Puppets of the Shadow

The Encoaching Swamp
Nothing like a mudbath - but who left the tap on?

Raedin, Lazareus, Menathrodon and Melion were hired by Lt. Renthik to investigate the curious expansion of a swamp near Furner's Rest.

 When the party arrived, they found the village nearly abandoned, and a local farmer told tales of hair-raising screams in the night, haunting shadows, and – most upsetting to him – his pigs were unnerved and restless. The party promised to put a stop to the goings on, and convinced the reluctant farmer to show them what was left of the old road through the swamp.

The road was muddy, foul, and plagued by monstrous beasts. The party suffered attacks from Shadow-tainted dire wolves soon after entering the  marsh, and would encounter spectres, giant shadow bats and creeping vine horrors before reaching their destination.

A graveyard full of zombies hardly slowed the party, but a village of lizardfolk gave them pause enough to cleverly taint the water supply with a poison designed to knock out the sentries long enough for the party to get by.

Eventually, the party came to a clearing near a foul lake. Across the churned mud, they could see a cave, deep within which a curious purple light flickered. Moving closer to investigate, they were ambushed by a young black dragon who was hiding in the lake!

The creature's inherent abilities of shadow blinded the party, making it nearly impossible to hit for several minutes. The team suffered heavy damage before the shadow spell wore off, but when it did, the tide turned in their favor, as they gave the juvenile dragon back every hit it had delivered on them.

When the beast lay dead, the party investigated the cave, discovering a rift opened between the material plane and the Shadowfell. Bizarrely, the rift was guarded by a magical barrier, which had to be deactivated before the ritual of closing could be performed. The team paused briefly to wonder who might have wanted to keep the portal from being closed, but had precious few clues to dwell on.

Before returning to Faldale, they swung back to the village of lizardfolk that had so worried them. Bearing the head of the young dragon, they attempted to intimidate the creatures by claiming to have killed their god. Instead, the village's two dozen warriors descended on the party in rage!

The battle of the village was short – and profitable. Carved idols and rough gems made a fair reward for the party, added to the curious weapons and armor they had collected from ancient dead in the swamp earlier.

And of course, there was still the matter of collecting the job's pay from Renthik back in Faldale..

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The Renegade
Mad wizards shouldn't play with elemental toys

After Raiden and Lazareous awoke the next day, they were met by Renthik, who told them that the sages at the Arcane College had determined that the earthquake which rocked Faldale was magical in origin, and that the magic originated in a certain region to the east. After looking fruitlessly for Lisania, they decided to tackle the problem on their own, after stopping by the College for whatever assistance the mages could lend.

They were told of a talented, but reckless, student of the arcane arts called Amannis Geidwi. He was impatient with utility magics, always looking for powerful battle spells, and frequently attempting things far more advanced than his supervisors felt he was prepared to control. When his attempts to create a more powerful version of the Magic Missile spell went awry, he managed to blow apart to north wing of the Arcane College, and was summarily dismissed from his studies.

Rinerra Desetto, a House Mistress of the College, is particularly troubled by the earthquake magic, as it should be far beyond Amannis' abilities even if his studies had continued uninterrupted. She suspects he may have gained the aid of an elemental creature of some kind. She advised the pair of adventurers to be cautious and offerred the services of one of her best students – an arrogant eladrin by the name of Melion.

The trio stopped by the inn again on their way out of town, stumbling upon a new drunken elf in the process. The sop in question was clearly a fighter by his equpiment, and the party felt they could use the muscle. Lazareus generously offerred to pay the hard-up elf's bar tab if he would join them as a bodyguard. The elf – who introduced himself as Menathrodon – agreed to the terms, and turned over his 75gp debt with a certain amount of relief.

Over the three day walk to the tower that the renegade Geidwi had set up for himself, the party was able to get to know one another a bit better – and enjoy the bickering between the snidely arrogant Melion and the crude, cheerfully violent Menathrodon.

 When the party arrived at the tower, they were confronted by an uncomfrotable sight. The entire tower was floating in midair above a colossal chasm, with only a single bridge connecting it to solid ground. The bridge was apparently stone (though it flexed as the tower drifting slowly in the breeze) and covered in magic-seeming runes. While most of the party held back, unsure of what strange wards might be on such a bridge, the confident wizard strode boldly onto the bridge – and promptly disappeared from sight!

Not sure at all what had happened to their magic-using ally, the rest of the team tried a more mundane approach – hooking a grappling line to a drainage grate on the tower's underside. A few attempts was all it took to hook the grate, wriggle over on the rope, and make the fighter earn his muscle-pay by wrenching the rusty iron grate out of the stonework, allowing the party to scramble in through the damp, narrow tunnel beyond.

Within the tower, the party was confronted by several floors of disturbing beasts. After emerging from the empy room that served apparently as storage space for an empty cage, the party tangled with a handful of needlefang drakes – vicious dog-sized lizards – and their larger spitting cousins on the first floor. The fighter bore the brunt of the attacks and held the beasts off at the top of the lower stairs, allowing Lazareus and Raiden to work on the lizards with ranged attacks. Mentathrodon kissed paving stones more than once before the last lizard lay dead, but in the end the team won through.

The second floor was lush with quiet pools lit from within and vines creeping along the walls. More disconcerting was the giant mass of vegetation in the center of the room, and the four pale corpses lying on the floor. The group moved cautiously through the space – but not carefully enough to avoid being attacked by the vine horror and its zombie-puppets! Once the threat was dealt with, the team advanced upward once more.

The third floor looked innocuous enough at first glance. The walls were decorated with some kind of insect motif, and a large statue of the same nasty bug stood at the far side of the room. A few steps too many into the room, however, brought all the "decorations" to life, and the party found themselves surrounded by dozens of slavering kruthik young and a very angry kruthik adult!

Meanwhile, Melion had been braving Geidwi's door lock of sorts. The bridge had whisked him away into a sort of limbo-space. He was presented with a series of illusions, having to guess Geidwi's personal hatreds, fears, and even pet peeves along the way. His intuition served him well – that and Mistress Rinerra's stories about the renegade's time at the college. When the fog finally cleared for the last time, he stood in a sparesly furnished workshop, that held a large shielded tank housing a curious squat, rock-like creature.

The work of a simple ritual allowed Melion to communicate with the crature, who called itself a galeb duhr – a minor earth elemental creature. His powers were being drained and twisted by Geidwi into the causing the earhquakes. Melion would have discussed things further, but as a scrying crystal flashed near him, he caught sight of his allies surroundedby kruthiks on the floor below! He raced down the stairs to aid his embattled companions!

Melion's timely arrival – and creative use of a long-duration sphere of flame – made short work of the bugs, and the party returned upstairs – to find a mad wizard waiting for them!

Amannis Geidwi was clearly insane. That was obvious from the outset. Sensing the possibility of an advantage, the adventurers goaded Amannis relentlessly – insulting him, his mother, even his childhood pet until he flew into a careless rage and attempted to take on the party by himself. His insanity made his spells potent – and he threw them faster than even Melion had ever seen a wizard work, and the while the energies rippling through him tore his body apart. Finally, with a last howl, Amannis burnt to a cinder from the inside out, destroyed by the energies he madly unleashed.

Once freed, the galeb duhr expressed grattitude, but offerred a warning: the mad wizard had not acted alone, and had nowhere near enough power to accomplish most of what had been done. There had been another wizard – much older ("old, and yet not-old" the galeb duhr said) whom Geidwi has usually referred to as "Wise One" if he was around – or "the old meddler" when he wasn't. Only once did Geidwi use a name for the old wizard – "Imandar".

Having given them the information it could and wishing his rescuers luck, the galeb duhr set off for his own small clan in the Wyrmspine mountains, while the party returned to Faldale to rest. After all, Renthik had suggested there might be other paying jobs afoot…

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All Shook Up
Every story begins somewhere.

A sudden earthquake rocks the prosperous city of Faldale, throwing its citizens into panic.

Lazareus, a human cleric of Avandra, becomes embroiled in a scuffle with looters from a thieves' gang while trying to heal some of the injured. He is joined in his battle by Raedin, a halfling rogue more than slightly interested in lining her pockets with the coin the looters have already lifted. Lisania, a sopping drunk elf ranger, does as much staggering as she does fighting, but nonetheless helps to bring the looters down.

 Impressed by the trio, Watch Lieutenant Renthik hires them on to investigate the gang who sent out the looters by tracking them to their lair in the riverfront district, known locally as the Thieves' Quarter.

 The group tracks the thieves to a seedy bar near the docks, saving a young guardsman along the way. Inside, they fight burly thugs before getting the bar owner to cough up the location of a secret passage in his cellar that leads to the thieves hideout.

A diabolical series of traps takes its toll on the party, but they win through to confront Boss Huis – a shrill voiced doppelganger who gloats with superiority about newfound power from his "master". After mentioning this, he seems to be struck by magical energies that drive him into a furious attack.

When Huis lies dead, his burly half-ogre henchman readily knuckles under to serve the new "bosses". A celebratory flask of whiskey Lisania gives him is enough to knock him out cold after a too-long draught however.

The party returns to Renthik to collect their payment and is told that, though the city is settling back into order, there is continuing great need for these heroes who have stepped up.He offers to put them up in Faldale's best inn: The Suckling Boar run by Fredegar Horpal. The party gratefully accepts, and settles in for a comfortable night.

The adventure has just begun…

 

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