Sunday, 25 April 2010

4ed Campaign -- Session 46 -- Sunday 28th March

In which the only good hobgoblin is a dead hobgoblin, the architect of the Creation Forge is revealed, and Jonas happens upon an excellent method of uncovering hidden traps...

Roster (Party Level 9th)
Berend - Dwarven Fighter
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard
Finial - Half-elf Paladin
Jonas - Human Rogue/Ranger

As the caravan halts for its scheduled stop and the Cannith brothers begin to make preparations for moving out, the company persuades Wilder to lend them three more of his best horses, and rides out, following from Jonas's memory the map into the Rowenoaks.

After a morning's hard ride along a route designed to hide their destination from anyone in the caravan, they've passed through several miles of uninviting plain, gradually giving way to a series of dry, grey foothills carpeted in shale. Even from memory, the map is not hard to follow, and the terrain leads them to the remnants of a small camp in the shadow of a steep hillside. The embers are warm, and there is clear evidence of a dozen or so booted humanoid feet milling around the camp and heading towards a dark cave half-way up the hill.

A treacherous climb leads the company to the cave mouth, which is a great yawning crack on a ledge in the hillside, with large boulders and shattered rubble strewn all around. The cave within is lit by torches mounted on metal poles and stabbed into the gravelly earth, and dotted with tall boulders as far back as the eye can see. Jonas creeps in, and almost immediately spots a couple of hobgoblin guards lounging about. Despite not paying much attention, Jonas uncharacteristically gives himself away, and the armoured guards immediately raise the alarm and call for help.

The guards are well trained, moving into penetrating defensive formations and unleashing great, cleaving blows on the company. However, despite help arriving from a tunnel towards the rear of the cave, the defense is overrun, and only one of the guards survives to make a desperate lunge for daylight, tumbling down the scree slope and running for his life. Several of the more athletic members of the party run him down, however, and is afforded only a brief moment of defiance before being cut down. The company learns little from the battle except that this is a group of mercenaries called the "Bladebearers".

Pushing through the cave, Jonas almost falls foul of a powerful arcane trap left to defend the entrance, but shrugs off the scorch marks to see that the rough tunnel emerges into a well-built inner chamber, its west wall blown open to allow ingress from outside. Several constructs, reminiscent of the warforged they discovered under Crow's Atoll but humanoid rather than dragonborn, stand silent vigil in the room, their fleshy inner workings open and exposed as if impromptu surgery has been performed on them, and their red eyes bathing the place in a lurid glow. In the middle of the room, topped by a red gem which pulses in time with the glow from the eyes of the warforged, a strange glyph-painted machine of metal and stone stands sentinel.

Jonas sneaks in and is enamoured with the gem, but when he climbs to the top of the device and touches it, the constructs lurch somewhat unsurprisingly to life and. From two adjoining rooms, more of the creatures emerge to attack, one of them dragging its severed upper-body along the floor in a desperate bid to do harm to Berend.

"Mother! Mother, damage thresholds have been exceeded. Mother... help..."
-- One of the warforged experiments in the Forbidden Forge.

While the defenders keep the attack from the main body of the party, Jonas and Elumai work to disable the machine, but in the end the assault is dispatched less by wit and more by brute force. The sounded of booted, marching feet from a north door suggests they head south, and Jonas creeps ahead to find his path blocked by a closed and locked door, its wooden panels burned and charred, but only superficially, the unharmed wood clearly visible underneath.

Sneaking a look inside, he sees a grand octagonal foyer with its entire south-east wall charred and crumpled inward, and its floor scattered with rubble and bones. Jonas's keen eyes pick out small metal spouts jutting out from the cracked walls around the entire circumference, and beneath the dust on the floor, a complex mosaic that was once skilfully applied: it is the sigil of House Cannith, writ large for all to see.

Once the others have caught him up, they creep into the room to have a look around, but upon disturbing some of the bones -- which, Elumai spots, are inscribed with runes of binding, designed to subordinate creatures to someone else's will -- a pale blue light fills the room as the ghostly apparition of an old man rises theatrically from the center of the floor. His clothes would once have been expensive, a patchwork of silks and fabrics, some of them embroidered with the mark of House Cannith, and his long hair flows behind his head. Where his heart and eyes would be, there are now artful rosettes of blue fire.

He opens his eyes and looks around at the party. "More visitors," he sighs. "Am I to get anything finished today? There is important work to be done!" Jonas attempts to convince the apparition that he is an emissary from the "Court of Shadows", and insists that whatever this "work" is, it must stop, however the ghostly figure is unimpressed, having never heard of this "Court". He does however reveal himself to be Haestus d'Cannith, one of the oldest patrons of the Cannith family.

"What kind of institution would pedal its influence, and yet no-one would have heard of them? I could not travel five leagues without meeting someone who speaks the name of Cannith with the reverance befitting such a storied House."
-- Haestus d'Cannith, to Jonas in the Grand Foyer of the Creation Forge

Haestus is dismayed to hear that two of his descendents have discovered the location of the Forge and are on their way here right now, and as he investigates the ruinous remains of the once-splendid foyer, the party contemplates their next move...

Friday, 9 April 2010

4ed Campaign -- Session 45 -- Sunday 21st March

In which bad news travels fast, the company sets out to the east, and Jonas heads for trouble.

Roster (Party Level 9th)
Berend - Dwarven Fighter
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard
Finial - Half-elf Paladin
Jonas - Human Rogue/Ranger

After completing their mission at Pargsmeer house, the time at last arrives for the company to move on towards Emerandes, where at least one of their number, Elumai, has a pressing engagement. Also, as the renowned center of knowledge and learning on the Plain, it is the most likely place that they'll find answers to the many questions surrounding some of their recent adventures.

Most importantly to Berend at least, it's also the most obvious place to find the kind of help they need to get their new Planejammer operational. After having spent a few dozen slime-spattered man-hours clearing the bridge of its infestation of worms, and then in the aftermath failing (painfully) to interface with the ship's arcane controls, the group knows they're going to have to rely on outside help if they're going to get the vessel repaired and on the move in the near future.

There is a little housekeeping to take care of before they leave. First, they let Mord know by letter where they're heading; then, finding Jilonto-Ressar in his now familiar drunken haze in the Quiet Corner, they deliver his wife's remains to him. He quivers with barely-contained grief at the news, and answers their questions about Lord Riva in curt mono-syllables. No, Riva still hasn't returned. No, he doesn't know where he is.

Jonas also uses the opportunity to start spreading rumours about Azimuth Royt's apparent dealings with demonic forces from the Underdark. The Atoll proves to be fertile ground for such scare-mongery, and within hours even the furthest corners of the town are alive with now-inflated tales of ritual sacrifice at the Prospector's Union and the murders of dozens and dozens of miners in the name of dark gods.

At last they join Shortham Banks' caravan on the east edge of town. It is a train of around a dozen or so wagons, with 40-50 people, all enjoying the supervision and protection of Banks and those under his employ. As they look around and introduce themselves, the following travellers stand out:

Shortham Banks: Shortham stands just under six feet, dressed head-to-toe in old, tough-looking leather wrapped in a variety of furs, with a brown wide-brimmed stetson and a deep handlebar moustache that depends from his nostrils to his chin.

Dorian Banks: Shortham's son stands just short of his father, with very tightly cropped blonde hair, a strong body and handsome features. He wears worn leather boots over light woolen clothes, a huge belt around his waist, and a hat similar to his father's.

Olak Grentz: Shortham's accountant and business partner, his clothes are an odd mix of formal business-like atire, with a smart waist-coat and expensive pocket-watch, and the purely practical: a knife-belt, leather back-pack, woolen breeches and knee-high boots. He looks comfortable in neither.

Wilder: Shortham's horse-wrangler is a man of few words, a cowboy who spends most of his time in the company of his animals, a pack of strong, healthy Plains Browns.

The Very Unroyal Brigade: This group of six mercenaries wears a common uniform or unusual, vertically-arranged leather plates, and offers its protection to the caravan free of charge. They are outriders, scouting ahead for danger, and seem aloof and uninterested in the people under their charge.

The Brothers Cannith: Two opulently appointed wooden caravans like little mobile homes stand apart from the rest. Although their owners are locked away from the hoi-poloi, their two man-servants busy themselves about the place making preparations for the journey.

Memory of the Ashen Cloth: These elven women, wrapped head-to-toe in dark-coloured silks so that only their almond-shaped eyes are visible, are reputedly on some kind of pilgrimmage to a site called the Winding Stone, some leagues along the route to Emerandes.

Flurock Caravan: A dwarf by the name of Simmiol Urqst is transporting around a quarter-ton of the dangerous material to Emerandes, under contract to the Prospector's Union.

The party engages in a little small talk before the caravan sets off. Simmiol is decidedly unimpressed with these four strangers trying to convince him that the rock he's carrying is some kind of deadly weapon, and responds simply that he has a contract to deliver it, and his reputation is worth more to him than any flights of fancy they might have.

His attitude changes, however, when a delegation from the Prospector's Union pays him a brief visit specifically to warn him about trusting the company. This offends his sensibilities more than anything else, and he leaves his paperwork conspicuously unguarded later that day for the party to browse. They discover that the flurock is destined for a shop called Randall's Exigency, a large arcane emporium near the Basilica in Emerandes.

Jonas meanwhile manages to convince Wilder to loan him one of his best horses for the duration of the trip (although he will be liable to the tune of 150gp should anything happen to the beast), and attempts to make contact with the Unroyal Brigade, hoping to ride out with them later that day. The woman he speaks to is unimpressed, scoffing at Jonas's "mercenary affiliations", and he is shunned.

"We wear our loyalties with pride, for all to see, not hidden behind a lie and a smile. You mercenary types are all the same."
-- One of the Very Unroyal Brigade, on the road to Emerandes.

Elumai engages with the women of the Ashen Cloth, and discovers something more of the history of the elves hailing from the distant Arubisath Forests, who were all-but annihilated by a virulent plague delivered to their Princes years ago by unknown malefactors. The elven nomads seek wisdom from the people and places of the plain, passing on their own story as a lesson to other races, and looking for clues as to how their own people might rise once again to prosperity from the shattered and disparate population they have become. The sisters also caution Elumai on the dangers of letting auguries of the future drown out the lessons of the past.

Eventually, with little fanfair, the caravan sets out. Shortham announces to the assembled travellers that he has been contracted to make three stops along the way: two nights so that the brothers Cannith can venture south into the Rowenoak foothills on matters of "family business"; three nights so that a trade syndicate from the caravan can visit Ashenport, a town on the western shore of the Lake of Shoals many days into the journey; and one night so that the sisters of the Ashen Cloth can make their pilgrimmage to the Winding Stone. With these pauses accounted for, he expects the entire journey to Emerandes to take around three weeks, depending on the weather.

Having already been unceremoniously shooed away from the caravans of the Cannith brothers (now identified as Parcival and Theruk), the party is decidedly curious about what these cloistered merchants are up to, and Jonas takes it upon himself to creep into Parcival's locked caravan late at night. The sleeping businessman, snoring the night away under silk bed-sheets, is blissfully unaware of the rogue as he rifles through whatever papers he can find.

The results are interesting. The Cannith family is clearly a wealthy member of the Court of Coin, and it appears the two brothers have ventured far from civilisation to hunt for something called the "Creation Forge". A scribbled map in Parcival's desk hints at the location in the northern ranges of the Rowenoaks, and scattered journals suggest that they're following clues left by someone else from the family called Jelia.

What gets Jonas's attention the most are skilfully-rendered drawings -- one might call them schematics -- of humanoid constructs that are dramatically reminiscent of the dragonborn warforged the company faced in one of the more dangerous cracks of the Underdark, a few weeks ago.

With barely contained mirth, Jonas quietly scatters some of the paperwork and steals a few oversized gold coins, stamped with the seal of House Cannith. Closing the door behind him, he uses his blade to scratch a random glyph on the otherwise unblemished surface of Parcival's wagon. The skill of the lookouts at the unroyal Brigade's camp prevents him from incriminating them in the theft, but he does cause mischief by tucking one of the coins in Simmiol's wagon... suitable punishment for a merchant trading in such dangerous material, even after being warned.

Next morning, cries of "Rogues! Alarm! I am burgled!" ring out from Parcival's wagon and a weary and short-tempered Shortham is called in to placate the irate merchant. A few minutes later, one of the men of the Unroyal Brigade silently agrees to act as personal bodyguard to the Cannith brothers for the rest of the trip, much to Jonas's amusement.

The party discusses the information he has recovered, and plan their next move...