Cheap Whiskey

Catching Up With The BUSA

After destroying the Ivy Heart, the Bearers of the Unconquered Standard of Arkhosia searched the chamber. The runes and shape of the building were somehow channelling a great deal of eldritch energy – drawing from the fabric of the Feywild. Large double doors were in the southern wall of the room. The doors were almost identical to the doors shown on the tapestry in the room from which they had come. Nim noticed a difference, the keyhole on the tapestry door was enlarged. The representation on the tapestry was not life-sized but the Keyhole was life-sized.

Eventually, after exploring more of the Garden of Graves, the adventurers ventured into the back door of the building where they had encountered and eventually retreated from the lamia and her swarm of scarabs. They found a room with an overflowing well. At the bottom of the well was a key exactly like the key in the tapestry picture. Theren attempted to grab the key but a huge snake composed of water erupted from the well as soon as he touched the water. It appeared to consume him with a violent strike and then both the snake and Theren were gone. Uthrid prepared to attack the snake if it appeared again and Nim grabbed for the key. The snake appeared as Nim touched the water but it disappeared when Uthrid struck it. Nim grabbed the key and the remaining adventurers left the room. They saw the lamia in the doorway at the end of the hall so they went back out the door in which they had entered the building.

Out side the building they quickly found Theren. He had been teleported out of the building when the snake attacked him and had ended up in the river above the falls. The current tried to drag him over the falls but his supoerior athletic ability allowed him to swim to the edge and get out of the river. The party then headed back to the tapestry room. Nim pressed the key to the keyhole on the tapestry and there was an audible “click”. They returned to the room of the Ivy Heart and the doors depicted in the tapestry were ajar. At the end of a hallway they found another set of doors. The doors opened to a room that held a whirling mechanism. It was evident that this mechanism was the engine for which the runed buildings were being driven. It was easily disabled and actually contained a staff of unyeilding vision as it’s lynchpin. Also in the room wa some treasure including a map of the Garden of Graves and a linked portal ritual. On the map they found a linked portal magic circle marked between the two obsideon obelisks they had seen outside the building where Theren was killed by the dark angels. The circle contained the religous symbol of Zehir – the snake god. Earlier in the CrescentEnd Forest, they had been told the way through the mountains was to follow the symbol of the snake god.

They found the portal circle, buried under a couple inches of dirt, between the obelisks. Nim performed the ritual and the adveturers were transported to a dark room within the mountains. They were within a complex of eladrin construction which featured rooms and hallways depicted eladrin dedicated to the snake god, Zehir. It was an anchient complex and many of the areas were caved in. One hallway descended into darkness at an unnerving angle. They followed the murals in the opposite direction and came to a portal in a wall that glowed a pale yellow light. They all entered the portal. They entered a large cavern with a chasm in it’s center flanked by curtains of stone that entended from floor to ceiling. A larged runed eidolin stood against the wall. The party soon found themselves face by a huge snake that had the cowl of a cobra bearing a face which looked much like that of an eladrin. This naga had two snake swarm servants and thwe eidolin came to life during the combat and pushed Utrid into the chasm where more snakes attacked him. When the eidolin moved it revealed a small treasure vault in the floor to Nim. Nim opened it and found a pouch with precious diamonds in it. As the encounter continued the party mad it’s way across the room where there was a twenty foot shelf in the cavern and a set of stairs. Nim got onto the shelf as Theren chased the naga around one of the stone curtains. Rudy and Uthrid were busy with snake swarms and the eidolin was pursuing Nim. Theren Split the naga’s head with an arrow and she fell to the floor dead. Her brains now decorated the stone curtain. A quickling emerged from a nook in the wall of the shelf and stole the bag of diamonds from Nim’s hands. The eidolin leapt up to the top of the shelf and the other adventurers hurried to Nim’s position. The eidolin entered a sort of trance at which point it remained motionless and it’s runes glowed. The adveturers had seen it do this earlier in the combat and found that it was somewhat resistant to attacks while in this state and that any attacks on it would trigger an assault of radiant energy on the attacker. Uthrid used his Come And Get It power and drew the eidolin out of it’s trance. At this point the other adventurers were able to attack it and destroy it. The snake swarms melted away when the eidolin was destroyed. Nim led the adventurers to the nook the quickling had emerged from and they found a small passage. They started to follow but realized they were probably getting sidetracked and returned to the stairs on the shelf.

Up the stairs they came to an enormous cavern which reminded them of the seven pillared hall in Thunderspire Mountain. There were ruins of small buildings scattered about the hall and some passages leaving the hall. A stair zigzagged up the wall on one side of the hall and ended in a cave opening. The ceiling of the hall glowed blueish-greenish through many icicles that clung to it a couple hundred feet above. In the center of the chamber was a huge idol to Zehir the snake god with three thrones positioned in front of it on forty foot pedastels. One of the thrones was much large than the other two and they could see a crown of golding setting on top of it. The crown was designed as a cobra snake which would encircle the wearers head.

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Ivy Heart

The BUSA retreated across the wooden bridge to the buildings west of the river. There was one door in the northern building they had not tried. They entered a chamber adorned with about a dozen tapestries. One had an image of fey dancing in a ring of toadstools as thunderclouds gathered overhead, and another showed a young man weeping over the corpse of a murdered maiden in a glade.

Doorlightbolt One tapestry against the western wall showed an almost life-sized double door, bounded in iron and silver and covered in arcane runes. A figure clad in black was being hurled back from the doors by a bolt of lightning, with obvious lock picks flying from his fingers. His companion, who was dressed in chainmail, was leaning forward as though to stop him. The second figure was holding a key in his open hand. It was the only tapestry that showed an indoor scene. Nim detected magic being emanated from the tapestry as well as arcane magic radiating from behind a tapestry in the southeast corner of the chamber.

Theren noticed that the large tapestry to the southeast didn’t stand in front of a wall, but rather hung before the entrance to another chamber. Pushing past the tapestry, the party foung themselves in a chamber of strange curves and bizarre shapes. In the rough center of the room stood a tall staff with a flame burning atop it, like a torch. On the curved, southeast wall was a line of numbers, 1 through 12, repeated twice. The first series was inlaid in brightly polished brass, and the second series was inlaid in black wrought iron. Both the flame on top of the staff and the numbers on the wall radiated arcane energy, partially but not entirely attuned to summoning – according to Nim.

After much deliberation, the party theorized that the numbers on the wall corresponded with the sundial in the building where they had fought the lamia. Nim remembered that just before the lamia attacked the sundial had read 9am and that the brazier moving around the sundial moved the hour ahead once every minute. With RAINMAN-like precision, Uthrid estimated 21 minutes had passed since the start of that battle. He confidently moved to stand between the torch and the wall of numbers and cast his broad shadow over the polished brass 6. There was a loud clank sound from the room of tapestries. The adventurers returned to that room and found two secret doors had opened. One door opened to the hallway that led to the room where they had battled the illusinary duplicates of themselves and the alluring game room. The other secret passage led to an unexplored part of the building.

A twenty foot long narrow corridor led to another door. Behind the door, a semicircular chamber featured a raised dais along its curved side. A great pile of stones rested atop the dais – it looked like a cairn, but if so, it was the resting place of something truly enormous. Three smaller cairns, of roughly human or elf size, lied clustered on the floor before the dais. As with many of the other structures through which the adventurers had traveled in this place, the walls of the chamber were covered in runes. It was obvious that the cairns did not belong there. They appeared to have once lain outside, beside the other graves, but had been moved inside for some reason.

The adventurers were careful to avoid the cairns and moved through the room toward a large opening in the walls to the west. Two walls intersected the center of the chamber beyond. They served no architectual purpose and were inscribed with more runes, probably more than they had seen elsewhere. It was difficult to tell because thick curtains of hanging ivy covered them. There were also several small holes in the ceiling – perhaps they provided sunlight to nourish the ivy. Anenormous set of double doors that were covered in runes and bound in iron and silver were set into the southern wall of the chamber.

When the party passed through the entry to the ivy chamber, three dread zombie knights emerged from the small cairns and a firbolg shell emerged from the large cairn. The party engaged the enemy and quickly killed the firbolg shell. Shortly after the battle started, a stretch of ivy suddenly began writhing. What looked like an eyestalk – a vine topped by a peculiar crystal – slid out from among the greenery, followed by a shambling body of ivy, twigs, jagged branches, and writhing roots. The battle was hard on Uthrid and Rudy who were bloodied several times but Nim and Theren were able to keep away from the monsters. At one point the shambling ivy creature focused the crystal eye on Theren and dazed and restrained him. A moment later Theren was stunned by the crystal but before it could draw out his soul he shook off the effect and was able to fight on. The BUSA’s powres were running low when they finally destroyed the creature.

A scream of frustration sounded, not from the creature but throughout the chamber. The creature of vegetation rotted away to nothing almost instantly, as did the curtains of ivy hanging along the walls, exposing the many scrawled runes beneath.

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Distressing Damsel
Theren is raised and the BUSA search on.

Back in the Feywild, the BUSA found themselves in a large clearing. It appeared featureless, except for a pair of stone obelisks along its western side. They were simple pillars of black marble, without writings or symbols. The adventures took a moment to take in the features that lay out side the clearing. There were oddly shaped buildings among the trees and tall grass and a river to the east with another stone obelisk jutting from the water. Thick trees lined the opposite side of the river but a marble building culd be seen beyond those trees. They could hear the water falling over the side of the cliff to the south of the building they had emerged from.

A number of stone cairns stood in the grass but they were overshadowed by the strangely shaped buildings. The buildings appeared constructed primarily of randowmly sized stones that had been roughly mortared together into uneven walls. It took them a moment to realize that the rocks that made up the buildings were probably taken from the cairns. Hundreds of graves had been destroyed to construct these structures.

North of the clearing the BUSA found a defensible position between two of the curved buildings and Nim set up his ritual to raise Theren from the dead while Rudy and Uthrid stood guard. During the ritual Nim had a vision: The passages around him were made of rough-hewn rock, apparently dug directly through the earth. The floor was worn smooth. Along the walls farther ahead of him, a series of images were once painted, but they had largely worn away; he could make out, at most, a few vaguely humanoid figures. There was a sense of emptiness around him – the peculiar feeling that whatever life and magic once flowed through the place was long gone. Then in the blink of an eye, he found himself once more back in the Feywild tending to his ritual.

Theren, suddenly found himself within a desolate wasteland. Dust blew around his feet and swirled about a number of broken statues made of chipped and pitted marble. The sky above was black and empty of stars, and the air brushed his skin with a chill that was as much emotional as physical, bringing him a sense of unrelenting loss. He did not know how long he stood there. Time did not matter but then the scene was gone, replaced by the face of Nim and the sounds of the Feywild.

After Theren was raised, Nim rested. When they all were refreshed they searched around. There was a trail that led north between a building and trees which bordered the river. There was an old and worn wood bridge that crossed the river to the marble building and further up the trail was a door leading into one of the buildings. Beyond that building was the impassable mountain face. The mountain was loose shale and hundreds of feet above the mountains disappeared into a mist which lay across the range. The adventurers decided to cross the bridge and check out the marble building.

On the other side of the bridge the path led to a door in the marble structure, which might have once been a shrine. Uthrid opened the door. The walls, ceiling and floor of the structure was covered in strange runes whose twisting shapes poked unpleasantly at Uthrid’s mind. In addition, the chamber’s inner walls curved at odd angles and ended in columns. They served no architectural purpose, but appeared to be part of the runic pattern itself. To the north beyond these walls, a dim light flickered and swayed, as though something was moving before an open flame. A faint whimpering emerged from beyond the peculiar walls. As they entered, Theren noticed a beetle dart across the floor. Uthrid advance toward the sound of the whimpering.

A flaming bronze brazier hung on a chain from the ceiling in the northern section of the building. Propelled by unseen magic, the brazier slowly revolved around a large stone sundial, casting a shadow that moved steadily from one hour to the next. Sundial Uthrid, Rudy and Theren mostly ignored the brazier and sundial for the moment and continued toward the whimpering but Nim was curious and took a closer look. The brazier’s revolution remained constant, causing the shadow to shift from one number to the next at intervals of 1 minute; at that pace, a full “day” passed every 24 minutes.

At the corner of two of the peculiar walls, a huddled figure stared at Uthrid, Rudy and Theren with frightened eyes. Elesdri She appeared to be eladrin, but as covered as she was in dirt and dried blood, they couldn’t be certain. She reached out imploringly, revealing a pair of rusted manacles chaining her to the wall, and began sobbing in broken Elven.

“Oh, gods! Strangers, you must help me! They’ve already sacrificed my family, and I’m to be next! Oh, please, help me…”

“Who holds you captive?” asked Theren.

Despite the sincerity in her voice, Rudy thought she was deceiving them, though about what precisely was unclear. With a simple gesture the eladrin’s manacles popped off and a pacifying burst emanated from her, testing the Will of the adventurers. They were stunned and the eladrin’s body burst into a swarm of scarabs while another scarab swarmed emerged from the wall near Nim. The adventures gradually shook off the stunning effect from the swarms pacifying burst and tried to fight back as the swarm embraced them and they were bitten by the horrible scarabs. There was a sense of intelligent in the manner with which the swarm attacked and they realized they were facing a magical fey beast known as a lamia. The other swarm was venomous but lacked the intelligence of the lamia.

The attacks from most of the BUSA were not as effective as they would have been against a normal, solid foe. The swarms were able to resist half the damage from melee and ranged attacks. Nim’s first few attacks were off target but he finally hit the venomous swarm with an area attack and delivered massive damage. Meanwhile, Uthrid was bloodied by the lamia and nearly out of his most powerful attacks. The lamia was alternating between a devouring swarm attack which effected multiple targets and an accursed flurry which targeted one opponent but allowed her to heal. After the venomous scarab swarb was destroyed, the lamia stunned the party with another pacifying burst. As they shook themselves free of the stunned effect, Uthrid suggested a retreat to Rudy. The lamia was still not bloodied and the BUSA were depleted of many of their powers. They ran for the door Theren and Rudy made it first and Uthrid carried the still stunned Nim utside to momentary safety.

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Dark Angels
The brief, wonderous death of Theren Brightwood

The world spun, dropping away from Uthrid, Rudy, Theren and Nim. For an instant they fell, and the memory of stability, of reality, was only a fading dream. Then the vertigo stopped, without even giving them time to stumble. They found themselves standing on solid ground “somewhere else”. Although they stood inside a structure, the dimensions of the chamber were difficult to determine because hundreds, perhaps thousands, of humanoid bones jutted from its marble walls. Skulls and femurs, fingers and hands, and spines and ribs were intertwined and set into the walls, forming a rough surface of repulsive complexity. Then they heard the echoes of screams reverberating off the walls; of the originating sounds, they could make out nothing at all.

A pall of despair and the agony of loss flooded through them. Before their eyes passed the faces of every friend and loved one each of them had ever lost, and a part of them wanted to add their screams to the echoes to give voice to their own torment. The sounds and visions soon faded, but they left behind a lingering gloom in the adventurer’s souls.

A robed and crowned statue also resided in the room. The marble statue was slightly larger than a broad-shouldered human. The face had long since been chisled away. Many of the wall bones appeared to be pointing in its direction. Elf-sized footprints, which had been carved into the floor, led into the chamber from an opening in the western wall and ended next to the eastern wall behind the statue.

Though Nim had no idea how it happened, he was sure they were no longer in the Feywild. He believed they had made a planar transition, but that knowledge didn’t tell him when they had ended up. The general maisma of despair put him briefly in mind of the Shadowfell, but even that didn’t feel right. They were…somewhere darker.

Around the eastern side of the statue, Uthrid saw a dark winged humanoid figure floating silently with a scythe in its hands. He warned the others and they attacked. The BUSA delivered a heavy amount of damage the first round. Uthrid marked the creature with a combat challenge. Theren struck the creature with an arrow and shifted around the statue to stand by the north western wall by the opening in the western wall. Nim lashed out and stood back toward the opening while Theren unleashed another arrow behind Nim’s attack. Rudy engaged next to Uthrid. A necrotic burst, fingers of death, erupted from the dark angel, testing the fortitude of Uthrid, Rudy and Theren. The creature marked Uthrid with the Mark of Death before this attack and was granted combat advantage over him.

The BUSA were not so lucky with their next rounds of attacks. Uthrid and Rudy held their ground and felt a touch of death as the room drained life from them. There was a Maisma of Death permeating the room – a spiritual chill which left them vulnerable to necrotic damage and caused necrotic damage when the adventurers failed to move around. The angel reaped Uthrid and Rudy with its scythe and another dark angel attacked from the opening behind Nim. It struck the gnome and bore down on Theren. Theren tried to shift away and found that his close proximity to the bone-jutting wall prevented him from doing so. He was hit and marked for death by the new angel.

Soon, Theren found himself marked by both angels. The angels moved slwly between the adventures making scythe attacks against two opponents each round without provoking opportunity attacks. Those with the Mark of Death were dealt additional damage from the scythe attacks. When the adventurers were engaged by an angel they had to choose between holding their ground and taking necrotic damage from the maisma of death or moving away and provoking opportunity attacks. All the BUSA were wounded but Theren was hurt the most. He tried to shift away and fire at one of the angels but as he shifted the angel’s scythe attack knocked him unconscious. The other adventurers killed the dark angel and it exploded with Death’s release with a burst of necrotic energy. They surrounded the other angel who floated by the statue and it disappeared. They ran to Theren but he was beyond their aid. By lying prone he had been subjected to the necrotic damage caused by the maisma of death and he had perished.

They dragged Theren from the cavernous room out the opening in the western wall. Outside the cavern they were releived of the maisma of death. They were in a narrow passage of marble walls that were rough and wrn by weather and age. A door was in the northern end of the passage and to the south, 30 feet away the passage turned west and widened with another door in the southern wall. Uthrid went south down the hall and the remaining dark angel rounded the corner and attacked. There were several rounds of attacks exchanged between the angel and the remaining BUSA and finally the dark angel was slain. The burst of necrotic energy from it’s Death release knocked the party prone and nearly knocked Uthrid unconscious.

They gt t their feet and dragged Theren t the door at the northern end of the passage. No lock r traps were detected n the door so Uthrid opened it. Behind the door was a bright light. The party entered the light and found themselves back in the Feywild.

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Death In The Dark

Rudy, Theren, Nim and Uthrid retreated back into the chamber where Nim had sensed high concentrations of both illusion and teleportation magic. Twisted runes covered the uneven walls, even parts of the floor and ceiling. For a second, impenetrable darkness fell over the chamber. It faded as quickly, allowing the adventurers to see once more…but things had changed. A perfect duplicate stood next to or close to each party member. A potentially confusing battle took place between the BUSA and their imposters but the adventurers mostly kept their insight on friend and foe. The imposters were three spriggan and a quickling who all fought beyond death like some fey creatures had done earlier after the party ventured past Long’Old’Worny. They died, turned undead before falling to the floor, made a last attack and then crumbled to decaying corpses.

After the fight the BUSA went back to the dead-ended corridor and Nim discovered a secret door. Unfortunately, the party could not open the door through thievery, brute strength or magic. They returned to the cramped tunnels beneath the building and followed the tunnel north. It ended and a secret door was found in the ceiling. Nim unlocked it and Uthrid opened it. It opened up in the game room and Uthrid was drawn in by one of the tables. He was not good at the game and suffered a great deal of psychic damage before he was able to pull himself away.

The party took the tunnel back outside. They still had a tunnel that ran along the cliff face to explore but they wanted to make a plan. Outside they consulted the poem Theren had translated. They thought about exploring outside but the poem steered them away from “wandering in the wilderness”. They went back into the tunnels with one of their three remaining torches lit and the eastern tunnel went for 125 feet before ending. They found another secret passage and unlocked it. Uthrid opened it up…..

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Play with Us

Aside from Nim, the adventurers had to stoop in the tunnel. Given the weight of all the treasue they carried, the stooping was very uncomfortable. The horses could not enter the tunnel so they were left to graze in the tall grass outside the tunnel.

Ten feet into the tunnel it split. One path went east parrallel with the face of the cliff and the other continued north but veered a little to the west. Uthrid continued on the northern path for another forty feet before the tunnel split again. He could continue northeast or go northwest. He continued northeast and the tunnel ended after twenty-five more feet. Squeezing past each other, the party arranged itself to head back the way they had come in the same marching order. When Uthrid got back to the most recent split he took the northeast passage. After progressing twenty feet up this tunnel, Theren noticed something in the tunnel ceiling above Uthrid. It was a secret passage and with a thievery skill check they were able to open it.

Uthrid emerged through the secret door which laid in the floor at the end of a hallway. The building appeared to be constructed primarily of randomly sized stones that had been roughly mortared together into uneven walls. Twisted runes covered the walls, even parts of the floor and ceiling. The ceiling was roughly fifteen feet high. The rest of the party emerged and Uthrid cautiously crept forward where the narrow hallway opened up wider. Nim looked at the unfamiliar runes and determined only that they were working in unison to channell a great deal of power. Where the hall opened up another narrow hallway curved away from the adventurers to the southwest. A wider hallway swept to the northwest. The building was designed with curves and angles which Nim came to believe was purposeful. Somehow the shape of the building and the many runes were working together for a mysterious aim.

There were no windows but a few of the runes glowed, providing a weak light in addition to the sunrod Uthrid carried. The sweeping northwest hallway opened up and a wide hallway turned a sharp angle to the south. Uthrid continued along the northwest hallway which became narrow again.

“Let’s not get distracted,” advised Theren, “keep heading north and find a way out of here. I don’t like this place.”

Uthrid came into a rectangular room fifteen feet wide, after thirty feet the chamber ended in a ten foot by ten foot alcove. A wide opening in the eastern wall led to a rounded room and a narrow hallway ran north between the two rooms. Runes covered the walls, floor and ceiling of all of these rooms and hallways. Uthrid moved quickly from the sweeping hallway to the northern hallway between the two rooms with the rest of party on his heels. Nim was concentrating on the runes as he walked.

Suddenly, the world shimmered and changed around Nim. Walls that were constructed of bits of stone turned to evenly carved brickwork, which appeared to be mortared with an oozing black goo. It dripped slowly down the face of the stone. Moans echoed from afar, and feelings of despair assailed the gnome sorcerer. And then it was over. Nim found himself bustling behind his friends in the oddly shaped building. Arcane power seeped from the fabric of the chamber ahead. Nim sensed high concentrations of both illusion and teleportation magic. Two walls of the chamber, one whiched formed one of the walls of the narrow hallway and one that jutted out at the northern end of the chamber, ended in narrow columns, as though to continue patterns begun by the runes around them. An opening in the northeast corner of the chamber was split by a wall creating parallell hallways heading east. Uthrid chose the northern hallway and the party was through the chamber in a matter of seconds. The hallway continued for eighty feet and turned sharply south for twenty feet before turning east again and ending abruptly. Theren searched but failed to find a secret passage.

Uthrid led the group back to the hallway which ran parallell to the one they had taken. From down this hall, they heard the dull murmuring of multiple people talking softly at once, as well as the occasional clink of glasses. They quickly rounded the corner. If it wasn’t for the fact that some of the walls had eldritch runes scattered here and there, the party would have been certain they had been teleported somewhere else. The chamber before them was luxurious, sporting a rich carpet, a gleaming chandelier in the center of the ceiling, and five small gaming tables around the outer edge, each with a haphazard collection of dice, cards, and game pieces. There was no longer a trace of the voices they heard on the way in, and the only other visible exit was a wooden door along the south wall.

The party advanced toward the door but Uthrid and Rudy stopped short and each headed toward a different game table. They were hearing voices whispering in their heads, “Play with Us”, and they were drawn to the games.

“What are you doing?” shouted Theren and he ran to the door. Uthrid and Rudy shook their heads and came out of their trances but Nim heard the voices beckon him and he went to a game table with a game of stone laid out on a board. A piece opposite his moved and when he failed to make a move he was hit by a mind blast psychic attack. Theren got to the door and realized it was fake. He heard the tables pleas for him to play with them but resisted the urge.

“It’s a trap!” shouted Theren, “Get out of the room!”

Theren and Rudy moved into the hallway and Uthrid followed. On the way out Uthrid picked up Nim who was still standing by the table entranced. Nim could see the strategy his “phantom opponent” was using when he was hit with another psychic attack. Uthrid was hauling him away.

“I can beat it!” Nim thought and he struggled to free himself from Uthrid’s grasp. Uthrid held on and Nim became enraged. The gnome was intent on beating his “phantom opponent” and when Uthrid didn’t let him go he tried to hit him with an acid orb. Luckily, the attack missed but Uthrid released the gnome anyway. Nim rushed to the table and using his sorcerous vision he was able to defeat the game with four quick moves. When the “phantom opponent” was defeated the game lost it’s enchantment and Nim pushed himself away from it and joined his friends in the hallway.

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Beggars of Stone

The path wound through thick woods and waving grasses, seemingly without definite direction. Finally, as the trees thinned somewhat, Theren spotted the enormous ridge of dark stone looming ahead. He heard the rush of running water in the distance, but the trees in that direction were still too thick for him to see more than a few yards. From where he stood, Theren saw a narrow tunnel piercing the dark-hued rock. Some writing was chiseled into the stone – on the ridge, beside the cave entrance, and along several broken bits of rock lying beside the path. The script was an ancient form of Elven. Theren translated it and it became clear that it was intended to be recited in Common, for it rhymed in that language. The verse read:

Count you the shadows, watch the sun, The wise know where they stand; While knowing not the time to shun, The fools must find themselves undone.

Like lustful swain or panicked child Who beg another’s gentle hand, The fool delves heedless through the wild. The wise are not so soon beguiled.

When darkness falls and dreams portend The rising of a fearsome foe, The fool, swift-striking, meets his end, The wise know foe from friend.

Let art and image point the way, Abandon all you think you know, For common sense leads fools astray. The key is simply this: Obey.

The wise must ever strategize; They never play, unless to win. They see the harm in comfort’s lies, And seek to open weary eyes.

You’ve fought your way, you’ve risked demise, To view the ivy heart within. Now as the soul within you dies, This knowledge is your only prize; You’d never have come, were you truly wise.

The party stepped into a simple cavern in the rock cliff that looked like it had not been used in some time. Not all the stone was natural, however. A trio of statues stood along the far wall, forming a portion of that wall. Each statue depicted a humanoid female clad in rags and tatters with her right hand out, palm up, as though expecting to receive some gift. The figure on the left was a young female, her beauty apparant even given the poor condition of the stone. The center figure was older, her face kind and matronly. The figure on the right was stooped with age, her face a maze of lines and wrinkles.

Beggers of stone

Nim sensed powerful magic within the cavern, coming from beyond the carved figures, and from the statues themselves, which radiated arcane energy related to polymorphing. All four of them believed that the statues were trapped and a wrong move would set it into motion. Theren looked to the poem for a clue about getting past the statues but could not find a connection. The party agreed they needed to put something in the outstretched hands. They noted the girl on the left had a rose in her other hand. They theorized that a coin might appease the girl with the rose and food might be what the hunched crone was looking for but none of them had a guess as to what to give the middle figure. Uthrid noted that the crone had a coin pouch tied around her waist. Theren decided he would place a coin in each of the statues hands. He removed three gold pieces from his pouch. The first coin he placed in the hand of the crone but he paused for a moment before he placed the other coins. Suddenly all three statues animated briefly and stepped aside, providing a pathway onward. The four adventurers quickly slipped between the statues. Rudy found a +3 skewering war pick behind the statues.

As they emerged from the passage, they saw two paths stretching away from them; each surrounded by high grass and thick trees. They were back outside on the other side of the ridge. They heard the sound of rushing water somewhere to the east, but trees blocked sight of it. A cliff face, composed of the same stoneas the ridge they passed through, rose to the north. From their location, they could not see what lied atop cliff. They took the path leading north and it came to a tunnel in the side of the cliff. The tunnel was round and five feet in diameter. The party reassessed their priorities for a moment and agreed that their goal was to head north “under” the mountain from what they had been told. The only other advice given to them was to head in the direction indicated by the symbol of the snake god but they had seen nothing of the sort so far. Their last sunrod was still glowing so Uthrid took it and led the way into the tunnel with Rudy, Theren and Nim following.

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Cernysdel

Nim, Uthrid Ragnarson, Rudolph Harmony and Theren followed the path through the woods and found a large piece of carved stone along the path. It looked like a section of wall with features indicating eladrin architechture. It was a broke off section and words in thick black lines were scorched into the rock. Rudy identified it as the giant language. It said, “CERNYSDEL – KEEP OUT”. Up ahead Theren found a ruined building. It was eladrin built but had been partialy destryed and rebuilt. The new entrance was composed of two giant stone pillars supporting a stone beam thirty feet above the ground. The rebuilt walls were held together with a reddish black mortar. Arcane symbols were burnt into rocks outside the entrace and the clearing in front was blak dirt.

The party camped outside the building and a stone-eyed basilisk tried to sneak into the camp and turn Rudy to stone. There was quickly a dead basilisk in the clearing. After their rest the party found that the fire giant was sitting on his make-shift throne inside the building. He had been turned to stone long ago. He looked quite old. There was a door in the back of the hall but it was locked. A door at the side of the hall led to some stairs which spiraled down to a vault. Some eladrin runes decorated the door to the vault and Rudy and Nim worked together to figure out that some runes drawn on the walls by the giant were a counter to the ward that had been placed on the vault door. They translated it and the door rolled open. A rune was discovered on the threshold of the door and Nim determined that it was a summoning spell that would activate if the doorway was crossed. Inside the room was a pile of gold and gems and glass cabinets lined the walls. Daggers, a longbow, and a couple suits of fine armor could be seen in the cabinets. Uthrid crossed the threshold and the party battled a couple fire archons and a fire elemental that were summoned. With help from the Unconcured Standard of Arkhosia they minimized the fire damaged and earned a large score of powerful magic items. They also earned 11th level and entered the paragon tier. Rudy chose Sword Marshall as his warlord paragon path. Uthrid chose Kensai with a focus on longsword as his fighter paragon path. Nim chose Wild Mage as his sorcerer paragon path. Theren chose Battlefield Archer as his ranger paragon path.

After an extended rest, Nim used a Knock ritual to open the door at the back of the fire giant’s den. The door opened and the party followed the ten foot diameter tunnel guided by the light of a sun rod. The curved walls of the tunnel were of eladrin design. Along the tunnel were seven niches memorializing some eladrin of an age long gone by. The names and dates that could be read were unfamiliar to any of the adventurers. Eventually the tunnel emerged back to the outside wilderness. A path wove up the hills between tall grass and thick woods towards a ridge and the mountains to the north.

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Woodland Woes

Theren Brightwood was feeling it since entering the Feywild. He led the BUSA through the forest of the lands called Cernysdel. After a few hours travel he came across a clearing in the thick woods. Something awful must have happened in the clearing was his first thought. A trio of bodies – young women, from the looks of it – lay scattered across the grass. But that didn’t make sense in this wilderness and he instantly knew he was being lured into an ambush. Several foul-looking humanoids, with mangy wings and wicked talons, lurked among the trees. Theren signaled to Rudy, Nim and Uthrid that an ambush lay ahead. Suddenly, the three women disappeared and the party who lurked by a tree several paces behind Theren were engaged with three blood-thirsty dryads. Three harpies flew down from the trees and attacked Theren with brutal screams and vicious claws. The drayds gouged Uthrid and Rudy with claw attacks. Uthrid received some bloodying wounds but the experienced adventures fended them off. The enraged fey all fough to the death and beyond. That was a most disturbing feature of this encounter. When the BUSA’s enemies received a killing blow a sudder ran through the foe’s body and it began to topple – only to freeze, hunched over, as though held upright by invisible strings. The foe would glare at it’s slayer with empty eyes that rolled up in it’s head. Faint wisps of sickly gray mist drifted from their gaping mouths and the ends of their clawed fingers. They would fight on for a moment before crumbling into bone and dust or stringy dried wood and dust in the case of the dryads.

On the far end of the clearing a path wound through thick woods and waving grasses, seeming without a definite direction. Along the path they were attacked by a displacer beast. It was difficult to hit at first but once on party member hit it the adventurers quickly killed it. This creature also seemed to turn undead and fight on at the end before crumbling into bone and ash. It was creepy.

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Ashsam's Trail to 'Worny

An offering of blood was required at the fountain in the House of Pain to enable Ashsam and the adventurers back to the Feywild. Ashsam was duty bound now to the strangers who had saved him from the Shadow Witch. His second duty was to return to his tribe and protect them. Ryniom would handle that for now and probably do a better job at it. Ashsam was better at dishing out punishment to his enemies than protecting those he loved. Third on his list of duties was to hunt down the Witch and exact vengeance for the Younglings who had been taken.

The strangers Rudy, Theren, Uthrid and Nim had horses but this made the journey through Ashsam’s trail more difficult rather than easier. The woods were thick and the passes narrow. Ashsam had never rode a beast through his trail and many times the adventurers had to dismount. The horses also made stealth much more difficult. Ashsam and Theren scouted the trail and waved the others forward when the path was clear.

In one small clearing between forested impassable hills, Theren detected a troll and the adventurers ended up battling a pair of trolls and a pair of destrachan. The destrachan were eyeless, upright lizards with strong legs and thin arms with long taloned fingers. They percieved their surrundings through sonic impulses and quickly retreated into the trees when it became evident that the trolls were outmatched. The trolls regeneration was a nuisance until Nim destroyed their bodies with orbs of acid.

The forest got buggier and bats swooped over the party’s heads as they crossed the forest. Then fairy dragons, very colorful and of dog-like size zoomed in and hunted on the bats. After feeding, the dragons followed the adventures with curious interest. As the party approached a treeless hill that would expose them to a bird’s eye view the fairy dragons raced away in the direction they had come. Suddenly a great roar was heard and Ashsam and his new friends witnessed an huge dragon with red, green and gold scales bring a wyvern crashing down on the hill they needed to cross. They watched the powerful creature devour the beast and then rest. After an hour or so the dragon got to it’s feet, sniffed in the party’s direction and took off into the air. Ashsam quickly led the group over the hills and they reached Long’Old’Worny by nightfall.

They slept near Long’Old’Worny and he didn’t waken. Ashsam welcomed the strangers to stay with his tribe. He believed they were going to die trying to make it to Mithrendain but he didn’t tell them. They needed to get back to their people, they were brave and he wasn’t going to ruin the mood. He owed them that much. In the morning, Ashsam left the Bearers of the Dragon Banner and believed he would never see any of them again for the rest of his days.

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