Paths of Vengeance

The Sanctum

The Knot had found their way to the top of the spire. This large domed chamber is baroquely decorated and everywhere adorned with jagged daemonic iconography and visions of spreading pestilence and mortal suffering. It is a grand chamber: eighty feet across at its widest, ninety feet long and rising at its apex to a dome fifty feet high. Low partition walls section off two ritual preparation chambers.

Dominating the chamber is the statue of Vetra-Kali himself carved from hard green alabaster. He holds three knives and three bowls and leers eyeless over the altar before him. He presents a figure of brutal alien malice. Here is where they found their goal.

Circling the dome in perpetual motion is a huge creature of living energy. This lightning elemental is a conglomeration of magical energy spontaneously achieving life. There is so much raw magic here that the elemental formed years ago and has been growing ever since.

After a short battle with the elemental, they inspected the room. Completely out of place are the heavy silver chains that bind the altar and connect to a heavy argent seal pressed with the holy sunburst of blessed Mitra — the Silver Seal.

Olar could feel the abysal hate within him. Seething with anger at what the Mitran traitors had done. He flexed his claws and struck out at the seal, but was hit back by a riotous explosion like nothing he had felt before. Thrown back against the floor, he knew that something more powerful is needed to break the seal.

The Knot decided to head back to the caverns. Nyra passed by an area the group had seen before, prior to her joining the Knot. A strange fracture in the wall that leads to a cave they likely had not yet explored. She knew just the trick to gain entrance. Casting gaseous form, she slipped herself and Olar into the cavern.

There, a lime encrusted human skeleton leans against the south wall clutching a heavy leather bound book. This is perhaps the last surviving copy of “The Dirges of Apollyon” upon this mortal plane. It details the long history of the “Sons of the Pale Horseman” and recounts their efforts to transform this world into a daemon’s playground.

This rarest of tomes is made utterly unique by the last page of text within. This book makes plain the ritual necessary to call Vetra-Kali back to the mortal realms (the ritual is detailed below). And besides that, still glittering amongst the muck, is the a large emerald, yet to be identified.

The Ritual

The gruesome ritual to break the Silver Seal and call forth Vetra-Kali is simple but exacting. Three times per day for 222 days, a prayer must be made. The first prayer is recited at midnight – The Supplication to Darkness. This prayer begs forgiveness that mortals have failed the daemon-prince and allowed his sanctum to be overthrown. The second prayer is recited at dawn – The Cursing of the Light. This prayer curses those who made the seal and begs for the dark powers to lessen its might. The third prayer is made at dusk – The Call Across the Void. This prayer calls to the daemon-prince and guides his spirit through the astral ever closer to the prime material plane. These three prayers are found as songs. When you strip away all the grim trappings, the “Dirges” is, at heart, a hymnal.

A prayer must be intoned carefully and precisely. This takes ten uninterrupted full-round actions. At the end of the prayer, the Silver Seal is doused in unholy water which sizzles and boils across the face of the divine artifact.

Each prayer must be repeated 222 times to break the seal and end Vetra-Kali’s banishment. If even a single prayer is missed, the entire ritual must be restarted. The prayers must be performed within the hour of the specified event and if interrupted may be tried again. For example, the midnight prayer must be done before one a.m.

Further, three humanoid sacrifices must be made during the course of the ritual. At the first Supplication to Darkness, one of death priests who failed Vetra-Kali (or one of their descendants) must be sacrificed upon the sealed altar. At the 111th Cursing of the Light a true follower of Mitra must die upon the altar. And finally at the last Call Across the Void one of the Victor’s blood must be sacrificed. Then and only then will the seal be shattered and will Vetra-Kali be once more manifest.

The Dirges specifies exactly how a sacrifice must be made to Vetra-Kali. The victim must be placed upon his altar and there have their heart cut out while still ALIVE. The heart is then placed in one of the three bowls that the statue of Vetra-Kali holds.

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The Horn of Abaddon: The Lower Caverns

The Cavern Entrance

This broad open cave is the only visible entrance to the lower caverns. The many stalactites, stalagmites, and columns of wet living stone resemble nothing so much as fangs contained inside a large loathsome grin. The cave is covered by countless pools of standing fetid water and ubiquitous slicks of mud that make the entire surface of the maw count as difficult terrain from the entrance to the dotted-line more than forty feet in.

The group spots a pair of bored boggard sentries is stationed here. The boggards take notice of a numerically superior and well-armed band, and they try to take cover flee. The group chases them into the next cavern, and kills them.

Acid Pools

The next cavern is a small wet cave. Doctor Pitch finds that through a bizarre natural process, acid sweats from its northern wall. The Doctor puts some into a few vials, and they group continues on.

The Knot continues deeper still, and finds a number of empty caves. As they venture deeper, they start to feel heat.

Mud Pitts

Geothermal activity below the Horn of Abaddon has created a natural cauldron of boiling mud here. The hot mud is obvious and not particularly dangerous, but can cause harm.

Olar casts detect magic here, the mud is actually faintly magical. The slow erosion of the magically created Horn of Abaddon has made this pool so.

Across the mud pool there is a natural shelf and upon that shelf is an old mud-splattered metal chest. Currently the chest is open, its lock ruined.

Olar wades across, resisting the heat. He finds the chest to be empty.

Boggard Village

Rook sneaks out of the mud pit and into a large cavern which houses seven huts. He informs the rest of the Knot of their existence.

Arkhan casts Detect Magic, and finds two faint auras, each coming from the closest huts.

Rook sneaks back in and begins snooping around the huts. He finds one has what appears to be a chieftain, slumbering with his two consorts. Rook attempts to sneak in to get a surprise attack, but trips and falls onto the chief! The chief wakes, stumbles back, and grabs for his greatsword, and cuts Rook in two. Rooks misstep costing him his life.

The rest of the knot takes vengeance, and the ensuing battle is long and hard. They slay all of the village, including 14 boggards, the chief and his helpless consorts.

They uncover a number of items and some gold/gems. Worth the price of life, indeed.

The doctor wastes no time turning Rook into a powerful zombie.

Fungus Farm

More mud pits are found, but this one seemed to serve as the boggards latrine. The feces and hot volcanic mud mix to make a potent smell, and are coated in large mushrooms.

Grumblejack helps himself, and finds them quite delicious.

The Temple

More empty caverns lead the way to a large and high-vaulted cave. The ceiling drips with water so constantly it seems as if it is perpetually raining. Fetid pools and luminescent algae combine to give the chamber an ominous greenish glow and a lingering stench. The chamber is dominated by a large and impressive mud and stick hut that is surprisingly sturdy. The entrance is decorated with bones and leather strips cut from dozens of creatures (many of which the Doctor identifies as sentient).

The boggards have constructed a crude holding pen nearby. Currently it is empty save for a few scattered bones from an unlucky Iraen trapper the boggards captured weeks ago.

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The Horn of Abaddon: Level 3

Encounter: Calliaste Shanda

Calliaste the Lillend and her fey consorts appear shortly after the battle with Jurak is over, demanding to know what happened. The party, wishing not to partake in yet another fight, fabricate a yarn about how the Talireans hunted down and murdered Jurak the Elder, and that the party had engaged in battle with them and scared them off.

One of her consorts reminds her of the sack of Cannoch Naoi, and the elven consorts express their hatred of the Talireans. With that, Calliaste turns her wrath against Farholde and the Church of Mitra in particular. She wages her own personal war against the murderers of Jurak.

A rest

The party then decides that a rest is needed before venturing into the Horn, and they search a 1 mile perimeter for a suitable place. They witness what seem to be ghost-like whisps of light circling many of the stone spires in the area, and avoid them. Finally they find a suitable resting place, and rest without incident.

Entering the horn

Rook analyzes the spire and sees 4 entry ways that the party could penetrate.

First, is the cave opening below ground.

Second, is a walk up a wide set of stairs a hundred feet which appears to arrive at a landing.

Third, there is an entryway to a second level that appears to be accessible via a small winding stairway that hugs the side of the Horn.

And finally, the fourth is a grand archway, to which no stairs rise to. Instead, to enter here they must either fly or climb.

After some deliberation, they choose to the final entranceway which rises more than two hundred feet above the cavernous entry far below. Rook feels the easiest way is to climb from the entrance to level 2. This still involves a ninety foot angled ascent, of which they have a hard time.

The Horn of Abaddon: Level 3

The landing platform is baroquely adorned with every surface decorated with countless daemons tormenting and triumphing over mortals foolish enough to oppose them. Prominent among these decorations to the left of the archway is a bas relief of Vetra-Kali sitting cross-legged.

They group uses disable device to discern that his three eyes are buttons that if pressed simultaneously deactivate the pit trap that wards the entrance.

Another mechanism is found and the group’s engineering knowledge reveals that the pit remains deactivated until an identical bas relief on the other side of the wall is similarly pressed.

Once inside, the entranceway is a large hallway with five doors. The baroque decoration continues and everywhere is found bas relief carving showing the doings of daemons. There is a great deal of abyssal writing here as well. Arkhan understands that this hallway tells the tale of the ascension of the daemon prince Vetra-Kali Eats-the-Eyes.

It is revealed that Vetra-Kali is a leukodaemon who through his savagery and remorseless cruelty rose from the ranks to be appointed an Archdeacon of Pestilence in service to the Pale Horseman. This hallway exalts and praises the many ruthless deeds done by Vetra-Kali to gain this prominence.

Six green ominous flickering continual flames (one beside each of the single doors and two beside the double doors at the end of the hall) light this hall.

Within the chambers of this floor, the group finds evidence of a great battle. What is likely to have once been the personal chamber of the mortal leader of the Sons of the Pale Horseman, is now empty save for ash and splinters. Olar believes the chamber was wrecked by a tremendous explosion such as a fireball.

There is also a burned library, that Arkhan believes was likely destroyed by The Victor when he discovered it. All that remains is an inscription in Abyssal that reads “Behold the secrets of death. Use them for my glory.” But alas, there are no secrets here anymore. Only ashes and memories.

Another room reveals a great magical battle was fought there between the wizards of the “Sons” and the priests of Mitra. Deep gouges cut into the stonework reveal where powerful spells once blasted out again and again. Now, other than its scars, the room is empty and unremarkable.

There are also a number of other empty rooms, which all would have each once served diabolical purpose, such as cells for human sacrifices, and what was once a brothel.

Meditation Hall of the High Priest

Exploring the rest of the level reveals a peculiar room. This meditation chamber has no furnishings. The walls and floor of this chamber are covered in abyssal script. The phrase
“Receive the wisdom of Abaddon” is written prominently on the curved northern wall. There is a circle of such script in the center of the floor that is the nonsense word “nen” repeated over and over again.

Olar and Arkhan both find that saying ‘nen’ here does nothing, but that meditation here might reveal dark secrets, and receive visions of the Outer Planes, in particular of Abaddon. The “Sons of the Pale Horseman” believed these visions contained great wisdom.

Arkhan spends some time here receiving the power of the room, but finds that staying here long, would impart great power, but may also have consequences. The visions of other worlds might drive the weak minded mad with visions of violence and gruesome ritualistic orgies of slaughter.

She decides to think about it, and perhaps come back when there is more time.

Fane of the Three Eyed Prince

As ornate and baroque as the entryway hall is it pales before this expansive and vaulted chamber. This is the Horn’s most exalted temple — reserved only for the High Priest and his elite retinue. Most of the Sons of the Pale Horseman never entered this temple and never experienced the strange rites conducted within. The fane is adorned with a riot of lurid color. Brilliant bas reliefs depict daemons of every sort engaged in countless acts of wanton evil, callous destruction and inhuman savagery. Rows of pews allow a congregation of the chosen to gather. The podium is doubtless where foul sermons of Abaddon’s wisdom and bile were delivered to those gatherings.

At the front of the chamber are four shrines (A-D).

A – A white shrine decorated with bas relief depictions of open pits of the dead and lepers crying in anguish.

B – A shrine of red stone decorated with cruel iron weaponry and scenes of slaughter.

C –A shrine of black stone decorated with images of mortals wasting away from hunger and starvation.

D – A shrine of pale green stone adorned with a skull with two coins over its eyes and an inscription of jagged abyssal writing which reads “Behold a pale horse. Its rider is Death and all shall follow him.”

There is also a large bas-relief image of Vetra-Kali sitting crosslegged holding his greatest work, his masterpiece, a vial of some sort.

Below the vial is inscribed a name ‘The Tears of Achlys.’ Vetra-Kali also holds three blades and a strange jagged key with an Abyssal inscription “Hail Vetra-Kali”. The three eyed daemon prince pays homage to the four shrines, but there is no doubt that this fane is built primarily to honor him.

On all the other walls are litanies of the deeds of this monster. It was Vetra-Kali who crossed the great void and came to the prime material plane to establish the Sons of the Pale Horseman. It was he who oversaw the construction of the Horn of Abaddon and it is because of this that the Horn superficially resembles this horror from another world.

Olar also found that there is a secret door hidden in the east wall. It is well concealed but radiates a strong conjuration magic, revealed by his Detect Magic spell.

If the secret door is opened by pressing all three of Vetra-Kali’s eyes in unison, and leads to a room full only of worthless discarded temple paraphenalia covered in cob webs — wrecked pews, discarded masonry, piles of mouldering boards and the like.

Olar has the idea to speak the words "Hail Vetra-Kali” in Abyssal, and instead enters into a small pocket dimension and the true treasure vault.

Treasure Vault

Waiting inside of the pocket dimension is a Dread Wraith and three Wraith Spawn. They do not attack the party, but instead the Dread Wraith introduces himself as Ezra Thrice-Damned.

About a decade after the Sons’ defeat, their last high priest’s tormented spirit gained enough vigor to manifest once more. This spirit coalesced as a wraith. Ezra seeks to ally with our cadre of villains. He somehow knows that they are ambitious servants of Asmodeus and seek to break the Silver Seal.

He offers them the accumulated wealth of the Sons of the Pale Horseman in return for their help. Heaped about this room is a trove of treasure. In addition to all of this, there is at the center a small podium that rises like a claw. Between its talons it clutches a single dark radiant emerald.

They negotiate for some time, and manage to pry some information about the location of the seal from him.

The group neither accepts nor rejects his offer, and ask him to remain in the room, where they will return once they have found more evidence of what is to be done. Scared and feeling as if they are about to be betrayed, they quickly flee the room and close the pocket dimension behind them.

They discuss the information as a group, and that there is a fourth floor, only accessible from the caves. They decide they need to start there.

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History of Olar

This takes place at the campsite on the night before we raided the horn

Quietly, Olar begins to speak to the other members of the 9th Knot. He says, “Many of you have revealed your pasts, and now is a good time for me to tell you my story”.

He takes a deep breath and begins, “The vengeance and hatred that consumes my existence is a result of the death of my twin sister Lokka. Our mother was human, and I imagine that she was very beautiful too. At least that is how I picture her. Though, everything I know of her is fantasy. I never even saw her face. I often wonder how much better life would have been if we would have known her”. Almost as if he is trying to hold on to that thought for as long as he could, he stares silently for a moment, and that moment evolves into a silence that lingers longer than what most people would be comfortable with.

He continues, “I was told she was taken captive by a group of orcs, and instead of killing her, they had much more horrendous plans for her. Indeed, she was forced into slavery by our father’s tribe. She, however, willingly became one of his concubines. Perhaps she was intoxicated by the power he wielded. I will will never know. Maybe she wasn’t quite as innocent as I like to believe”

With a questioning look upon his face, he states, “My father’s name is Khagra, I hope he is dead now”.

With another uncomfortably long pause he continues, “Shortly after our birth our mother was killed as an offering to Grymblor. I can only imagine how horrendous her death must have been. It is probably best that I was merely an infant at the time. She likely believed she was safe as one of Khagra’s concubines. However, nothing is sacred with orcs.

“My twin sister, Lokka, and I were never accepted into the tribe. We were merely ‘halfbreeds’, and the death of our human mother was relentlessly thrown in our faces. The orcs would often describe to us how they heard her scream as she was sacrificed to their petty god. They thought it was amusing to laugh at our grief”.

As if hoping for some kind of answer from above, Olar looks up and whispers, “It’s strange, we were never told her name…”

He then proceeds, “Like our mother, we were bought and traded as slaves. We were forced to do the most demeaning tasks. Then, when I was just beginning to become a man, the tribe was attacked by a group of dwarves. We managed to escaped during the melee. We stowed away on a ship, and found ourselves on the island of Talengarde”. With the way that Olar pronounces Talengarde, with a sarcastic sneer and a flicker of flame in his eyes, everyone listening can sense his disdain for this land.

“The half elves, and humans in Talengarde did not take kindly to half-orcs. We were forced to wander the island, stealing and begging for food like stray dogs. We managed to survive on the streets for two years as we watched Talengarde descend into war”.

“During the war, it became even more difficult for us to find food, clean water, and shelter. We were forced to spend most of our time sleeping rough in the forests, and we subsisted on a diet of mostly rats and the occasional deer, or elk”.

“You know, Lokka thought those beast’s antlers were beautiful…” Olar states, and for just a moment, he smiles, only to shut his eyes and grit his teeth together in fury.

“One evening we were huddled around our campfire when a group from Darius’ army, led by a Paladin of Mitra, stumbled upon us. After discovering that we were half orcs, they began to taunt us. They called us ‘pig face’ and ‘tusker’ while making jokes about how disgusting it must be to mate with an orc”.

“My sister became enraged and threw a bit of hot ember at them. In response, they beat us mercilessly. The paladin (with a symbol of Mitra around his neck), said that he sensed darkness and evil in us, and that we should be destroyed”.

Olar laughs, “he was right about me…”

“My anger began to overfill. I pulled a small hunting knife and stabbed one of them in the leg. That’s when the human with the symbol commanded the others, “purge Talengarde of these half-orc children, least the grow up to unleash their evil nature upon the island’, and he then walked away.”

Once again, Olar pauses. He seems to stop breathing, and stare into nothingness. He almost appears like he is incapable of continuing his story. Then, he mournfully groans, “They forced me to watch as they pushed my sister into the fire. She kept trying to pull herself from the flames. However, she was weak and small, so they would simply push her back in. I struggled to be released, but they overpowered me, while my sister slowly burned. She eventually was overcome by pain, and collapsed in the fire. I heard her last few gasps for air, as the fire stole her life.”

As if it was physically painful for him to remember that moment, Olar seems sapped of energy, and he seems to have to force the next words out of his mouth, “Then it was my turn to die”.

“One of the men held me above his head and threw me into the fire. I knew in my heart that i was about to die, or perhaps… a part of me was about to die. I had nothing to live for, so I did not try to pull myself from the flames. I could feel the insatiable heat and smell the sweetness of my flesh burning as I watched those wretched humans leave me for dead”.

“However, Moments before the fire claimed my life I felt the desire for vengeance, and I pulled myself free from the fire. At that moment I made a verbal vow to whomever was listening, that I would burn Darius, and all of Talengarde to the ground. They must be made to suffer”.

With that, he stands up, raising his arms, and growls, “They should endure more suffering than they forced upon my sister!” After which he looks at each and ever member of the knot, and It appears as if his anger is manifested in real flames within his eyes.

Olar continues his story as he settles back to the ground, “To this day, I do not know how I survived that fire. Truly, I should have perished from my burns. My body was marked with scars until I was reborn through death, but my heart is still filled with rage for those who slaughtered Lokka. Vengeance by an all consuming flame is now my only desire”.

He continues, “During the next few years of my life, I taught myself the ways of sorcery. Focusing on the ability to burn my enemies with nothing more than a gesture”.

“8 years later, I was captured after setting a temple of Mitra on fire”, he says with a toothy smile. “Though it wasn’t my first attempt at arson, it was my most successful. A number of ‘holy’ followers of Mitre were immolated with my fire. When they sentenced me to death, I laughed and spit in their faces”.

He then allows himself to drink deeply of the memory of the fire he started at the temple. “Those holy fools, I hope they had to watch each other burn as their temple fell around them”. He grumbles with an evil chuckle.

“That is when I met this wretched group at Braderscar, well, except Arken, and now you know why I long to destroy Mitre, Darius, and burn Talengarde to the ground”.

Without waiting for a response to his story he stands up and leaves the presence of the rest of the 9th Knot. He doesn’t want pity, and he doesn’t want to hear anyone’s thoughts. He already knows that vengeance is the only thing that will quench the fire of hate in his heart.

Before he is out of hearing range he turns back to the group, and spits, “I also hate horses! They don’t even have antlers.”

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Finding the Horn

The Ambition of Ravens

The Seventh Knot arrives the next day, just as Tiadora said. They too seem to think they’ve travelled here with Tiadora. Elise Zadaria has already received her orders. “It is my intention in the next few months to have spies set up in every inn, tavern and anywhere else adventurers and explorers might congregate. When you do find the Horn of Abaddon, contact me. For those groups I can’t personally dispatch, I’ll send a messenger with any information I can gather.”

Pressed on what her plan is, Elise reveals that she plans to create for Farholde a serial killer. That serial killer will begin to hunt down likely adventurers and explorers one by one. She will try to make this murderous endeavor look like accidental deaths for as long as she can, but she is sure that facade will eventually fail. When it does, the serial killer guise will allow her to terrorize anyone foolish enough to interrupt the work of the Ninth Knot. Farholde is about to be bathed in blood. She is certain Tiadora would be delighted. Her plan is a good one.

The Return of Grumblejack

After the plan has been hatched, the PCs are greeted by a face some of them had hoped never to see again. Grumblejack the Half-Ogre lumbers off the ship, with a greatsword on his back, and plate armor across his chest, and begins a purposeful walk to the group. He pulls his sword out, but instead of striking out at the Knot as some might have expected, he drives it into the ground, pledging his fealty to Sir Bruce of Vein.

Grumblejack had a deep admiration for The Bruce, and even though the group thought they had abandoned Grumblejack, dooming him to certain death, they find that he was in-fact delighted just to be broken from his bonds and told of the Dark Lord Asmodeus! He finished killing what ever guards he could (perhaps stopped for a tasty snack of burnt flesh) and made his way into the wild, seeking adventure and divine inspiration. There he found his place in the ranks of the northern bugbear hordes the group had unleashed upon the realm. He quickly established himself as a fierce warrior and knew exactly who to thank for his chance at battle.

Tiadora discovered Grumblejack amongst the chieftains of the horde. She knew right then that he was the perfect addition to the Knot, and gave him passage. He signed the Pact of Thorns, officially binding himself to the Nessian Knot.

With their newest party member in tow, the 9th Knot headed back to the secret tunnel under the manor. A few of the party decided to go looking for clues as to the whereabouts of the Horn.

The Search for the Horn

They recall that Aiden Kael, an elf ranger who was the sole member of the Fourth Knot of the Pact of Thorns had led a group of Iraen fire cultists into the Caer Bryr, seeking the Horn of Abaddon. They were told by the Cardinal that he found it, but vanished. Some rumor mongering about him reveals that he prepaid for a room at “The Wandering Friar” in Newchurch.

When the PCs arrive, his room is a week from being declared abandoned and cleaned out. They offer to pay Kael’s 25 gp overdue bill, and the innkeeper let them into the room no questions asked.

Inside the room they discover Kael’s map to the Horn laying out on a table weighed down by a dagger. Besides a few worthless personal effects, his emergency funds are also hidden under the mattress in a sackcloth bag (contianing 132 gp in mixed coinage). Written on the map is the word “Jurak”, which they feel is the first place to check out.

Encounter: One-Eye the Sabertoothed Tiger

On their way into the Bryer, they are attacked by “One-Eye”, a massive sabertoothed tiger and former druidic animal companion. He had been attacking messengers to the Horn of Abaddon until this final encounter with the Ninth Knot.

During the battle, he tried to eat The Doctor, and was blasted with fire by Olar. Finally, The Doctor managed to slash his belly with a scalpel, spilling his entrails and drenching himself in blood. The doctor examined the body and found the source of his “one eye”. One of his eye sockets was home to a silver pommel of a dagger, which had been driven into his skull in a previous encounter.

Encounter: Jurak the Eldest

The PCs searched out the location of “Jurak”. It turns out that Jurak the Elder is a Treant that has been guarding the Horn of Abaddon for centuries.

Jurak did not attack on sight, but instead approached with slow warning: “You have happened upon the Horn of Abaddon,” he lectures, “a cursed place once of great corruption. It is my sacred charge to see that evil never again takes root here.”

It was not until he got closer and saw that the group openly wears unholy symbols. Without hesitation, Jurak slams and tramples any foe he can reach and throws great slabs of ruined masonry at those he can’t. Once he is bloodied, he summons help from the forest and is joined by two more Treants, and one other spirit who has yet to arrive.

Jurak is fanatically devoted to keeping his sacred charge and fights to the death.

Encounter: Calliaste Shanda

Calliaste Shanda (pronounced Call-ee-ahstay SHAWN-dah), a dryad with skin of ebony wood and hair of long flowing green leaves was called by Jurak’s treants and found that he has been slain. She is immediately filled with loss and rage. She will not rest until she destroys the culprits.

Calliaste then shaped changed into her true form, a lillend, and this is where the adventure log ends.

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The Old Guard

The PCs again rendezvous with Tiadora. She is bedecked brilliantly in all white, looking like a traveling noble on the way to her wedding. She escorts the PCs through the bustling dock city of Farholde.

She takes them to the nicest part of town, a gently sloping hill called Calliver’s Green (see the Gazetteer for more details). This is a gated community and she approaches the guard confidently. “Baron Vandermir is expecting us,” is all she says.

“Of course, my lady. This way,” the somewhat nervous guard answers after consulting a list. Rook manages to sneak a peak, the list reads, “Expect a lady in white and her retinue. Be polite. She has powerful friends. —V.”

There are only six manors in this neighborhood and Tiadora leads the PCs to what is arguably the most impressive and opulent of them. The front door is secured by two guards wearing armor and livery. The guards are polite but firmly insistent that weapons are collected. “No stranger may go before the Baron so armed.”

Arken recognizes that the livery is a variation on the heraldry of House Barca, the royal line deposed by the current Darian regime, and that it marks the guards as servants of the Baron of Westell and Mir, farming towns south of Farholde.

The PCs are relieved of their weaponry (save for a few magically hidden ones), and are brought into the receiving room of the manor. Within this room are the cities most respected individuals being served hors d’oeuvres, wine and a regional brew of beer. The PCs decide to avoid too much discussion, for fear of revealing their true intentions.

As the night passes, all other guests leave, typically in groups. The PCs are escorted to a dining room where they finally meet the Baron himself.

Baron Arkov Vandermir is a handsome half-elf dressed in burgundy and white. He looks quite young, even boyish, but he is more than a century old. His eyes betray a calculating, wicked soul. Introductions are given, and dinner is served; a full 5 course meal of regional delicacies, including some of the finest ales and wines.

Once dinner is complete and the servants are dismissed, the Baron becomes frank. “You come to me as beggars, the last remnants of a forbidden faith. You will promise me much, of that I have no doubt. But all that I am likely to earn from helping you is the inquisitor’s pyre. Tell me, why should I help the likes of you?”

The PCs begin making diplomatic pleas, with no real success. After all, promising a man who’s already the most powerful in the area more wealth and power doesn’t outweigh the value of his life. He counters and is quick to dismiss their offerings.

Suddenly Sir Bruce grows angry with the nature of the Baron’s language, and bursts forth with a truly intimidating threat; if he doesn’t help, he will continue to find himself under the rule of not only a House he despises, but also of a religion that wants him dead, and that his lack of conviction will be his demise…. This sticks with the Baron, and despite his initial bluster, the Baron wants to help them. He has lived his entire life in the shadow of House Darius. His hate for the House and their sun god is a mile wide.

Finally, with his guard broken, the Doctor makes the case of how helping the Knot will only help him in return, and also reinforces that if he chooses the losing side he will find his fortunes and power extinguished. Finally, he expresses his desire to help, and explains how he can.

First, he can provide the party with accomodations and a safe house. His manor is not only opulently appointed with every amenity known to man, it also has a secret tunnel that runs from Calliver Green to a small nondescript hovel at the base of the hill. The PCs can come and go at will without anyone observing their movements.

Second, he can grant the PCs almost total legal immunity in Farholde. As long as they are not caught redhanded doing some heinous deed, his word that they were with him excuses every suspicion of their involvement in a crime. He is loathe to use this influence too much. After all, while the local magistrates are easy to deal with, blatant crimes may eventually draw Mitran inquisitors to Farholde.

Third, he has contacts among the shadier merchants who operate in and around Farholde. He can give the PCs access to poisons and more sinister magic items. He can also fence any items they’ve recovered that may be difficult to otherwise sell.

Fourth, he is a negotiator without peer. If the PCs need someone charmed, bribed or persuaded there are few more qualified people in all of Talingarde to aid them than the Baron.

With the introduction to the Baron accomplished, Tiadora’s mission in Farholde is complete. She reminds them of the small clay tablet given to them by Cardinal Thorn. “Break it when you need to speak with the Master. Be sure not to waste his time. He can be most unforgiving about that. The Seventh Knot is already close at hand.

They arrive tomorrow on a river barge named ‘The Lucky Lady’. You should meet them and come up with a plan for seeing our master’s will done. It matters not to me of course. Not my problem. Goodbye, dearest, and good luck.” And with that, she teleports away to her next assignment.

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The Master Arrives

Tiadora contacted the PCs at the end of the last adventure. She has been commanded by her master to escort our band of villains to their next mission. She leads them to a ramshackle river barge “Halstyn’s Folly” tied to Lake Tarik’s bank. The captain and three man crew of this shallow-bottomed barge are all thoroughly under Tiadora’s control (the PCs identify this as an enthrall spell or spell-like ability). They are certainly no threat.

Tiadora tolerates no delay. “The master commands you board. You will learn more later.”

Accommodations are crude. There is only one cabin and Tiadora has already evicted the so-called captain and made that her own personal domain. She is not particularly adept at sharing. That means that the rest of the PCs must sleep with the crew on the deck of the barge. There is a roof but no walls and at night on the lake and rivers, it can be bitterly cold.

“The Folly” is bound for Farholde, a three hundred mile journey through the great scar that almost cuts the isle of Talingarde in twain. The barge is sluggish allowing the PCs many days to rest and enjoy the leisurely journey.

Though “The Folly” is adquately provisioned and never docks, every night the barge anchors within sight of a village or keep. The PCs notice that Tiadora is no-where to be found during these stops (although no boats leave or return to the ship).

On the twelfth night, Cardinal Adrastus Thorn finally shows himself. He teleports into Tiadora’s cabin and spends a few moments getting a complete report from her. He then sends her to summon his ninth knot.

Once more they meet the devilishly handsome bald man clad in black and burgundy robes. He wears black gloves and openly displays his silver unholy symbol of the Lord of Hell. He sports a wicked and knowing grin. He makes a speech and answers the PCs questions.

Here is a summary:

1. Find the Horn of Abbadon, break the seal that binds the Plague Demon Vetra-Kali, and summon him back into our world.

2. When Vetra-Kali is here, bind him to your will and retrieve the Tears of Achlys from him and bring them to me.

3. Once a thriving cult of Asmodeus existed in Farholde. It was led by a half-elvish noble – the Baron Arkov Vandermir. Tiadora will introduce you to the Baron. Don’t trust him but he may prove useful.

4. The Horn is less than a day outside of Farholde in a spire of stone.

5. I’ve already sent other minions to seek the Horn of Abaddon. They failed me. Now I will send two knots in place of one. The seventh knot will remain in Farholde and see that anyone who tries to find the Horn and interfere with your work meets an unhappy end. Thus, you will have time to do what must be done.

6. Don’t fail me!

Cardinal Thorn does not linger long aboard the craft. He is quickly gone, teleported away. The next day the barge docks in Farholde. Tiadora has already contacted Baron Vandermir and arranged for the PCs to have dinner with him tomorrow night. “Best to find something presentable to wear,” she sneers. This gives the PCs some time to investigate Farholde, buy supplies, and so forth.

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Grumblejack In Love

The Fire-Axe’s horde includes a few ogres and one of them is a gigantic bone-through-the-nose almost shockingly ugly female ogre named Karlotta Bonegrinder. It is love at first sight. Karlotta expresses her interest in Grumblejack by hissing like a cornered tigress and throwing a spear at him. Grumblejack continues the courtship by pulling the spear out of his minor flesh wound, licking the blood off the stone spear-head and breaking it over his knee. They then attack one another, wrestling fiercely until finally Grumblejack (who is fairly beaten up by this point) gets the upper hand and Karlotta flees. Grumblejack purrs as Karlotta departs the fray, “What a woman!”

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Book 1 Wrap Up

Our PCs have been busy scheming for nearly 30 days time, seeking information throughout the city, sabotaging the watch tower, and drinking dwarves under the table. Only after gathering all possible information, they slice into the peaceful town like a doctors scalpel.

When it was all said and done, it was an absolute slaughter.

Balentyne fell with barely a bugbear slain. The hairy beasts immediately attacked Aldencross and feasted on human flesh in an orgy of death and slaughter. There are few survivors and little warning as the Fire-Axe’s horde swept down into the Heartland of Talingarde. The war has begun with a crushing defeat for Talingarde.

Breaking the clay seal and notifying the Cardinal that the deed is done, Tiadora instantly teleports herself to their location atop the tower bearing a gift. A small but heavy wooden box containing platinum ingots worth 5000 gp (10 lbs. of platinum) and with a small hand-written note. “Our lord smiles upon your success. Here is a token of my esteem. Use it to rest, recover and strengthen yourselves. Other commands will come when the Knot is needed. Your work has just begun. – A.”

From the promontory, you can see the great bugbear horde camped south of the Watch Wall. Balentyne yet burns behind you. Tiadora remarks, “I have seen no evidence of any army gathering to meet the horde. It seems Zadaria has also succeeded at her mission and has assassinated the commanders. Truly, a great achievement."

“Making matters worse for poor Talingarde, small bands of creatures unaligned with Sakkarot approach the breach, eager to take advantage of the chaos. How could these beasts know already about this break in the Watch Wall? Someone must have told them. Probably best to leave. This region is about to become very dangerous."

“Still, this will not be enough. Balentyne may be broken but Talingarde is yet strong. Soon word will reach the south. The Heartland and the great cities of the Cambrian Bay will marshal their armies. They will meet Sakkarot on the field and it will be far too close to a fair fight. We must
do something about that."

“Come, my lords, your ship awaits. Try not to burn this one.”

Lords. She called you lords. And lords you are. Lords of death and destruction. Lords of evil. Do you remember Branderscar? Do you remember being held down and branded like animals? How far you have come and how long yet the journey before you. Tiadora is right. This is only your first steps along the way of the wicked.

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Grumblejack and the Fireaxe’s Drinking Contest

“You call this strong wine? I’ve had a gallon and I can barely feel it,” boasts the bugbear warlord.

The ogre cocks an eye. “Yeah? Grumblejack hear bugbears can’t hold their liquor.”

“Then you’ve been speaking to fools, ogre,” says the bugbear with a sneer. “Certainly, a strong bugbear is more than a match for the weaker races … like ogres.”

Grumblejack laughs. “Weaker … hah! If you were to match me drink for drink, you’d be dead drunk before the night is half over.”

“Boasting is easy. Prove your words, ogre!” And Sakkarot Fire-Axe slams his empty chalice on the table.

Grumblejack is quick to answer, slamming down a leather drinking jack. “Pour wine! Grumblejack look forward to seeing what your lunch looks like.”

And so the drinking contest began.

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