Pelorday, Marantus 12, 1018 A.G. – Trapped in the Original Tomb of Horrors
Having spent the night uneventfully, we awoke to renewed pleas from Kuiperia to consider the proposal from the Eye of Vecna. She’s also gasping, telling Groa the green vapors are getting to her. While Groa thinks Kuiperia is exaggerating just a tad, she is starting to think we should let her in. Instead, for the moment, Groa uses one of her spells to create a wind blowing the fumes away from Kuiperia. We are still discussing our predicament and how to get out of it. Even though I already told the group I sense miles of rock around us, Ungus goes into one of his trances to examine our surroundings. He feels the rock around us is not an earthly rock but instead typical of rock from the Elemental Chaos. Yeah, OK, either way we can’t tunnel out of it. Morthwyl suggests we might want to try tricking the teleportation circle into believing Acererak is here but Groa says MAYBE she could figure out how to do that given 30 – 60 days! Metterby, the Half-Elf Warlock scribbles they have been here for 30 YEARS and haven’t figured it out. Speaking of which, they all look a little malnourished and dehydrated but otherwise pretty good for their age – well the Half-Elf, the Elf and the Dwarf anyway. Jangrid the Human Cleric – not so much. She’s a frail old lady now in her 70’s. We start passing out water to them but Peristaul asked for wine. I rummage thru my Haversack and find a couple of bottles so I hand him one. Morthwyl is eager to do something – anything – and grumbles he should crunch Acererak’s skull fragments to powder. I tell him to go ahead if he wants to die here. Then I come up with an idea. I say we can take the resurrected child Acererak to Forgehome and let him be raised by Uncle Agapanthus and be indoctrinated with goodness by Sariant and Prince Galerant along with the other members of the Company of the Black Wagon. Now The Eye of Vecna’s thoughts are coming thru to us again via Kuiperia. (Oh, what a pain!) She is saying there is a woman in the City of Sigil called Lady Oster and she will take the child for us. Yeah, we don’t know anything about her. It also tells us about how the young Acererak was ostracized for being a half-breed and how he witnessed villagers with pitchforks and torches attack his mother, burning her. Morthwyl has had enough of Vecna/Kuiperia so he opens the door and charges out, dragging Kuiperia back further down the hall, tying her up. Returning to us, he vows not to make a deal with that thing! But Ungus and I are leaning toward making the deal – we have to get out of here and help restore the world. Besides, I am too young and too pretty to die in this stinking place. I offer up another option – can we find out if the Eye of Vecna can bring back Acererak as a baby – to a more innocent time in his life before bad things happened to him. It’s a question we will have to ask it personally. We all think about that and pray to our gods for guidance but none of them are answering us. It’s as if being in this place is blocking our prayers. Obanar warns us the baby would still be a Half-Demon. Well, what does that mean? A Half-Demon can’t be raised to be good? That’s the impression we get. Groa knows that an abyssal Cambion (Half-Demon, Half-Human) looks somewhat like a Tiefling and could perhaps pass as one in Arantus. Groa and I then speculate if Kuiperia could control the Eye of Vecna. But Groa realizes that the Eye is a strong artifact and not the actual Vecna. Something about concordance but what it means is neither can control the other. We need to talk to the Eye so I suggest Groa get close enough to communicate with it. She goes into the corridor and telepathically asks if it can resurrect Acererak as a baby. It tells her it is possible but that for each year younger than 10 there is an increasing risk of destroying the creation and its soul. It could however, still activate the teleportation circle. Groa thinks the Eye is being truthful because for one thing it reminds her it wants to escape just as badly as we do. Then it tells her something we should have thought about – it says we should search Acererak’s library and find a sigil sequence to a safe place. (We already know a lot of sigil sequences – but I guess we thought Acererak’s circle was locked on to only one place?) Seeing that Kuiperia is almost passing out from the fumes, Groa drags her closer to our room, out of the fumes. She then comes back and tells us about the library. We all go there but finding that it is filled with the obnoxious green fumes, we can’t stay. So we load a pair of Tenser’s Floating Discs with as many books as we can and haul them back to our room. On our way back, Groa unties Kuiperia and tells her to come with us. Sorting thru the books, we find one of interest – about the City of Sigil or the City of Doors – which exists in its own plane. There, the city is ruled by the “Lady of Pain”. But I found a reference to someone called Lady Osterneth, who purports to be a suave and beautiful human woman in her late 20’s – but in actuality is an ancient Lich who possesses the original, desiccated Heart of Vecna. The Eye, agitated that we found that reference, mumbles to us but Groa just blows a raspberry at it. (I smile at her ladylike behavior.) Then she tells us the Eye of Vecna, the Hand of Vecna and the Heart of Vecna all wish to be reunited. Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen! With our new knowledge, we are leaning toward resurrecting Acererak, have him activate the teleportation circle then we can insert a sigil sequence to anywhere we want. We discuss whether it’s safe to bring Acererak to Argent and how far away is that circle from Gabbe? We remember that the circle in Argent is in a town square, quite a safe distance away from Gabbe’s pool. Kuiperia feels the need to tell us she could quite possibly separate herself from the Eye of Vecna by angering it, but if the Eye gets angry enough with Kuiperia it could turn her to dust. She feels it probing her brain and she is trying to block it out but is not sure if it’s working. On the other hand, she says this might be useful because she feels she could also probe its memories. I think about another option with Acererak – that once he gets us out of here we could kill the kid. Oops, the Eye heard my thoughts and says if we destroy the boy, it will destroy Kuiperia.
So with Morthwyl reluctantly agreeing to our plan, we prepare to commence the Raise Dead ritual, with the Eye of Vecna modifying it. Sticking to the original plan of resurrecting him as a 10 year-old Cambion, Groa and Ungus begin. The 8 hour ordeal is supervised by the Eye of Vecna who inserts new arcane variations into the ritual words. With slight nods to each other, Groa and Ungus make mental note of those variations and upon completion, have now learned how to raise the dead to an earlier time of their life. Upon completing the process, a creepy young Cambion child coalesces before us on the floor. He’s naked, confused and scared, crying for his mother. He scuttles away, yelling at us, “Don’t kill her, please don’t kill her!” Groa’s maternal instincts hit her as she rushes to console him while Ungus hands him a beer and both he and Morthwyl give him some Dwarf clothes. Groa gently asks if we can call him Ace. He agrees but is still confused and ranting about his mother and how he wants to kill or imprison his father. After spending time with him, calming him down, we explain what we need him to do. But Groa thinks there are too many of us to go thru the circle at once – so we put some of the Blue Cloaks in my haversack and Ungus’ Bag of Holding and we carry others. Set to go now, Ace jumps into the teleportation circle, activating it. Then we all walk into the circle while Ungus sets the sigil sequence for Argent which we start to see thru a tunnel-like vision.
After we are successful in getting thru, Morthwyl and Ungus pray that we have done the right thing bringing this “child” here with us and whether it might be better to slay him now. Neither of the Dwarves get their prayers answered but Kuiperia and Groa feel that both the Raven Queen and Melora suggest he may still be of use to us. I characteristically don’t ask my god but I am OK with letting him live and watching him closely. As our attention turns to the surroundings, we witness an incredible sight. There is our beloved Gabbe, hovering 50 feet up in the air, tethered to a howdah which is mounted on a huge elephant made of black marble. I immediately yell out, “Is that Tantron?” Both Ungus and I are delighted to see it, hoping we also see Dame Mari Roemer who we fondly remember as a brave and valiant Knight. We also see another old friend, one of the original Blue Blades, the old elf Ressilmae Starlight and nearby a young boy who we also remember fondly as our first squire, Bastian Kamroth – well, actually he was Dame Mari’s squire. But one person we are not so pleased to see is the young human girl, Tress. The last time we saw her, she summoned Demons. We note that her head has been reattached to her shoulders however. That’s a good thing I guess.
So we notice Gabbe is testing the rope which ties her to Tantron – she’s hovering up and down and Groa is concerned. After exchanging greetings, Groa asks if she is feeling OK and if she is attached to Tantron by choice. Gabbe tells her yes, she is fine and tells us to climb up the elephant and enter the howdah. I let the Blue Cloaks out of my Haversack. Obanar and the rest of them are happy to be in Argent and see Gabbe and the Torrian children welcome them warmly. Gabbe tells us we are going to places that need our help and this time she is going with us. But where are we going? She says there is no time to explain right now – she will tell us while we are enroute. So we all climb and enter the howdah along with Ressilmae, Bastian, Tress and Ace. Obanar and The Blue Cloaks are going to stay here in Argent with Etupio and the Torrians to recover. Ressilmae turns to us and tells us he is so glad we got back here, Gabbe was so anxious and they have much to share with us. As the three youngest members of our party introduce themselves, we notice Bastian and Tress giving Ace suspicious looks. As Gabbe starts flying, towing Tantron with us in the howdah, Resillmae starts to tell us about how Dame Mari succeeded in her quest to reunite the two aspects of Avandra but had to sacrifice her own life in the process. Avandra—the goddess of change, adventure, and luck—has been reborn in Tress’s body, but the little strawberry blonde, pig-tailed girl isn’t really fully aware that she is now a goddess. Ungus interprets this new Avandra goddess’ rebirth as a sign of great change to come. The paths to adventure we have followed over this past year are quickly fading and new kinds of adventure are replacing them, in this world and in others. But this means the twilight of our adventuring is quickly closing in. (I fight back a tear at the thought.) We are also told the story of how Dame Mari died and how everyone got here from Fallcrest. Ressilmae also tells us that Gabbe feels as a Blue Warden, she needs to help us accomplish a few more important things before she can retire and return to the Plane of Dreams. She has also indicated that we may retire there with her – or visit for a time as we see fit. While we are there, we could inhabit the dreams of other would-be adventurers and leave anytime. (But I think I would rather live in my own adventure than in a dream of someone else’s!) Anyway, Gabbe tells us that she has two urgent missions for us to accomplish. But before she can tell us, Ressilmae inquires about Uncle Crogan. After explaining his new existence, I pull his circlet out of my haversack and he and Ressilmae briefly talk. I think they also discuss plans to free Uncle Crogan’s trapped soul from the soul gem.
So Gabbe’s first important mission for us is to secure and heal the Nentir Vale. She wants us to forge an alliance between all the local residents/factions to unite against the encroaching war between Goblyndor and Drachnydor. She also takes time to warn us that Arantus is in such a fragile state right now, we need to only use our Epic powers for important matters. The whole world may destabilize if we use our powers too much. For an example, she warns us NOT to battle Tarnhem in this plane. If we want to annihilate him, it is best to do so on his home ground or on another plane, not in Arantus. She also starts to speak about channeling our power into her or thru her? I don’t get it all as she is interrupted by the sighting of a Black Dragon heading our way. It’s the cruel and evil Shadowmire from Witchlight Fens. Gabbe says we must trust her and do what she says. She says one of us must go outside and confront the Black Dragon. Ungus volunteers, goes outside the howdah and wonders of wonders, is successful in intimidating Shadowmire, who asks him what he would like him to do. Ungus gives him a beer and has Groa come out to talk to him. She explains we need him to convince the other native Dragons of the Nentir Vale to join us in our quest. Shadowmire agrees and sets out to do our bidding. All excited, Gabbe says she is ready to visit the next Dragon’s lair but Morthwyl tells her to hold up, stating we need to let Shadowmire get to them first. So we feel a sudden change in direction as she says he is correct and our next stop will be Stonefang Pass where Morthwyl’s Orcs are located. Upon landing in the pass, Morthwyl jumps out of the howdah and gathers the Orcs who bow to “Lord Morthwyl”. He gives them such a rousing, inspiring speech, I am caught up in the moment, yelling out “Yes, I am with you!” After the Orcs agree to become part of the nacent Nentir Vale alliance, tentatively called “The Order of the Blue Scarabs”, their leader asks Lord Morthwyl if they can have some “cool” uniforms and emblems. We come up with a design for them, featuring a double-headed axe with a blue scarab superimposed over it. They pledge their allegiance to us and will be training and waiting at our beck and call. So Gabbe asks us where to next? We feel since Dwarves make the best armor and weapons, we should head over to Silvershield Hold and convince them to help us in addition to making all the equipment. Once we get there Ungus fears his diplomacy skills won’t help. So Morthwyl pulls out his biggest hammer and smashes the conference table to smithereens! Yup, that’s our Morthy!!! In unison, they all drop their jaws and say “You got our attention. What do you want us to do?” After Morthwyl tells them, they finally agree but tell us they want even “cooler” uniforms than the Orcs get. Well, of course! So we tell them to design them and we will pay the cost. Groa suggests they use some of their fine metalwork in the design. But the kicker is they have to make the Orcs uniforms too. They grudgingly agree but then they want to know if they will be forced to work with the Orcs, side by side. Ungus explains that yes, there may be times they will have to do that but if the Orcs attack them, the Dwarves can defend themselves. Well, that’s a no-brainer! We give them some money to make the uniforms and pay for the broken table, then we take our leave, on to our next stop.
At Pomora Wood, we meet with Lady Itzehl and representatives from Cloak Wood and Harken Forest where Groa takes the lead in requesting their allegiance. They are fine working with the Dwarves but reluctant to work with Orcs, Goblins, and Dragons. Even with Lady Itzehl’s forceful admonishments, some refuse to help, wanting instead to relocate to the Feywild. Ultimately 2/3 of them agree to help while 1/3 decide to leave. I yell at them “fine, go and drink your pansy-wine!” Next, our journey brings us to meet with the Phantom Brigade. Gabbe tells us they must be convinced by someone with ties to the undead. Kuiperia tries to do that but even with Morthwyl’s help (the commander is a friend of his), they too decide they are leaving this world and wish to return to the land of the dead, feeling their work in Arantus is done. Morthwyl suggests Kuiperia try to intimidate them instead of persuading them. She stands tall, focuses the Eye of Vecna on them, throws out her awesome breasts, lets her red hair blow in the wind and threatens them in her most intimidating voice. They just smile and say they are leaving! Fine!
Gabbe reminds us we have several more Dragons to convince. (I thought Shadowmire was going to do that!) But evidently, he only spoke to them briefly to prepare them for our arrival. I remind Morthwyl he has a Dragon scale from Calastryx. We go to Winterbole first to see Bitterstrike and before you know it, Ungus has her eating out of his hands and giving him a celebratory ride. Along with her offspring Farralax, Thrymzen and Szartharrax, they all vow to help the cause. Next we visit Vestapalk in the Cairngorm Peaks and quickly gain his loyalty, followed by a satisfying visit to the calm and reasonable Blue Dragon, Azurebolt, to whom Morthwyl gives his precious dragon scale. Mission accomplished!
Our next mission is to heal the fragile state of the world of Arantus. She describes ruptures and fractures in places where evil things are coming in. One such place is in the north near Lake Nen called the Ruins of Fastormel. There have been sightings of nasty, rusty, briny water coming out of caves, poisoning everyone and everything in its path. But Gabbe says she can’t help us here and she can’t land, so we will need to jump down. She tells us we must find the source of the acid water and she suspects it is connected to the Abyss and possibly has links to Abysm with intrusions by the fierce Demon Lord Demogorgon himself. When he overhears this news, Ace becomes all excited and wants to join us saying, “Can I go?” He tells us his father is not on that level so it will be safe for him. But we still think it is too risky and we even want Gabbe to take him to Agapanthus or Etupio while we are busy. But she says she can’t do that either – she needs to stay here. So Ace, Tress and Bastian all will stay in the howdah, supervised by Ressilmae and Gabbe. Groa tells them all to “play nice” but must have been looking mainly at Tress who glowers at her. Ressilmae pulls her aside and advises her to speak to Tress with more respect in the future as she wouldn’t want to see Tress get really angry because she is a goddess, after all. Groa bows her branches in agreement. Ace is really disappointed and angry as well but too bad. So as we approach the ruins we see flowing acid water spurting out and down the hillside at random intervals of time. The sulfurous stench is overpowering and the water sizzles, leaving devastation in its path. We approach an opening into a cave. Oh this should be fun. . . . .