Dragon's Claw

Do these robes make me look fat?
Never bring a street brawler to a religious fight.

Game Date: 10/14/09

Quickly putting some distance between themselves and the latest altercation, the men attempted to melt back into the populace and make their way to the Temple of Erathis. The two Eladrin and their wolfhound blended effortlessly, the country blacksmith to a somewhat lesser degree.

Sebastian, continuing his canine charade, made for the gates of the city. The watchmen made a special effort to keep the gates open just long enough for his exit. Once out into the wilderness he loped the miles across the valley to where the Dragon Hoop lay.

Back in Wolf’s Deep, the Temple of Erathis stood in the city’s grand square (er, hexagon). Across from it lay both the large Dragonborn tower and the Inn of the Bruised Grape, where the men were currently keeping rooms. It was old, probably as old as the city itself. It’s blocks of dark stone were marred only by the chiseling across it’s face marking it as a house of Erathis. It’s origins were as lost to time as the original facade over the entrance.

The doors were open and mildly lit by the light of a few torches. Within, the grand hall was occupied by a handful of worshipers and a pair of priests. While Luke and Erevis held back, Dex approached one of the clergymen and requested audience with the head of the Temple, Father Eljana. Bandying about the name of the Chosen Kalariel seemed to expedite the process.

The young priest led the men to a sitting room. The three enjoyed the wine, cheese and fire while awaiting the arrival of the Father. He turned out to be something of a mild surprise to the visitors. Father Eljana was a halfling – short, but not small by any means. If Erathis was the goddess of civilization, then Father Eljana was enjoying her fruits. Abundantly.

As any man would be who was abruptly awoken from his slumber, he was somewhat gruff from the start. Dex produced the letter of introduction which had been provided by Kalariel and the priest took a moment to mumble through it’s contents. Assured that they were who they said they were, he invited them to sit and explain their story.

He accepted it with little comment and when prodded provided some details of his own. Apparently, one of his priestesses was overcome during a ceremony a month or so ago. Her recovery was preceded however by a vision from the goddess. In it she related something to the effect of “The darkness is coming.” The Chosen of Erathis took it upon themselves to investigate and forestall this occurrence.

Little was else was learned with a few exceptions. The priest knew of the invisible gate to the tower, and himself had an amulet key. Apparently, there were quite a few about the city. The tower itself was manned by the city guard, and traditionally had been for ages. Another tradition practiced by the city was the “One House, One Dog” practice. Dogs were treated well for their ability to act as an early warning during invasion.

Lastly, he was able to provide an identity for the mob which was at that moment bleeding out in the bazaar. The Cult of Orcas. Who they were and where they hid was unknown to him.

Beyond that, the party’s story had elicited little surprise from the large man-child. And little guidance. While willing to assist them, he had no notion of what to do next. It was up to the men to formulate their own strategy. And who better to do so – the man suckling on the comfortable teat of civilization or the men who had closed three of the shadow-accursed portals themselves?

A plan was struck. At dawn, Father Eljana would escort a party of robed “acolytes” into the tower himself. The issue of parting with his precious robes – and their religious significance – was circumvented by the small matter of taking an oath to Erathis. Since their cause was the same and the situational advantage great, the men agreed to swear the oaths. Barring any promise of obedience or poverty, that is.

Across the valley, Sebastian had recovered the Dragon Hoop. He began a slow chant as he began to connect with his natural surroundings. After a few minutes, he summoned a sparrow down from a nearby tree. While somewhat glib, the bird was willing to take a message to Dex on the steps of the Temple of Erathis.

It had lost none of it’s acerbic personality upon it’s arrival on the steps. It opted to leave after it had delivered it message however. Apparently, Dex’s casual aside that he was hungry had not fallen on deaf ears.

Sebastian proceeded back to the city, scampering over the wall in “scurrying little critter” form. Inside the walls, he was a wolfhound once more. In that form, he was able to sniff out his friends once within temple.

The men awoke before dawn and awaited Father Eljana. When he did not produce himself at the appointed hour, a priestling was sent for him. Sebastian scurried along behind to ensure that our holy friend was living up to his end of the plan. It turns out that the giant halfling had merely overslept. He would probably proclaim, as a true believer in Erathis, that one of the true fruits of civilization was sleeping in. Shocking that holiness and over-indulgence would go hand in hand.

As the cool dawn light began slipping into the square between the buildings, the holy Father led his three novices and their wolfhound. They crossed to the tower and were waved through by the half-asleep guards.

The inside of the tower very much resembled those the men had visited previously. Only on a larger scale. While the stone slab beds were missing, the weapon racks were not. They held a small arsenal of kit and equipment. The giant doors sat across the way, leading deeper into the structure.

New to the setting was a single door to the right. It was through this that Luke noticed the wispy form of Reaver pass. The communion he had been currently attempting with the spirits was jarred by the appearance of his own spirit companion. Even more jarring, he had not summoned it.

The men followed Luke’s lead through the door. Beyond was a large room. At the back rested a large table with food, a few bookshelves. To the left was a staircase leading up. Two guardsmen sat at the table gorging on the mess. Their at-ease demeanor changed abruptly at the appearance of a gaggle of Erathian priests.

Imaginary clipboard in hand, Luke jumped to the fore, all business. The apparent annual consecration of the tower by Erathis was at hand. Wards to be re-enforced from evil spirits, shadow things, the like. Nothing to worry about. We’ll just go about our business.

The guards, sufficiently off-balance, uh’ed and stuttered their way to acquiesence. Their last stab at officiousness was to insist on accompanying the priests to the upper levels.

The ever growing troop hiked up the stairs. Another room sat above them. Dicing at a round nicked table were four grunts. They glanced up momentarily but quickly lost interest at a situation obviously above their pay grade. Down the length of the room stood another guardsman, yanking darts from a target on the wall. He was not so easily disuaded from suspicion.

Doubledoors sat at either end of the room. It was through the pair at the far end that Reaver continued. Right past the scowling guardsman.

Luke moved ahead toward the doors, still shoveling the ruse. The consecration must go on. The guardsman stepped into his path. Why hadn’t he heard about this “consecration”?

Luke thought fast. Surely, the strange activities of late must have registered even here? Shadows. A battle on the bridge. These evils all must be thwarted.

The man had heard of the battle on the bridge. What did we know of it?

Things were starting to get a little tense… Sebastian eyed the gamblers, a nice big mass of a target.

Scrambling, Luke began citing further need for holy wards and safeguards.

Erevis tightened his grip on the short sword hidden in the folds of his robe as he surreptitiously stepped behind the two guards from downstairs.

The suspicious guardsman continued to eye Luke askance. His darts remained clutched in his hand.

Luke turned to Father Eljana, bastion of authority. His Rotound Greatness could merely open and close his jaw silently, emitting nothing but blessed drool.

The guardsman stared at the halfwit, his eyebrows slightly raised.

All could feel the great voice from the heavens about to declare “Initiative”…

And Dex jumped forward. Offended by this lackey’s unbridled disregard for religious protocol, he took up the reins. No one would dare stand before the Great Father of the Holy Temple of Erathis, Praised be She who Tames the Untameable. Evil abounds, around every corner, within every shadow. And this man has the gall to have a pissing contest.

Cowed by Dex’s born-again prostheletizing fervor, he stepped aside, sufficiently brow beaten.

The men moved on to the doors and deeper into the tower.

Pass me my staff. It's the one that says "Bad Mutha Fucka" on it.
Cleaning out Wolf's Deep, from the bottom up

Game Date: 9/30/09

With a slight click, the door to the tower of magic shut. Outside, dusk was falling and the streets were teeming with life, the work day at an end.

The five men, newly outfitted and equipped with items pertaining to their various arts, powerful items, strode down the short lane to the market streets. A noticeable spring was in their step. The casual observer would not have realized that they had only had a six hour rest after their hellish churn through the forest and the encounter at the bridge. Of course, where this crew was concerned, there were no casual observers.

After a short discussion, the retrieval of the magical dragon hoop was given priority. The men made their way along the main thoroughfare connecting the markets with the giant wolf’s head gate serving as the maw to the ancient city. Along the way, the slight elf was one minute amongst them, the next not. In his place, walking by Dex’s side, was a large mastiff, coolly surveying the crowds about, both canine and man alike.

It was the mastiff who first sensed the trouble. As the party proceeded down the street, the presence of dogs disappeared all together, something as oddly out of place in this city as their overwhelming presence would have been in any other. Then, the crowds began to thin. No longer were there common folk out and about at the end of their day. Those sidling down the street in this particular area lacked both the refinement of the cosmopolitan and the simplicity of the common. Out for a drink, seemed to be the message they were proclaiming.

More likely, out for a score.

Sebastian’s hackles rose. Then Dex sensed it too. The great mastiff herded the party into a short alley beside the broad avenue. To the front lay the street and it’s implied menace. To their backs, an empty market square. It’s waist high stalls, closed for the night, surrounded a small bubbling fountain.

Luke and Horatio took up positions across the back of the alley, forming a wall to greet any potential threat. Dex slipped stealthily into the stall to their left, Erevis behind the one to their right. The mastiff was gone. The only thing on four legs in the vicinity was a large cow, it’s bovine tail swatting at flies. The only thing to betray it’s true nature were it’s ever alert eyes scanning the marketplace for danger.

The threat soon materialized. A group of common ruffians, sporting knives and clubs began to coalesce across the mouth of the alley and the stalls to either side. Across the marketplace at their backs, two figures appeared behind the fountain. The first was a soldier – halberd, chain and crossbow well-used but cared for. The second was mysterious and cloaked, it’s hood drawn up, concealing it’s face. It was in this brief moment that Sebastian caught one more thing out of the corner of his eye. Across the far side of the square, leaning against an alley wall, stood the dark Eladrin that had haunted them since the first tower. He watched them. Patiently.

The two figures by the fountain prepared to take action. Sensing a greater threat in these two than in the rabble, Sebastian acted. The two enemies were stunned as the placid cow suddenly lurched into action. It’s great mass hurdled across the market square and leapt to the lip of the fountain. From there, it reared up on it’s back legs, it’s front hooves clawing at the air, and emitted a moo of such terror it threatened to flatten nearby stalls. The two enemies flinched in pain and shied away from the agonizing sound. When they glanced back up, stunned, the bovine was gone. In it’s place stood a monstrous gorilla, it’s giant fists exultantly beating across it’s chest.

Unfortunately, a glance to the shadowy corner where the dark Eladrin had stood showed it be empty. He had disappeared once more.

Across the square, Horatio, seeing no need for the burdensome pretense of negotiations, set his legs slightly apart and grounded himself in the muck-scuffed surface of the cobblestone alley. What came next had more than likely not been heard in the great city in centuries. And certainly not directly following an epic moo. A draconic battle roar echoed and magnified amongst stalls and ancient building alike. When the dragonborn warrior finished, the hooligans stalled their advance. Fear registered on their faces. It was soon however replaced by an even greater fear. Something spurred them forward once more.

Perhaps inspired by the might of his ancestors architecture, Horatio belched forth enough flames to engulf a large portion of the thugs. Still, they came on. And when they came, it was the dregs that swarmed first. Filthy, ragged nothings. Armed with broken bottles and boards of wood. They brought Horatio to the ground for a moment before he was able to cast them off.

Erevis, following the sounds of Sebastian’s Battle Moo, sprinted across the square and landed a deep gash through the robes and flesh of the hooded enemy.

They ruffians in the alley came from everywhere, converging on the group over the low walls of the surrounding stalls. One clever fellow tried to come at Luke from behind. He skirted the stall right beside a still unseen Dex. Dex’s new staff whipped out from the darkness, crushing the man’s windpipe and clothes lining him to the stone.

The shadow game was over for Dex. He now shared the stall with a crazed mob suddenly aware of his presence. He moved to shift out of the doorway and harm’s reach but they lunged for him, all sticks, glass and teeth. And then, Dex found a secret door into a power that had so eluded him before, his Eladrin fey step. It had confounded him throughout his life to be so full of pure magic but unable to do a thing even the simplest Eladrin child could do. Well, no longer.

Blinking out of existence, leaving a dozen hands clawing at empty air, he materialized thirty feet away beside the fountain. The magic still coursing through him, he redirected it’s energy, sending it screaming into the market stall to explode amongst the mob. Not a soul survived.

Then he turned to the two in the square. Frowning at the inconvenience, he stepped into the shallow waters of the fountain and whipped the butt of his staff in an arc before him. As the energy hurled out and struck the two in the face, he raised the staff above his head and slammed it down. The resulting wave of thunder sent a spray of water from the fountain and across the square. The two enemies stood for the briefest moment, nothing left above the neck but a fine red mist, and crumpled the ground.

Back amongst the stalls, the mob poured in, threatening to overwhelm Luke and Horatio by sheer numbers. The two fought back, keeping the crush at bay. Sebastian and Erevis rushed back in to hold the line. The latter once again sprinted across the square. Skidding beneath Horatio’s huge arms, his blades easily opened up the necks of many foes at once.

Still back by the fountain, Dex raised his eyes and arms to the sky. Drawing radiant light from the stars above, he brought it crashing down amongst the last throng of ruffians. The square was quiet once more.

The men quickly gathered to discuss a plan of action. A quick inspection of the thugs revealed a horn-shaped tattoo behind an ear of nearly each one. Sounds of the Wolf’s Deep Watch began to clatter ever closer from down the avenue. The discussion would have to continue on the move. A decision was made to seek the Temple of Arthas first, go for the hoop or plan the alternative from there.

As night finally descended on Wolf’s Deep, the five men slipped back amongst the buildings and disappeared into the shadows…

Helm's Deep: Through the Maw and into the Mall
We have no time for your silly questions. We’re here to shop.

Game Date: 9/23/09

As the haze of battle cleared on the bridge, a breathless, bloodied and exhausted party watched as the corpse of the monolithic beggar was swept swiftly downstream. Barely able to stand, we began the slow process of making our way to Wolf’s Deep. Knowing our melee had been witnessed by those on the walls, we attempted to collect ourselves and maintain as much composure as our battered bodies would allow. Sebastian was so tired, the thought alone of shifting out of cat form nearly felled him.

Half an hour and a few dozen switchbacks later, we were before the gates themselves. The mountain city sat beside the northern pass, amply controlling it’s traffic. It’s high walls were of a mystically seamless construction. Which could only mean one origin of design – Dragonborn. The entrance itself was a stories high wolf’s head. It’s gated tongue, sharp teeth and assorted other nastiness a sure means of defense.

Our passage through these gates was shortly arrested by a dozen liveried guardsmen and their dragonborn lieutenant. Horatio engaged in some Draconic banter, leaving us in the dark as to it’s contents but not to it’s result. The lieutenant would not allow us to pass without further details as to our background and on the recent conflagration on the bridge.

After some casual parlay, we knew our short answers would not be sufficient enough to allow us entrance. For the kindness of comfort and drink, Dex offered a more detailed explanation. The lieutenant acceded and showed us to the guard house where drinks were proffered and our weary asses seated.

The Lieutenant introduced himself as M’Mora (how’s that for creative fantasy spelling?!). He had been roused by his guards due to some strange goings on at the bridge. The reports came in, one more fantastic than the next. He wanted answers. From us.

Dex attempted to explain how the three weary adventures and their pet panther (lying under the table) had come to a dawn battle at his doorstep. While not lying, he gave a simpler, and in his own words more “succinct,” version of the party’s story.

After crossing the mountains, they had stumbled across an ancient Dragonborn tower, battled shadows escaping from a portal to darkness and inadvertently destroyed said portal. Sadly, one of their number was slain in the fighting and they had been seeking revenge ever since. This revenge had brought them to a second tower. From there they had picked up the trail of a man they felt was responsible. They tracked him to the bridge and engaged him and his newly-created giant minion. Sadly, he escaped. Into thin air.

It was a simple revenge tale. No more. No Less.

Whether he bought it or not (it was a slice of the truth, after all!), his continued questioning was curtailed by Dex’s insistence that there was no further story to tell. He reluctantly bid us farewell and recommended an inn. And of course, to stay out of trouble.

The sights, smells and bustle of the city brought Dex right back home. Instincts perked back up again. Sebastian for his part, noticed an abundance of something odd. Dogs. Tons of dogs. Not mongrels scrounging in packs. These were trained and well-behaved. An alley was found and soon our scruffy panther became a well-heeled canine.

We proceeded to the main square (in reality a hexagon, you bloody geometrically-challenged folk) and secured a trio of rooms at the previously recommended, Bruised Grape. Everything about it screamed “honest.” Across the way sat none other than a large version of our familiar Dragonborn tower. This however, had a compliment of city watch both in and out. Inquiry and investigation would have to wait. Extended rests were in order for the participants of the bridge battle and a little reconnaissance for our rogue, Erevis.

Later, Erevis, as he was monetarily buttering up our portly innkeep, was joined in the common room by his recovering companions and their new pet house cat. He was able to glean a few interesting tidbits from our host. The Mining Guild was unhappy, but what can you expect from those dwarves. Also, the city watch was on edge. Their normal to and fro with the local orc bands had dwindled to nothing and for the past four to five months had been under the new leadership one Dragonborn lieutenant. Hmm.

Our drinking done, we headed down the street past shops specializing in local finery. A quick jaunt into an alley returned us to four as Sebastian shifted back to elf form. We ended up before a squat, round little tower. The sign outside read “Magic.” How aptly put.

Inside we were greeted by a squeeky clean, sloth of a man. Some deft negotiating by Sebastian netted us a one gold to one gold trade in on the sale of any items we decided to part with. In addition, the man would take every one of our Dragonborn coins off of us for 250 gold apiece. Then, we handed him our wishlist…

Annalist’s Note: Once we are magically satiated, might I suggest paying for the use of a fast steed to help in the retrieval our Hoop?

Always Pay the Toll...
Hyper Shapeshifting and Exploding Loincloths

Game Date: 9/17/09

A fresher, brighter day greeted us upon our exit from the tower than when we entered it. While not nearly a nature sanctuary, the forest had lost some of it’s cold, deadness. Presumably brought on by the shadows escaping the nearby portal. With the portal now destroyed perhaps it would begin it’s long, slow process of regrowth.

While not an easy task, signs of passage were discovered heading west from the tower. Their source or number was not easy to identify either. Perhaps it was one man, perhaps many. We hoped it included our elusive dark Eladrin.

Sebastian and Luke each independently scoured the path in an attempt to follow it. One of the first things they discovered was that we were no more than a day behind. Another was that our quarry was heading in a nearly straight line through wild, mountainous forests. While this posed an easier time of knowing in which direction to head, it made the actually following of such a trail all the more difficult. It crossed ravines and dove through briars with an unaltered commitment.

Much discussion was had as to the best way to both follow and trap our quarry. We were heading more or less west through rugged terrain, parrelleling the southern slope of a mountain range. Farther to the south, some miles away, lay a true path, a road perhaps, also going in that general direction. We assumed both road and quarry were heading towards Wolf’s Deep. Our objective was to stop them before they got there.

We opted to send our trusted, nature-attuned elf, Sebastian after the prey. His forest knowledge, great speed and shape-shifting “flexibility” would allow him to make up ground and leave the rest of us signs of easier passage.

Throughout the day and into the night Sebastian raced after the foe. Shifting relentlessly for bursts of speed, scent tracking and manueverability, he managed to close the distance. The rest of the party continued in his foot/paw/slither prints without rest. Each hour brought them closer to total exhaustion.

With the coming of the dawn, Sebastian broke from the dense undergrowth to the sight of a valley before him. Small farmsteads, carved from the trees, sprinkled the valley floor. At the far end, dominating the landscape, sat the great bulk of the fortress city, Wolf’s Deep. A river, fed by melting snows, cascaded down through the valley, heading south through the haze of morning. The road, now visible, crossed this river via a large wagon bridge before proceeding to the great gates of the city.

It was towards this bridge that Sebastian finally caught sight of his elusive prey. One man, maybe more, was heading to cross the river by the only means possible.

With a low growl, Sebastian dug deep into his reserves and surged after. With the man in sight and no further need to track, he raced at breakneck speed to intercept him at the bridge.

The others emerged from the trees at the last marker left by Sebastian. No other sign was left to indicate where he might have gone. Then, miles ahead of them, tearing across the countryside, was a great cat. Sebastian! And there was no doubt about it, he was making directly for the bridge at all possible speed.

Deducing correctly that their druidic friend was indeed looking to catch their quarry at the bridge, the other raced to figure out what assistance they could provide.

The Dragon Hoop.

The three stepped through onto the marshy, rooted bank on the far side of the bridge. While their entrance was unanticipated, it did not turn out to be as stealthy as they would have wished (blown roles). The dark Eladrin, as indeed he turned out to be, spotted them from across the bridge.

So too did a ragged old beggar on the near side, who dropped his bowl of coppers and made a break for the safety of the city. Dragonborn, humans and Eladrin popping out of nowhere be damned – the bridge fee could be waived!

As the cocksure enemy glared smugly across at them, he failed to notice the 250 pounds of feline muscle barreling down on his nether side. With lightning speed, Sebastian crashed onto the scene unloading twin cannon AOE’s (Action Point!). The resulting carnage knocked the enemy to his knees and obliterated a few, until now unseen, shadow figures encircling him.

The enemy’s retaliation should have been anticipated. His remaining shadows rushed across the bridge and enveloped the poor escaping beggar. With a ripping of clothes and a bursting of loincloth, the old man suddenly became a ten foot, knuckle-dragging goliath.

Fighting began in earnest across the expanse of the bridge. And, as we have seen time and again, when the pressure became too much for the lead enemy… he bolted. Into thin air, to be more precise.

And lucky us. The beggar-giant turned out to be almost too much. It’s retaliatory strikes to our hits were devastating. Horatio and Sebastian were both knocked unconscious. Between the two though, there must have been some god-like strength. Despite devastating blows, each was miraculously up and back in the fight in seconds (back to back natural 20 death saves!).

The tide was soon turned and the bestial toll-taker brought down.

We had survived yet another brush with darkness. And again, it’s true perpetrator had escaped our grasp.

It was onward, to the welcoming gates of civilization…

What Comes Around Goes Around. Twice.
What doesn't kill you, only tries again.

Game Date: 9/2/09

Barely through the portal before it collapsed in upon itself, the band decided to take a much needed extended rest. Before doing so, the ragged caster from the entry was brought into the room for safekeeping. Despite the recent commotion from our foray into the depths of the tower, he continued sleeping like a baby.

Once refreshed, we woke our former foe and proceeded with a little question and answer session. He was in similar state to when we found him – weak, confused and scared. Perhaps we truly had rid his soul of the blight of shadows.

His name was, Ashbild. He could tell us that much. Unfortunately, we were quick to conclude that Ashbild was but a pawn in a much larger game. The key then, was to determine the other players.

His last coherent memories were of his native Jarlsvarg. There he was approached by a middle-man, to do a job. His agreement led to the start of his employment and the end of his memory.

One thing, stuck out as odd, however. Somewhere up in the chain of employment was one “Black Dex.” Apparently, it was this same Black Dex that had recruited him in the first place, albeit from afar.

The Dex standing before him was instantly, if only inwardly, on edge. Black Dex was a street moniker he had earned in his youth. It was a name he neither created nor promoted. Nor was it one he himself actually used. Yet people knew him – or his reputation – by it nonetheless. Could this be a ploy used by those whose actions drove him from his home in the first place? A ploy meant to flush him out? While rattled, he did his best to maintain his outward composure.

While Ashbild’s story could have been the truth as far as he knew it, we were unsatisfied. Somehow we needed to cut through the fog of shadowed memory and find something useful. First off, his fear of us needed to be alleviated. Dex, playing nice guy, tried to convince Ashbild that his life had been saved by the very men before him. Was he not, after all, free from the terrible nightmare, and now awake and aware?

Dex proceeded to lead our feeble friend out into the tower entry chamber. There the remains of the beholder mingled it’s rotting stench with that of Ashbild’s former place of internment. The rest of the band filed in behind, Sebastian maintaining a distance so as not to startle our new friend with his giant serpent form. Dex showed him the corpse and explained how the party defeated it and extracted the shadows from Ashbild’s own soul.

Still, something just wasn’t right…

Dex approached Ashbild and laid his hands upon his shoulders. See, we’re on your side. Dex searched again within Ashbild for a reemergence of the shadows. Nothing. Ashbild took this unbridled comradery with typical street tuff aplomb – he stuck Dex with his own knife.

Then, chaos.

Our feeble foe once again tapped into something dark and dangerous. The result was the appearance of twin columns of walking molten lava. They marked us and hit hard. Dex was stunned attempting to extract himself out of one’s reach. For the moment, he was out of the action. The rest of the group slid into position and attempted to save him.

In the end, the creatures were brought down. Ashbild made a break for the door. He miraculously slipped through. The chase however, became somewhat thwarted by the invisible barrier. A last chance spell from Dex luckily brought him to the ground unconscious.

He was dragged back into the tower and strapped down the one of the Dragonborn beds. Then the questioning began once more. This time in earnest.

Threats were made, digits were removed (and subsequently “digested” by Sebastian in blob form). In the end, he gave us little else of note. We did learn of a dark Eladrin who had something to do with the portals. The man had left the tower recently, headed west. Could this be the same man who had escaped us at the first tower? If so, we were one step closer to ending this.

Once everything had been wrung out the man, Dex asked for a moment alone with him. There was an uncomfortable moment between his companions. Sure, Dex had grown up on the streets. But this. This was dark.

They left, some reluctantly.

His course was unset. It all depended on Ashbild. The man had attacked them. Twice. The second instance after they had saved him by purging him of the shadow taint. Dex tried to keep the fact that the man had gutted him like a naive mark from coloring his judgment. In the end that had been his own fault for being careless, not Ashbild’s.

The man obviously had poor judgment. This was a risky proposition for Dex. The man knew things about him, not the least of which were his whereabouts. And somehow, he had to be connected to those who had forced Dex from his comfortable little niche in the city.

When faced with these facts, Ashbild showed no remorse. Within seconds, he showed no life.

Dex wiped Ashbild’s lifeblood from the same dagger the man had used on him. Then he saw something to darken his mood even further. As the last gurgled breath slipped from the deep gash in the ragged man’s throat, a blurry indistinct shadow flickered over his shoulder and vanished.

Feeling his own dark shadows creeping up behind him, Dex left.

Onward to the Portal
Same bag. New tricks.

As the raging inferno of Sebastian’s shadow trapping bonfires died down, a sigh of relief and a deep breath (of about five minutes) was shared by all. Our bulk-priced glowsticks were still doing the trick but to a somewhat lesser effect than claimed on the packaging. It is debatable whether sending Erevis back to confer with the sellers is a good idea. Needless to say, their radii of illumination was somehow curtailed leaving us in ever diminishing light. Perhaps it had something to do with the location or the shadows…

Our ragged little prisoner, freed from the encumbrance of shadows, slept serenely on a quality dragonborn mattress of solid stone. It was determined that his alertness would be hard won and produce limited results at that time. We would allow him his rest. Sebastian taught Erevis an ancient Elvish method of setting an alarm on the prisoner. A bowl of copper pennies was tied to the man’s ankle, sure to ring louder than a Salvation Army Santa should the poor bastard move.

As we moved back into the chamber and toward the familiar double doors, Horatio collected a handful of our glowsticks for future use. That future was to come in mere moments later. Forming into a tight diamond before the door, Horatio to the fore, Dex to the rear and Sebastian and Erevis covering the flanks, they girded for the worst.

Our fearless dragonborn warrior opted for a more “direct” approach than the one previously attempted when entering the wizard’s chamber. Throwing the doors open he launched the glowsticks forth into the darkness. Dex, deciding a longer diamond formation would perhaps behoove his chances of surviving an alliance with the brave warrior, took a few steps back. Well, more than a few.

Once again we were gifted with the architectural consistency of Horatio’s dragonborn forebrethren. Indeed, it was the same T-shaped room that graced the base of each of our former towers. This time however, it boasted a few modifications. Beyond the familiar stout pillars with their statuesque dragonlings, the center of the cross-section was home to a nice, large portal. Not as hastily drawn as in previous towers, yet not quite to the level of permanence found in the ziggurat. Still, this one had been there a long time. It was somehow metaphysically supported by a trio smaller shadow portals triangulated around it. After some thoughtful arcanic deliberation it was decided that the first step in dismantling the large portal would be to neutralize the smaller ones.

We chose the right one first, under the pretense that it only had one dragonling statue nearby as the left one had two. The point became irrelevant considering that they move like lightning once awakened. Once again, we found that out the hard way. Additionally, said portal belched forth two shadow beings, one like the previously encountered helmet heads, the other a shadowy winged form.

The battle was fought well enough, with even Dex receiving a few solid hits. He did though manage a few nice daisy chains of Chaos Bolts (one even a four-fer!). Sebastian nearly laid down his life foe the party, but luckily only succumbed to bloody unconsciousness. For the rest, please feel free to add in your own personal exploits as the mead flowed freely…

Once unburdened by the confines of combat, we attempted to shut down the small portal at hand. Although difficult to decipher at first, it soon became apparent that it’s origins were not created on this side but in the opposite shadow realm. A somewhat simple method was discovered to shut it down, although it seemed beyond Dex’s abilities (as would tying his own shoe, with that natural 1). Sebastian stepped to the fore and flicked the proverbial switch. This action did indeed shut down the portal but not without consequences. As a result, two large balls of energy began creeping ever so slowly from the larger portal to the remaining two. We had a bad feeling about this…

We rushed over to the second portal, triggering another pair of shadow beings. While thus engaged, Sebastian managed to shut the portal down. This in and of itself, was good. The subsequent explosion of the ball of energy creeping toward it was not. All within the blast were damaged and thrown. Luckily, this did not exclude our foes who were equally as thrashed.

Still, as the combat proceeded, the last ball of energy was making it’s inevitable way to the last portal. Sebastian valiantly rushed ahead alone to shut it down. And shut it down he did, but not before two more shadow beings formed on the scene. The resulting explosion took it’s toll and everyone dug in.

Although bloodied, the tide was turning in favor of the party. It was then that someone noticed that Horatio’s half dozen glow rods scattered across the floor by the entry had been slowly winking out. The cause: a snake-like shadow being, making it’s way towards the center portal. We deemed this a threat larger than the shadow beings still swarming about us and turned to face it.

Dex lined up in front of it’s path and slowed it with an arctic blast of Ice Dragon’s Teeth. Horatio sent a glow stick flying at it’s feet. This gave it cause to emit a horrific scream. In answer, one of the shadow warriors rushed over and shielded it from the light. In a move of a parasitic rage, the shadow snake thrust itself INTO it’s protector, creating a towering behemoth of shadow. Horatio, Erevis and Sebastian threw themselves at it, ignoring for the moment, the last shadow nipping at their heels. With Dex launching everything he had left and the rest pounding away toe-to-toe, the beast finally succumbed with a last deafening scream. Sadly, Horatio had become a casualty, lying in a pool of his own blood at the monster’s feet.

The last shadow, faced with the death of it’s ally, flung itself through the large portal and disappeared into the dark ether.

The party, it’s dragonborn warrior revived, heaved a sigh of relief and looked ominously at the remaining portal before searching the room for items to assist them in their further assault.

Just another day in the life of The Dragon’s Claw…

The Dragonborn Tower 3.0
More cold. More shadows. More bodies.

After the late night attack of the shadow ants, it was hypothesized that the cause might have been an attraction to the campfire. No confirmation could be determined as none of the critters actually made it to the supposed destination. A decision was made to douse the flames and go dark for the rest of the watch. Sebastian turned kitty and curled up in a tree. Dex and Luke’s subsequent watches went undisturbed and the party had their extended rest.

The next day, guided through the wilderness by Sebastian, we approached the tower. As before the forest was empty (too empty), the air was cold and the sun was a pale version of itself in the cloudless sky. What’s more, the trees were dead or dying. The needles of the largely coniferous trees blanketed the forest floor and left a relatively open view all the way to the tower.

Before the tower itself, we could make out indeterminate movement. Sebastian turned small forest critter and skittered off to investigate. What he found was a group of seven goblin corpses. The most disturbing aspect of the carnage was the occasional flitter of small shadows zipping from body to body and sometimes off into the wilderness. Careful to time his movements between shadow play, Sebastian went in for a closer look. What he was able to determine from the goblin he investigated was that they had not been dead long (a day, maybe more, maybe less) and that the cause of death was a crushed skull. Not the work of small shadows, as their attacks leave no marks…

The party circumvented the corpses on their approach to the tower. As they crept up, their stealth was marred by the clanking of the large dragonborn. The only thing louder than Horatio happened to be poor Luke (natural 1). The only thing louder than Luke was the crash and “Crap!” which emanated from the tower mouth (DM natural 1). So much for surprise, on all fronts.

Horatio leapt before the opening to the tower. He spotted a ragged human inside, one lantern in hand, the other smashed on the floor. His intimidating bellow earned him a magic missile. He rushed inside followed by Sebastian in Ursa Major form. After a not so subtle intimation on our part that we would be entering the tower and closing the portal, something clicked in the poor sop. His eyes filled with dark shadows and his confidence rebounded. With one hand he sent lightning through those nearby, with the other he motioned to a dark area of the room.

Then, he laughed.

As Horatio and Sebastian tried to deal with the man (the dragonborn by putting him in a grapple hold), Luke and Dex turned to the dark area indicated by our foe. They were met eye to eye to eye with a large, floating beholder. Uh oh.

In the ensuing battle, the shadow-powered wizard was rendered unconscious rather quickly. The beholder proved more troublesome. In the end, the party prevailed. This, despite the fact that the beholder sent Dex flying through the invisible barrier guarding the cave entrance, allowing an eager group of shadows entrance to the fray.

In the relative quiet which followed we roped up the wizard and set up a temporary camp amidst the stone dragonborn beds. With the assistance of Luke and Sebastian, Dex proceeded to examine our shadow-infested prisoner. It was guessed that the victim’s eyes were some sort of conduit or focal point for the shadows’ presence. This determination brought an immediate reaction from the dark parasites. A few leapt from the man’s eyes, only to dissipate in a shower of sparks across Dex’s vision. A wave of gut-cramping nausea followed. The result however, was a decrease in the shadows’ presence in their host.

A short discussion ensued. Destroy the conduit by blinding our captive or attempt a haphazard exorcism? We attempted the latter. An area of light was set up in the corner by a combination of sunrods (they’re just giving them away these days) and bonfires, ritualistically enhanced by Sebastian. The exorcism attempt was disturbing but successful. The wizard’s eyes bulged open Total Recall-style. The black, oily orbs leached shadows until the poor man was free from infestation. As Sebastian dimmed the lights, the shadows were goaded into coalescing. Once they became one entity, Sebastian brought the lights up to a blinding brilliance and Dex unleashed an unending spray of fire into the corner.

The shadows were no more. Well, at least the vast majority. It would seem that a few decided to fly at Dex again during the exorcism. The cramping and nausea had been short-lived but more intense. Hmm, probably something to investigate further. It would in all likelihood be unfavorable to the party should their edgy Sorcerer suddenly start aiming in a different direction…

Next up: onward to the portal…

Tower 2 Assault, continued

We had defeated all the enemies inside the tower’s main chamber but when Erevis crossed the line of statues, they came to life. Three black dragons attacked. They were heavy hitters but also easy to hit. We eventually killed all three but only after they dropped Erevis and almost dropped Krav.

Having approached the portal, Krav realized we would only be able to close it from the other side. He then entered to attack the shadow warrior pacing around. Horatio and Erevis followed and it was defeated. Luke stayed behind to keep an eye on things in the “real world” while Dex entered the portal and began to examine it from the other side.

Dex realized he could close the portal and still leave time to escape. Krav assisted while Horatio and Erevis threw sunrods at the growing shadows down the hallway. Dex was one round away from succeeding and so Horatio and Erevis exited the portal. Just as Krav was going to exit, he saw a new shadow warrior approaching. He sacrificed his life to slow the warrior and allow Dex time to close the portal and escape.

We looted the secret room on the side of the main chamber. 600 silver pieces, 6 dragonborn coins, 4 healing potions.

  • Battle Standard of Might (actually found on floor in main chamber)
  • Ameliorating Leather Armor +1
  • Ironskin Belt
  • Sacrificial Short Sword +2

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