dogs and the bloody corpses of human victims. Hurling ranged attacks at the hyenas causes them to bark furiously and scamper out of sight. The fight, it seems, needs to be brought to them.

Leaping down, Sebastian and Elika take point, manoeuvring around to aid the rogue’s eviscerating cuts. A deep growl trembles from a dark corner, as a huge hyena pads towards you, acidic gas emanating from its patchy fur, crinkling your nose with its foul odour. A decorated packmaster whips the hyenas on, whirling a terrible three-headed flail about its head before pouncing into battle.

The ranger sends off a wickedly barbed bolt at the large hyena, snaring its hindlegs with a paralytic poison. Dharzon makes a pact with the stars, bringing forth cosmic energies to create a swirling vortex of negative energy, cutting off the cacklefiend hyena from the rest of the pack. Split off from his pets, the packmaster strikes left and right, Elika keeping his attention with well-time strikes and taunts. Sebastian wraps his spiked chain around the hyena’s necks like a barbed collar, as Hidnaan slices away at the packmaster’s unprotected hide. It isn’t long before the gnoll falls, leaving you to pick your way through the corners of the pit and find the Thurible.

Triumphant, you head back to the waystation, but yet again you are greeted by unwelcome signs. Smoke and dust rise up in swirling plumes as the ground shakes beneath you. Ahead, you catch a glimpse of a scaled behemoth bursting from the sand, smashing into the side of a building. Artefact or not, the town will get destroyed before the Thurible’s incense can effect the Scathebeast.

Grabbing the burner, Dharzon dashes off to place it in the waystation’s belltower receptacle, as the rest of the group stride forward to engage the monster. Rising from the shifting sands, the Scathebeast slams two gigantic claws upon the party, splitting them up. Elika engages the beast’s head, keeping it in place long enough to leap into its maw and sunder a long, jagged tooth off.

As more and more blows are traded, the abominable scale hide of the beast appears to resist your attacks with greater and greater effectiveness. The variability is soon solved by the astute minds of the battle-hardened party, as they split their fire. Aych reaches into the wild aether and adjusts the spell source linked to his form, resonating with psychic power before hurling a brilliant burst of concentrated power into the beast’s gnashing muzzle. Reeling back in pain, the Scathebeast submerges it’s face, and it isn’t long before you wound the raking claws that the fell-beast withdraws completely, retreating off below the shifting dune seas.

Huhtamaki praises you for your work and urges all the returning merchants who are now safe to stay within the waystation to gift the party with a token of appreciation. Already, you are starting to feel better, and you’re not even all the way home yet.

Group XP: +750 xp (7567 total)

Gold: +1000 gp (3560 total)

Treasure: Deathcut Leather +1, Ironskin Belt, Scathebeast Fang

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Adventure Six: Under Luca
Tomb Raiding

With the lizardfolk tribes scattering, the party leaves the southern swamplands a little safer and calmer. Returning to the water city of Luca, Gavri’el requests a brief moment to conclude some business. Mystic totem retrieved, the ranger sends word to his employer, Octavio ‘Otto’ Mezzini, a rich merchant with a collector’s eye and a passion for the ancient.

They are invited to Otto’s palatial estate, where the collector thanks them for their hard work and offers a second task, should they like. Agreeing, the group follow Otto’s entourage along the twisting canals and waterstreets of Luca, entering a locked off yard surrounded by crumbling, derelict remnants of the old town. Descending into a flooded basement, they are lead through a freshly excavated cavern to an unexpected sight: a looming blackstone vault, guarded by draconic statues and scribbled with ancient writ. Otto deciphers what words he can upon the portal, explaining that entombed inside is possibly a member of the mysterious and unknown race that constructed these ancient buildings. All he wishes is to add the remains of whatever creature lays inside; anything else of value he rewards to the party.

Discovering that the magical essence within the lizard shaman’s totem resonates with the arcane wards upon the vault, Sebastian, Alheck and Dharzon solve the coloured code and open the entrance. As the vault’s slab grinds slowly open, the guardian statues spring to life, whipping and smashing the group with their blackstone tails. Disposing of the sentinel behemoths, the party slowly, and cautiously, move into the vault under directions of Otto.

Through the twisting tunnels, glowing softly with eternal azure light, the elves scout ahead, ambushing a room full of vipers and adders. The snakes counterattack, the deathrattles on their tails striking fear into the frontline, as before unseen vipers slither up from behind from unexplored corridors. Retreating, Dharzon summons a void of cosmic energy, creating a bottleneck that the snakes are destroyed within. When no more sounds of ripping reptile flesh are heard, they charge onwards, clearing the rest of the level of fork-tongued beasts, with Gavrie’el stapling the serpentine bodies to the ground with his swift crossbow shots. Littered along the blackstone floors are bones and skeltons of an old race, draconic but humanoid in form, but more reptilian and larger than those of the Kshathra bloodline. Strangely, each skull is punctured by a hole near the temple, as if something from within the head has exploded outwards.

Only one pair of stairs lead downwards, and the elves once more step softly ahead. Thick, sticky webs begin to rope across the passages, hampering progress. Sebastian hurls a scorching burst of magical fire into a corridor of silk. As it catches alight and burns away slowly, the group take an alternate route, finding a locked stone door. Listening, there is only silence, and Elika smashes through.

Sitting silently in the center of the room, in front of a large sarcophagus, is a reptilian figure, grey scales covering its bare torso, it wears a pair of tattered purple trousers. Two long claws protrude from each of its forearms, as golden eyes gape open widely, unblinking, a tiny pinprick of a pupil dancing maddeningly around in each eye. Now and then, the figure blinks out of existence, before reappearing an instant later.

Hands resting on hilts, they hesitantly speak to the creature. The grey thing speaks like an infant, childlike and erratic in its deperation and frustration at it’s situation, continually phasing in and out of view. In third person, Tad explains his plight, having been born in this tomb, created by its enemies, and being too weak to take on the ‘eight-legs’ to the south, where Tad is certain he can leave this place. The group agree to clear away the spiders, in return for the sarcophagus and it’s contents, which Tad refers to as its ‘cradle’.

Striding south, the confuscating webs now burnt back, a sunrod is thrown down the hallway to illuminate the spider’s den. Chittering swarms of bloodweb arachnids surge across the floor, as Elika and Sebastian press forward to block the hallway. Unseen deathjump spiders come out from behind the pillars, and leap over the heads of the frontline fighters, bring death from above as they constantly pounce on the arcane and divine heroes, pushing them to the floor and raking them with venomous barbs. Elika holds back the swarms, as the strikers focus their attacks on the larger deathjumps, eliminating them one at a time. Alheck and Dharzon struggle under the blows of the eight-legs, as Aych lends a helping hand, transferring poison resistance to the cleric as he consecrates the ground with divine energies. Sebastian regals the troops with inspiring cries, as Gavri’el’s enchanted gauntlets hums with violent power, cutting through the swarms of spiders. With the arachnid menace disposed of, the party take a swatch of spider silk for selling later, and return to Tad to report their success.

Tad grins gleefully, and phases towards the door. With a knowing tap to the temple as it exits, Tad looks forward to seeing them later. Opening the sarcophagus, the party find the remains of another draconic skeleton, covered by an enchanted cloth, also sporting the same cranial fractures exhibited on the other reamins found throughout the tomb. Their misson accomplished, the group haul the coffin up to Otto. As they ascend back up to the canal roads of Luca, many of you can’t help but wonder how Tad exited the tomb, as Otto saw no-one come through the vault, and where and what exactly the ‘homeland’ that Tad spoke of is.

With extra coins in their purses and a healthy haul of treasure, Luca holds nothing more for the group to do at this time; and it would be best if they trekked back home to Avesta to report and be debriefed by the Sacred Flame on their triumph in the marshlands with Jessef, Emma and Rylaaf.

Group XP: +800 xp (6817 total) Treasure: Flamesnake Scale (Fireflower Pendant +1), Death Rattle , Battle Standard of Healing Gold: 510 gp (2560 gp in total)

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Adventure Five: Saving Private Rylaaf
A Tromp in the Swamp

As heroes, and purifiers of the Via Purifica, the party are summoned to the Cathedral of the Sacred Flame. Acolytes usher the group through the reflective, mirrored halls and cloisters of the Order, leading them to an audience with Justicar Rahim, a dark, rotund warrior of the pen. He outlies the next task for the group, a command rather than a question. You are to travel east to the marshlands of southern Luca and find the lost scouts of the Order, and retrieve their report.

Only a brief stopover at Luca is allowed, the city will have to welcome your exploration another time, as you delve into the damp mangrove swamps of the Luca shoreline, in search of the Sacred Flame reconnaisance team of Jessef, Emma and Rylaaf. The terrain hampers and impedes the party, as they get disoriented and lost, tripping and tumbling down a slope, right into an ambushing party of lizardfolk drakeriders. Shamanistic rituals bog the ground, grasping with roots and toxic clouds, whilst greenscaled soldiers dart and attack the group. Sebastian drags a rider to the ground, mounting its steed, and enjoys a ferocious romp around the countryside whilst Dharzon is entangled by a patch of daggerthorn, its fey tendrils ripping the dragonborn’s reptilian hide.

Battered and bruised, the party disaptch the lizardfolk patrol, and examine the ancient blasted stone ruin they have been fighting amongst. Hidnaan avoids a pit trap, whilst Elika is almost entangled by a lightning lure… both traps set up by two mysterious figures that have just appeared. Quick words from both sides reveal that the group have finally met up with the scouts, Jessef and Emma. The third, Rylaaf, seems to be in a spot of trouble, having been captured by lizardfolk whilst spying on their tribal activities.

Rylaaf has been kept in an ocean cage, left to die as the tide drowns the shore. Jessef and Emma lead the party quickly to the watery tomb, and they find it luckily unguarded. Thin threads of life still cling to Rylaaf’s body as they retrieve him, but your presence has been noticed by the scavenging beasts of the marshes, as wave after wave of predators try to feast upon the ragged troupe. Visejaw crocodiles and tangler beetles attempt to grab and maul, while a shambling mound envelopes with its twisting tendrils as vine horrors blast the party with barbed thorns. Elika’s shield and Hidnaan’s flashing rapier are joined by Jessef’s striking spellsword, Alheck’s divine lances of faith are outshone by Emma’s volley of arrows, and Dharzon amazingly tags an enemy, sending them both into the sky on arcane wings, before teleporting back to safety and watching the poor vine horror take the more natural, and deadly, way back to earth.

A brief sojourn inbetween the waves of assailants brings a small respite, as Sebastian cheers the group on with inspiring words, a dark cloud tears across the sky and crashes into the water. A swarm of drakes and pseudodragons distract the party while the shadowy orb lurks and attacks from within its cage of darkness. Emma and Jessef combine their skills to trap, and pull the black beast from its zone of darkness, revealing horrific form of a young black dragon. With the very last vestiges of their strength, the group are able to dig their magic and blades into the winged terror, and much to the relief of all, no more beasts are forthcoming from the shadows of the marshes.

Retreating back to their camp, the party tend to Rylaaf’s wounds until he is stable. A few whispered words escape the scout’s lips before falling back into unconsciousness. Jessef purses his lips, and relays the message to the rest of you. ‘They’re summoning something.’ It looks like the mission isn’t quite over yet.

Under the cover of darkness, the party set off to observe the gathering of the lizardfolk tribes. Rising from the marshland, a blackstone temple stands sentinel amidst the makeshift camps of the scaled clans, its ancient walls glowing in the night’s gloom as green magical energies spiral around its zenith. Whatever the lizardfolk are doing, it’s being done in the temple. Still weak from their time and trials in the swamps, the Sacred Flame scouts are not suited to a blitz on the black ruins, instead leaving to lay a perimeter of traps and hazards that will ensure a safe exit for the group when, or if, they stop whatever is being summoned.

Through stealth, perception and intuition of the camp’s layout, the party are able to reach the foot of the temple with minimal trouble. They are discovered by a dark figure, an elven ranger who’s business luckily complements the party’s. Together, Gavri’el assists the party to break into the blackstone tabernacle, storming through a legion of redscaled warriors.

A central chamber sits, blockaded and blocked, until Elika and Sebastian hurl aside the debris and smash through what remains of the door. The darkness within suddenly bursts into flame, as a horned demon assails them with sorcerous fires. Blows are traded, until there is an overwhelming sense that something is not quite right, and a brief ceasefire is called; the horned creature is infact a member of the Sarosh bloodline, trapped by the lizardfolk just days before. Acknowledging their common enemy, and the need to stop whatever rituals are being performed by the marsh mystics above, Aych tags along as the group presses through the blackstone halls, dispatching a group of blackscaled brutes and mystic sentinels in a holy hall, before sliding the room’s parts around to open the portal leading outside to the roof. Taking weapons from the hands of heroic statues lining the walls, they sprint upwards to stumble upon the summoning ritual.

A magical circle surrounded by chanting shamans, encouraged on by a hulking lizard chieftan, Alheck can see that the energies within the ritual’s ward are barely being contained. The group target the shamans, attempting to interrupt the ritual through copious slaughter. Panicking, the chieftain hurls himself into the volatile energies in the summoning circle, where his form absorbs the corrupted power of a summoned daeva. However, the ritual is incomplete, as the final shamans are cut down, and the waystones that feed energy to the circle crumble beneath the crushing blows and precision shooting of the party’s strikers. As the summoning fails, the unholy energies tear apart the chieftain’s fell-form, and drag it down within the void, destroying the summoning circle.

The ritual stopped, the combined lizardfolk tribes leaderless, they begin to panic and fight amongst themselves once more; any fleeing scaed beasts getting caught within the traps laid by Jessef, Emma and Rylaaf. Picking up a marsh mystic’s totem for an assured reward back in Luca, the party make a hasty retreat to rendezvous with the scouts. Whatever infernal avatar of destruction the mystics were trying to summon, its corruption won’t be felt in this land for now.

Group XP: +1392 xp (6017 total). Ding level 5!

Treasure: Horned Helm, Inspiring Spike Chain +2, Luckbender Gloves, Medic’s Bow +2, Determined Javelin +2

Gold: +770 gp from salvaged equipment off lizardfolk (2050 gp in total)

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Adventure Four: Via Purifica
Descent into Crisis

A drunken sighting of the undead spurs the adventurers in a hunt for answers. Searching for the source of the reanimated dead, they find a hidden entrance to the Via Purifica, a network of waterways beneath northern Avesta.

The stoneworked channels are infested with danger. The party combat festering zombies above an underground lake and assault a swarm of lycanthropic rats while temporary rivers burst forth at the turn of a switch as they search for the missing lever parts to repair the central sluice-gate control so they can fully explore the waterways and locate the truth behind the undead’s creation.

Their progress is halted after a skirmish with a skeleton host, needing to retreat briefly to recover their energies after being immolated by blazing skeletons and weakened by exploding bursts of boneshard. Closing the sluice gates behind them, with the lever mechanism still incomplete, the party rest up for another foray into the descrated Via Purifica.

Ambushed by ochre antagonists, the party find a third level in the spattered fluids of their victory. The sluice gate rumbles open, allowing further discovery of the waterways. Following the path of the flowing waters, once again the group find themselves locked in combat with the undead. Alheck commands and rebukes the abominations of life, while Elika and Sebastian methodically clip the wings of the rotwinged zombies. A well placed push by Hidnaan collapses a damaged pillar, sending it crushing down, almost destroying the corrupted artillery corpse that had been perched upon it.

Unlocking an iron door, the party move through the service ways of the Purifica now, and stumble upon a gigantic well, a deep pit that streams with sheets of water that heap pile upon pile of refuse within a shallow pool. As bones clatter to unlife, a slavering Otyugh almost seperates the party, but not before the group rallies and dispatches the tentacled threat.

One gate stands in the party’s way now, blocking them from the truth of the undead source. Powerful energies shield the gate from entry, and the party are forced to seek help and advice from the Abu Ma’shar, the Arcane Akademy. The raven haired abjurer, Sahireen, points the group towards Crisis Energy, an unfinished theory that combines the three power sources of martial, divine and arcane in a volatile manner. The only wizard who had any success in attempts to control the energies created through pushing them beyond crisis, has long been banished from the streets of Avesta, Sahireen explains.

The banished wizard, Kalarel, and his studies on Unified Field Theory and Crisis Energy are the best bet for the group if they are to dispel the protective ward placed within the Via Purifica.

The party wander the Gha’yit Plains and find a crumbling hovel amongst the dune sea. A quirky magical lock barrs entry, but with some ingenious reworking Hidnaan’s nimble fingers are able to redirect the magical energies to allow safe passage.

Inside they discover Kalarel’s last residence, full of scattered writings, magical implements, and his Crisis Engine. The Engine requires a specific method to imbuing it with the powers necessary to engage crisis energy, however the layout of the hovel makes it seemingly impossible to do. After searching the rooms thoroughly, the group discover a hidden passageway leading out of Kalarel’s bedroom.

While Sebastian enjoys a casual spliff outside, the rest of the party venture downwards into a basement filled with statues which suddenly come to life. While Hidnaan unlocks the door behind them to secure an escape route, Dharzon realises that Elika has been possessed by a ghostly warrior. Avoiding the sweeping arcs of the large statue in the centre of the room, Alheck and Dharzon hinder and combat the ghost with their arcane and divine magiks. The warlock knowingly wanders staright into another trap, comfortable in the knowledge he might just teleport back out. Sebastian finally arrives to aid the party in dismantling the last of the traps, and the remnants of the phantom assailant prove useful for the rogue’s stealthy arts.

With the secret passage discovered, the orbs of energy necessary to power the Crisis Engine are now able to be moved around in the proper order. With the device now powered up, the party have something they can dispel the ward barring their way in the Via Purifica.

Upon returning to Avesta, it seems as though word of the undead menace in the waterways has gotten out, and the inquisitors of the Order of the Sacred Flame have begun to make accusations of House Kshatrath. The group hurry back into the Via Purifica, knowing that finding the true source of the necrotic beasts will stop any outbreak between the two factions.

Placing the Crisis Engine in front of the ward, the grroup stand back as it expells a burst of unified energy, breaking the limits on the ward. What lays beyond the massive gate seems to be a cathedral, constructed perhaps as a place of worship for the artisans and stonemasons who constructed the waterways. The holy ground of the World Dragon has been desecrated however by the workings of unseen magics, as the group are beset by vampire spawn, phantom warriors, the blinding darkness of a creeper and a gaunt, shadowy figure.

The party’s assumptions that the robed wight is the creator of all this unhallowed power are proven wrong when it falls all too easily to their blades. All that remains is the gaping pit before them, the only way down to slide on blood-slick chains.

Some slide down more gracefully than others, as they descend into a into a phantasmal nightmare. The very air seems insubstantial, as if the energies swirling around are trying to change the form of every one and every thing within it.

Kalarel introduces himself to the party in a friendly, if eccentric, manner. His form shifts and phases in and out of existence, his words sometime sprouting as flowers, his steps echoing as bells, his fingers turning into slugs, or knives, or a trumpet.

‘It’s been a difficult road.. it’s not easy to CREATE crisis energy, let alone HARNESS it. I’m close though, I can feel it! Imagine the possibilities, being able to control the potential of our own forms, our own energies! Man could fly, sand could taste like chocolate, rivers could be scultped to our design, mountains created to shield us from desert storms… But there have been accidents. Miscalculations.’

He indicates to his own body as an example. ‘I can’t continue examining crisis control like this, so I need a new body.’

In a matter-of-fact manner, he explains his experiments and attempts with biothaumaturgy, remaking his body, and vampirism, and how his form was too insubstantial to simply recreate, or for the curse of vampirism to take a hold upon him. ‘This lead me to soul transfer! But necromancy isn’t exactly the most written about subject of interest, so I had to start from scratch. I’d heard tales of arcane tomb guardians, the lichs, containing their souls within phylacteries, protecting their essences while maintaining a separate body with which to interact with the world. Worth a shot, don’t you think?’

While some members toy with the idea of helping Kalarel for suitable rewards, others are steadfast in their ideals, and condemn his actions. Getting increasingly agitated with the party’s inability to share his vision, Kalarel screams at them and begins to hurl crisis energy around. Ghouls and wights materialise from the shifting vortexes of insubstantial energy filling the room, and Kalarel retreats into a swirling portal of pure crisis, feeding off it’s energies, making him stronger but more uncontrolled as his potential forms continue to attack his existence.

The fight goes down to the wire, as Elika falls, to be brought back by the inspiring words and divine glow of Sebastian and Alheck. The ghouls assail the group, gnawing on flesh, but once the party are able to focus their attentions fully upon the twisting, shifting, phasing form of Kalarel, they tear apart his body until all that remains is crisis. With a howling surge, the energies filling the room begin to twist and bend reality. Smartly, the party run like buggery, flinging themselves up the chains to escape Kalarel’s laboratory as the volatile energies fold inwards on themselves, imploding until all that remains is what existed before: a cathedral catacomb.

The party ascend from the Via Purifica as heroes, Alheck’s warning letter having reached the Sacred Flame in time to stop matters before they got out of hand. All food, drink and entertainment is spread before the group, as the revelry continues well into the next morning. Sebastian stumbles home, a little paranoid, being careful not to fall into any more ditches lest he find another undead ghoul.

Group XP: +1700 (4625 total) Treasure: Amulet of Health +1, Boneshard (necrotic Crafting Material), Potions of Healing x2, Ghost Shroud (acts as Elven Cloak +2), Deathlock Wightblade (Lifedrinker Rapier +1) Rituals: Gentle Repose, Secret Page, Eye of Alarm, Knock, Magic Circle, Raise Dead. Crafting: Martial Orb, Arcane Orb, Divine Orb. Gold: +800 gp reward from the Sacred Flame (1180 gp in total, no more debt)

Note: The orbs are from the crisis engine, and as such are quite powerful but very volatile. You do not know any crafters with the skill to work these items at the current time, nor do you know what properties they might imbue.

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Side Quest One: Stars
Somewhat similar to Assassin's Creed

Celebrating the success of their recent exploits, the group enjoy a night on the piss. Unable to stagger all the way home, Elika and Dharzon elect to crash in the spare room at Hadaad’s.

Moments before dawn, their repose is disturbed, as a shadowly figure steals out of the room. Leaping into action, the pair realise there gear is missing, or rather, taken. Leaping (or teleporting) from the balcony, the warrior and warlock give chase. The thief darts over a city wall, leaving the pair to scrabble at the stone walls until they smash through the sturdy wooden gates to continue the pursuit. Elika’s athleticism keeps her up to speed with the fleeing rogue, with Dharzon not far behind as they enter a stone quarry in the Shemesh Ward just as the sun begins to rise.

Leaping and bounding across the scaffolding, the nimble thief was about to get away when a well-aimed eldritch blast disintegrates the supports of a scaffold, sending the thief tumbling to the ground. Gaining some ground, the pair almost catch up with their target, but they stumble into a marketplace and lose sight of the assailant. Jumping on top of a food stall, Dharzon attempts to get a better view of the environs, but only succeeds and scaring the bejeezus out of the simple farmers. The scattering merchants has the unintended benefit of dispersing the crowd, allowing them to pinpoint their quarry again. As the thief leaps onto a departing ferry, Elika rushes the long way around across the oasis bridges, but the thief is gone, disappeared through a magical portal through a wall.

Falling back on their rough-housing ways, the pair terrorise an innocent housewife and are almost arrested by the city watch. Using their wits, they approach their contacts in the mercantile world, Herzog and Jhaarkin, in an attempt to explain who might have stolen their equipment, why, and where they could be found. All the clues point to one organisation: the Stars of Shilavahr.

Dharzon enlists the services of House Sarosh, and gleans a cryptic clue from the tiefling diviner Archarazeel, that a red ribbon will lead them to their possessions. With their eyes firmly on the look out for such an item, after almost a full day’s fruitless searching, they find a tapestry and cloth merchant who wears a red ribbon around his neck, almost completely hidden by his large, bushy beard. Elika bluffs a password, and they are welcomed to see the ‘back room’.

What they enter is no ordinary place, but an illusory meeting place in between dimensions. They are approached by a changeling, who congratulates them on finding the Stars, and explains the way things work around here. For the Stars to give something, they must first take: Dharzon and Elika must prove their worthiness or receiving their gear back through a trial.

A magical riddle door, a timed flame trap, and a raging drake encounter later, the pair reclaim their weapons and armour, and find themselves on the streets of Avesta once more. The doppleganger appears for a moment to welcomes them as members of the Stars, before disappearing once more.

Group XP: +550 (2985 total) Treasure: -1000 gp to be paid back to Herzog in full, least you incur outrageous compunding interest increases.

Affiliation with the Stars of Shilahvar: basically the Stars are your side quest providers. They might give you tasks, such as hunts, escorts, assassinations, item retrieval, and will reward items of worth for the party in accordance to the difficulty of the tasks performed. This effectively opens up any item for ‘purchase’ to the party, but only if you can complete the task required for whatever items or services you may want.

If you want anything that is out of reach through normal means (too rare/difficult for normal Avesta merchants, or other NPCs, to provide) then send me a msg and I’ll devise a quest for you guys to earn it. Likewise, if you feel like hunting a specific type of monster, I can set it up through the Stars also.

The way I’m thinking adventures might go now are regular adventures are mainly aimed at gaining XP, gold and reputation, whereas side quests from the Stars are for trophies, services and specific equipment.

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Adventure Three: Ruby in the Rough
Banditos!

Elika presents the group with an interesting task, to respond to the bandits that have been harrowing merchants on the roads to Avesta. Asking the right questions unravels some rumours how the merchant who posted the bill, Herzog, is a jewel trader who knows a few was to avoid the trade tariffs.

A meeting with Herzog reveals that part of his secret to success lies in hidden paths and unknown treks that allow some caravans to travel unnoticed from the highway waystations. The group concludes that it is on one of these paths that the bandits likely assailed Herzog’s caravan, and agree to ‘look into it’ for the merchant, and retrieve his cargo, specifically a large ruby of some personal significance.

Posing as a caravan, the group set off into the dune sea, following the decriptions given by Herzog to find one of the secret paths. The bandits spring an ambush upon the group, and after a hard fight, the party is routs the bandits and claim a captive. Through interrogation, they find the location and rough layout of the bandit camp.

Stealthily, the group enter the bandit’s hideout, and rush the guards posted there (not before Elika takes a dip in a kiddy pool full of reptiles). Continuing the raid on the encampment, they bust through a torture room and dispense of a frothing berserker and his halfling thieves. Sebastian drunkenly dons the torturer’s armour and asks if it makes his butt look big.

In one of the cells they find Abdullah, who was the driver of Herzog’s last caravan. Thankful to be released, Abdullah warns the group from entering the last cell, as the bandits often threatened to throw him to the beast that lurked there. While not sure, he believes the leader of the bandits is a magic weilder of some sort, who keeps the others in line through threats of summoning his ‘pet’.

The party is hurting badly from their encounters with the bandits, and decide to get Abdullah to safety, and perhaps rest up before assaulting the final leg of the base. Hopefully, there are not more warriors on the way, or the bandits don’t clear everything out before the party can regroup to mount a second assualt. Time will tell!

After nursing some wounds and catching their breaths, the party snuck back into the bandit’s camp… only to find it near deserted, the bandits seemingly retreated with the majority of their stolen stash. Happy to explore the empty encampment, the party delved into a natural cavern below the jail cells, and awoke a large blue slime. Despite it’s stench, Elika drew it’s attentions and defended against the barrage of slimy tentacles, shielding the party from harm as they took it down.

Wanting to check out the warehouse that had been built up atop the rock, the group climbed through the stronghold, up to the wooden walkway leading to the main hall. Bursting through, unfortunately not all members were able to avoid an enchanted sigil that cursed their hearts with the cold grip of terror. While some fled, others held their ground against the last remaining bandits, commonded by a mage, his summoned Evistro demon ‘pet’, and an apprentice caster. In a hard slog, Dharzon was able to magically lure the summoner from his perch, into the waiting blades of Sebastian, Hidnaan and Elika.

Searching the last remains of the bandit’s stash, the party found a peculiar hint: many crates being rebranded with the name ‘Jhaarkin’. Returning to Avesta and speaking with Herzog, they learnt that Jhaarkin was another merchant trader, also operating in Avesta. Discretion being the key, lest the city watch or the inquisitors of the Silver Flame learn of the untaxed goods being moved around and confiscate them, Herzog encourages the party to find a way to enter Jhaarkin’s holdings and liberate his prize jewel.

Tailing a suspicious caravan through the back streets near Jhaarkin’s main housing bays, Hidnaan and Dharzon botch a casual diplomatic attempt of pick-pocketing, and as always, the party reverts to the effectiveness of violence. Clearing out the halfway house, a thorough search leads to the discovery of a trapdoor. Opening it, the party gaze into the darkness of an underground tunnel. Does it lead to a back entrance of Jhaarkin’s warehouses, or do traps and guards await the foolish?

Descending into the darkness beneath the trap door, lighting a sunrod, Dharzon leads the group through the excavated smuggler’s trail until they notice a wooden plank slipped into the ceiling. Cautiously, Alheck climbs out and, with keen elven perception, surveys the large, cluttered warehouse they have arrived at.

A few elven mercenaries guard the stockpiles, but their casual attentions are eluded by the party as they stealthily pick through the piled up crates, boxes and sacks. Unfortunately Alheck tests his luck, and stumbles too close, alerting the guards. A brief skirmish between the aisles and impromptu crated laneways is no difficulty for the party, but it may have created difficulty down the line, with the alarm now raised.

Moving through the storehouse, they ignore the locked holding cells and safes in adjoining hangers, but make their way up the stairs to a heavy set of mahogany double-doors… and are greeted by a pleasant voice coming from inside.

The merchant Jhaarkin welcomes the party into his opulent den; a tapestried alcove of treasures, drapery, sweet incense and mechanical toys. Two iron defenders, metallic homonculus hounds, stir at his feet while he offers the party employ, admiring the abilities and tenacity that have allowed the group to make such trouble for the businessman’s operations. The group reject Jhaarkin’s proposition, not on any moral grounds, but holding to their strong work ethic of honouring the current contract with Herzog. Jhaarkin, realising the adventurers can be written off as a bad debt now, concedes that he might just have to kill them all.

Jhaarkin surprises the party, throwing back his hood to reveal the curled horns of a member of the Sarosh bloodline, and attacks them with eldritch incantations and infernal power. Small homunculi harrow the party as they attempt to advance on the warlock-merchant, who releases balefire on the group. Without reinforcements however, Jhaarkin is unable to hold out forever, and is eventually cornered and forced to surrender.

Bartering for his life, Jhaarkin relinquishes the ruby he ‘acquired’ from Herzog. As an offer of good faith, to ensure that he holds no grudge in business, Jhaarkin strikes a deal with the party, allowing them to call on his resources to acquire items that are not readily available in the common marketplace.

Herzog rewards the party handsomly for the return of his items, and is doubly pleased to learn that by leaving Jhaarkin alive, they have hidden the events and dealings of the tax-avoiding merchants from the eyes of the inquisitors and judges of the Sacred Flame. Trade will continue, and items of worth may flow into the city untaxed, and discounted for the party now that the group ensured the authorities remain in the dark.

Group XP: +1,190 (2,435 total… congratulations level 3!) Treasure: Amulet of Protection +2, ‘Kalifah’ (Rod of Corruption and Witchfire), Swatch of Darkleaf, Bracers of Mighty Striking, Bag of Holding, Potions of Healing x2

Party Gold: 600 gp (after purchases)

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Adventure Two: Kruthik Crushing
Not your average cockroaches

Storming across the desert, a swarm of stirge attacks the open plains of southern Avesta. Rushing to aid the defence, the PCs are surprised by the emergence of a huge sandworm. Luckily a Vahman sorcerer, Lindel Serpentsurge, appears to provide deus ex machina and drives the worm off.

Lindel informs the party that the worm’s disturbance is probably caused by a premature expiry of a protective ward placed within the Kruthik hive adjacent to the worm’s lair, and employs the group to restore the ward’s energies.

Fighting through a swathe of critters and bugs, the combined abilities of clerical healing and warlock witchfire ensured the group’s success. With the magic ward restored, Lindel offered a token reward, and the deed would not have gone unnoticed in the Vahman bloodline, perhaps improving the low reputation Hidnaan holds amongst his peers.

Group XP: +645 (1045 total) Treasure: +200 gp, Symbol of Life +1, Kruthik Spike (+1 Vicious Dagger), Wavestrider Boots

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Adventure One: A Kobold in Sheep's Clothing
More than a few thrown bottles

Through coincidence, the PCs all find themselves at Hadaad’s forge one afternoon. Hadaad has been hearing complaints from the farmers in the southwest about missing livestock. A friend asked him to look into it, but he is too busy filling an order for the Stablemasters.

The party seek out Hadaad’s farmer friend, Oska, in east Parvaraa. After hunting around for clues, foul (fowl) play is suspected, with traces of blood found and night attacks adding to the mystery. Splitting up to cover ground, the party held vigil throughout the night.

It is only when Sebastian Blitz flings aside an empty beer and strikes a hidden creature, that the alarm is raised. Rushing to the scene, the party dispatch a pack of scavenging hyena, aided by the new arrival of a rogue with a very large beer bottle sized bump on the head. Finding collars on the hyena, the PCs track the hyena and stumble upon a kobold camp by dawn.

Setting up a diversion, the party rout the kobold encampment and their hyena pets, stopping any fleeing warriors from alerting a creature only known as ‘Irontooth’.

A stealth strike into the cavern behind the sandfall fails but the martial strength of the party helps them perservere. Many almost fall, but when Irontooth finally arrives, a frothing rabid 3 foot tall bundle of axe-weilding rage, the party are able to concentrate their efforts and slay the beastmaster before it wreaks too much havoc.

Returning home, the farmers can sleep well in the knowledge that a major threat to their livelihood has been dealt with. The PCs can expect to gain help with whatever they may need when dealing with the farmers of Parvaara.

Group XP: 400 Treasure: 424 gp, 17sp, +1 Dwarven Plate Mail.

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