Black Heart

Assaulting the Keep

The party rested briefly before proceeding up the stairs to the second floor of the keep. Arriving on the second level of the keep they were confronted by a host of undead. The undead looked as though they were twisted abominations of former keep guards. Several of these former guards would rise back up after being struck down until they had finally been knocked down three times. Despite the resilient nature of these undead guards, they proved to be only a slight challenge to the party.

As the party was catching its breath following the battle, they were confronted with a vision of the guards they had just defeated. The guards were stationed on duty in the keep prior to being turned undead. As the party watched this vision, a blood curdling scream could be heard throughout the keep and shadows rose up from beneath the guards and seemed to envelop the humans, contorting and twisting them into the undead abominations that the party had just fought.

The party continued on, and approached the throne room of Zelkan Keep. As they entered the antechamber to the throne room the party was greeted with another vision. This time, the vision showed more of the keep guards, only this time they were stationed in the throne room. Also present at this time was the Serpent Lord, who as the scream rang out bit the neck of a female adviser, turning her into a vampire. The rest of the guards were once again corrupted by the shadows and twisted into abominations. As the party thrust open the throne room doors, a figure that appeared to be Lord Cadmus Zelkan was perched upon the throne and begged the party to leave while they still could. He was seen fleeing the throne room through a stairway behind the throne as the undead guards, including one vampire, poured into the ante chamber. This battle was a bit longer but the party still had little difficulty dealing with the undead defenders. The vampire was tough to bring down but was eventually turned to dust and the rest of the undead followed soon after.

The party paused briefly to rest then pursued Cadmus Zelkan up the stairs to the top of the tower of the keep. There, on the roof, the party was confronted with Zelkan, though he had morphed into a devil that was practically alive with fire. Elana began the battle by pumping several arrows into the devil’s hide, and though her strikes were as powerful as they were true, the devil did not seem to be overly phased by the arrows. Instead, it charged at Elana, striking her multiple times and leaving her not only vulnerable to fire, but also burning. The rest of the party rushed to her aid but soon found that this devil, some sort of a cambion was more than a match for the combined efforts of the party. Soon several members of the party were burning, unconscious, or both. Zelkan possessed the ability to toss the party around and leave them planted where they were thrown to. This caused both Goeban and Lonys to be knocked off the tower and fall twenty feet to a perch below the tower. Elexara was left to defend the others as best she could, but even her natural resistance to fire was tested. With both Elana and Adiah unconscious but surprisingly stable, Lonys and Goeban were able to rejoin the fray. Finally, the party was able to strike down the devil, seeing him revert to his human form, and looking surprisingly healthy given the beating he had just endured. The party quickly secured Cadmus, with plans to interrogate him further once they have a chance.

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Moving Foreward

As the party emerged victorious from city hall after rescuing Idira, a hooded and cloaked creature was spotted atop one of the buildings across from city hall. Elexara recognized this creature as being the same one that was seen throughout the scenes in the Plane of Dreams when she was sent there by Solara. The creature appeared to nod to Elexara and then simply fade away.

The party was able to spend the next several days recuperating and discussing the strategy going foreward. It was clear that the aberant forces had been defeated in Gryphon’s Bluff but it was also clear that this was not the end of them. There is still also the matter of the Serpent Lord who may or may not have reformed at his blood cauldron by now and who still poses a threat. As the party was discussing their options, a priest of Ioun approached Goeban and indicated that although he still did not know anything about time travel himself, he had learned of a couple of possible sources of information. The first source was a sage by the name of Carlyse who was last known to reside in Sigil. The second possible source of information was the incunabulum of Glimmer. After weighing all their options, the party decided to travel to Sigil in the hopes of locating both Carlyse and Erathis’ shard of the Dyrnnentine.

Before leaving for Sigil, Lonys stopped by the temple of Erathis and informed one of the priests there that he was done taking orders for the Church and that he would no longer be their killer. Lonys threw down his axes and stormed off after renouncing the Church. Lonys also was able to acquire a new weapon, a falchion with a reddish-brown blade and announced that he will still continue his work, but that he is now working for himself.

The party then used a teleportation circle to travel to Sigil, ending up in the middle of the Market Ward. Adiah soon felt the pull from the Dyrnnentine telling him that the next shard of the artifact appeared to be located somewhere in the Lady’s Ward. Prior to searching for the artifact, the group sought out Carlyse. They were able to find some info on his whereabouts from several individuals and were directed to the Hive, a very rough and tumble district within Sigil. Carlyse was willing to part with the information that he knew about time travel, specifically that time travel required access to the very rare void crystals. He indicated that two crystals were needed for each trip and that they are expended as part of the process. He indicated that he knew of several locations for these crystals, including the town of Mistmarsh, the isle of Vandresca, the city of Glimmer, and the Court of Stars. Finally, he informed the party that if they should travel to Mistmarsh and recover a piece of Shadow Glass there, that they would not only find a void crystal, but that he would also give them one in his possession if they were to return the glass to him.

With Carlyse’s information in hand, the party next sought out the piece of the Dyrnnentine. They were lead straight to the Lady’s Ward and soon the Lady of Pain’s mansion. After being granted an audience with the ruler of Sigil, they learned that she was in possession of Erathis’ shard and that it was a vital part of her Staff. She indicated that the Staff is what enabled her to keep the greater powers, such as gods and demon princes, out of the city. She told the party that she was not willing to part with her shard at the time, but did indicate that she would give the matter some thought.

The party left the Lady’s estate with plans to return after she had been given sufficient time to consider the matter and decided to head to Mistmarsh and look for both the void crystal and the shadow glass. Following Carlyse’s directions, they found a portal to the Shadowfell and crossed through it with their port key in hand. The portal left them about a day’s travel from the city but they were able to reduce the travel time thanks to the Phantom Steed ritual. When the party arrived in Mistmarsh they learned that the undead generally only came out at night, and that they seemed to be particularly vulnerable to bright light. It had also been rumored that the lord, who is believed to be in possession of the shadow glass and the void crystal could also be weakened with bright light. Most of the townspeople were not aligned with the lord, but they were still trapped in the Shadowfell as long as the town was too. The party ultimately decided to take to the sewers in an attempt to enter the keep undetected.

Entering the basement of the keep through the sewers, the party quickly dispatched the few guards that were stationed there. They then proceeded to the main floor of the keep where the encountered much more resistance. There were several human guards, including one spell caster, but more importantly, there were two hill giants guarding the main floor. To make matters worse, the guards summoned additional help in the middle of the fight. This battle was a tough one, with Lonys falling unconscious at one point, but the party’s tactics were sound and soon the guards were defeated. The party had time to catch their breath after the battle, but what awaits upstairs is unknown.

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An Old Friend Rescued
And a Ranger Skinned

As the party recovered from their fight with the blight dragon, they observed a dark portal opening in the sky above the city hall. Looking upon the portal, the party realized that they had to hurry in order to stop the aberrants from bringing forth whatever fell creature they were attempting to summon. The party split up as they attempted to fight through the crowds that were gathering in panic in the streets. Half the party took to the rooftops while the Elexara lead the other half through the streets with sheer force. The party arrived in the government square in time to see a group of foulspawn lead by a foulspawn seer engaged in the summoning ritual.

The party rushed into combat in an effort to disrupt the ritual before it could be completed. While most of the party took to the street in order to bring their power to bear on the foulspawn, Elana remained on the rooftops where she believed she could fire upon her enemies from safety. As a foulspawn hulk seemed poised to pummel Lonys with a massive blow, Elexara teleported the hulk and forced him to pummel the seer instead, disrupting the aberrant’s progress on the ritual. Meanwhile, as Elana peppered the foulspawn with her arrows, a foulspawn skintaker creeped up behind her and took her by surprise on the rooftop. As the skintaker struck Elana, it immediately took on her appearance as well and created a link between the two of them, enabling it to redirect some of the damage it took back to Elana. As Elana attempted to run away from the skintaker, she was felled by the creature, falling unconscious. The party rushed to Elana’s aid, but its ability to redirect damage to Elana kept the slipping in and out of consciousness before the party could finally kill it.

As the party recovered from the battle, a few members of the resistance approached them and offered up some healing, and one of them, Felandis, joined in the party’s pursuit into city hall for the aberrant leaders. When the party searched the city hall, they discovered a hidden door in the basement that had not previously been there when the party had last visited ten years prior. That door lead to a ladder that descended to a new sub-level beneath the building and opened up into a large room. Suspended by some sort of stasis field in the center of the room was Idira Leafdancer, the High Priestess of Erathis who was presumed to have been killed during the aberrant invasion. The party dove into battle but were confronted by a large force of aberrants, including two gricks. Making matters worse, the leader of this group of aberrants had a bond to Idira that caused any damage dealt to him to be shared by Idira. The battle was long and very hard fought, with both Elexara and Lonys falling unconscious at different points in the battle, but together, the party was eventually able to free Idira and kill the remaining aberrants. As the party exited the hall with Idira, they soon saw that Gryphon’s Bluff had been reclaimed, but a large portion of the aberrant forces had managed to escape to their fleet on the docks and head back out to sea.

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Taking It To The Streets
Here there be dragons!

With the patrol spotted, the party prepared an ambush at a crossroads of sorts in the sewers. The patrol consisted of several spiders that were apparently being lead by an aberrant humanoid. Although the spiders were poisonous and fairly mobile, they proved to be fairly easy prey for the party and the patrol was quickly dispatched. After searching the body of the aberrant, as well as a few of the patrol’s prior victims, the party resumed their trek toward the gates of the city.

Reaching the section of the sewers that were nearest the city gate, the party risked a peek up through the sewer and heard the sounds of a large scale battle in the vicinity of the gates. The party quickly climbed up the ladder of the sewer and took some of the defenders by surprise. With most of the aberrant forces set on the walls or just outside the gate, the party was able to take the defenders by surprise. Goeban and Lonys both hurried into a gate house on either side of the gate and worked to raise the gate. With Elexara and Adaiah holding off the defenders outside the gatehouses, and Elana peppering the archers on the city wall, the tide was quickly turned. As the gates opened, the resistance fighters swarmed in through them. Solara located the party inside the gate and thanked them for their assistance.

Though a major hurdle had been cleared, there was still much to do. The aberrant forces were still scattered throughout Gryphon’s Bluff and it was believed that at least a few of the leaders were still holed up in the main hall of the city. Solara gave the party the choice of going after the leaders, or trying to cut off the escape of the aberrant forces at the docks. The party opted to try to cut the head off the snake and set off for city hall. Along the way, the party skirted several pitched battles as the fighting continued throughout the city. Although it appeared as though the resistance had the upper hand, the party soon encountered a more cohesive squad of the aberrant forces. A mind flayer was teamed with several aberrant soldiers and a pair of ghouls, and had just finished off a squad of resistance fighters when the party encountered them.

At first, it seemed as though the fight might again prove easy as Elana began picking off the soldiers on the roofs of the houses. However, the aberrants were soon joined by a blight dragon which fought along side them. The dragon proved fearsome, stunning the party with its roar and letting out a breath that seemed made of both decay and fire. Lonys was able to engage the dragon though and delivered several powerful blows while Elexara subjected it to her defensive magic. Adaiah was able to support the party as well as help finish off the rest of the aberrants while Goeban rushed through a building to get close enough to blast the dragon with his divine power. As the dragon tumbled to the ground, the party let out a sigh of relief, but the fight was only just beginning and the party still needed to continue on to city hall.

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Beholders have babies??

After resting up following the battle with the demons, the party prepared to head up the ladder. Before they got to the ladder though, Xandrikyl, the beholder that built the tower, called out a challenge while acknowledging its appreciation for the skills of the party, stating that it hadn’t enjoyed itself so much in a while and stating that the party was far better than the previous groups that had come to the tower.

As the party went up to the 6th floor, they found Xandrikyl in its throne room, along with dozens of tiny beholders that swarmed together. The beholder did not waste time trying to talk to the party and the fight was on quickly. Xandrikyl’s eye stalks sent out shot after shot and soon Lonys and Kildrak were turned to stone. Meanwhile, the baby beholders, which had eerily humanoid features about them, swarmed Elexara and began biting her constantly, while also taking bites out of anyone around them. Elana soon found herself bloodied by the beholder’s rays and Kildrak couldn’t shake his petrification. Things were looking grim as Elana was suffering from the beholder’s death ray as well as bleeding out, Kildrak’s bear had been destroyed, and Kildrak still could not shake the petrification.

Things began to turn around though when Adiah gave Kildrak another chance to shake the petrification and finally the sentinel snapped out of it. With Kildrak back in action, he unloaded his healing arsenal and soon the baby beholders were destroyed — which seemed to particularly anger Xandrikyl who fired three rays into Elana in retaliation. As the party was able to concentrate on Xandrikyl, it was soon bloodied, at which point it became even more dangerous, gaining extra attacks and taking extra actions. Still though, the party refused to yield and soon the beholder had to pull out its last trick and fly up, and through, the roof of the tower and take the fight to the tower’s top.

The fight continued on the rooftop and though the beholder was clearly on its last legs (so to speak), it still proved dangerous. Twice, it came close to pushing Elana off the top of the roof, but both times she was able to grab onto the ledge to avoid going over. Finally, Elexara was able to put the killing blow on the beholder and the party, exhausted, was able to relax. Elexara took the beholder’s eye stalks as trophies while Lonys went to the throne room to check it out. Sitting on the massive throne, Lonys felt the throne resize and reform to fit him perfectly and incredibly comfortably. At the same time, Lonys could feel the tower passing control to him and he was able to mentally disarm the trap on the vault doors as well as unlock them. All in all, the party found the tower had an alchemy lab, a library, and a permanent teleportation circle on the roof. Additionally, Lonys realized that he could magically lock the tower’s door with a simple thought, making the tower a viable base of operations for the party should they desire such a base.

With that, the party slept for several hours and contacted Solara upon waking. It was learned then that the resistance had started its attack on Gryphon’s Bluff but that the the aberrants had been tipped off. The gates were sealed from within and the resistance was struggling to get them open. Solara asked the party to do what they could to help get the gates open and the party decided to use the teleportation circle to teleport into the city, using the same warehouse that they had previously ported into when they first came to the city. Once in the city, the party decided to use the sewers to sneak toward the gate. As they were approaching the gate to the city from beneath, Lonys spotted a patrol in the sewers. With the patrol spotted, and the party still hidden from the patrol, the party prepared an ambush. Only time will tell if the ambush will pay off or not.

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Going Up?
Don't Split the Party

As the foulspawn hulk burst through the door, the party reacted quickly and began to focus fire upon him. However, he brought friends with him who were less than pleased about going through the wall of thorns the druid erected. All four of the foulspawn proved resourceful, and the party was largely depleted of resources, but ultimately the party would carry the day despite the bruising attacks made by the hulk and the dazing effects the other foulspawn.

As the party rested, Kildrak summoned his bear to his side and prayed to his god to grant him the ability to better aid his allies, and was rewarded with extra healing abilities, at the cost of much of his ability to control the battlefield. The party the decided to work their way up the tower. To their surprise, they learned that the ladders allowed them to actually levitate up to the next floor, and that the ladders were really just for show. The second floor revealed six separate rooms that appeared as though they were being used as nurseries. Dozens of cribs, all of the empty, were found in the rooms, but no creatures lurked about. The third floor of the tower featured a large vault with crystalline walls that housed the beholder’s treasure hoard, but when Elana and Adiah attempted to open the vault, they triggered the trap protecting it, each of them taking necrotic damage. While Adiah was attempting to disable the trap, Elana decided to explore the next floor which featured a library.

As Adiah and the rest of the party were still trying to figure out the door to the vault, Elana decided to venture up to the fifth floor, and soon learned why not to split the party. As she reached the top of the ladder, she found three rather angry demons. Though Elana reacted quickly, she did not react quick enough and one of the demons went first. Four swipes of its claws and a stab with its stinger later, and Elana was unconscious, taking continuous poison damage, and just about to walk through death’s door.

The party was able to bring Elana back from the brink of death and things started to turn around for them. One of the demons was able to pass through the floor and descend to the library where it attacked the party. Its shadowy nature made it hard to damage but it was soon destroyed. The third demon, looked the least dangerous initially, but soon proved its worth as it was able to possess both Adiah and Goeban during the fight. Once the shadowy demon was killed though the remaining demons proved to be easy prey and though the party was battered, they were ready to move on the next level, and hopefully, the beholder.

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A brief absence

After defeating both the aberrants and the undead beneath the town of Ashenport, the party exited the caverns only to find that a much longer time than anticipated had passed. Ten years in fact. Evidently the vampire claiming to be the Serpent Lord was working with some sort of time machine that was triggered or malfunctioned after he was slid into it. The party, and presumably the vampire, had been thrown forward in time by ten years.

The party worked their way up the cliff and back to the town of Ashenport only to discover that the town had been abandoned. It is unclear when exactly the town was abandoned, but it appeared as though several years had gone by without any inhabitants in the town. Lonys and Kildrak sent a message to Branwin to tell them that they were not dead and to try to find out what was going on. As they awaited Branwin’s reply, it became apparent that the Mutation had spread quite a bit in their absence. Where before the Mutation had primarily been contained within the Roan Valley, now the entire island, and even the ocean, appeared to have been affected. The expected reply came not from Branwin, but rather from Graben instead. After receiving the message from Branwin, the party decided to head back to Gryphon’s Bluff and was relieved to find that the Apparatuses of Kwalish were still in tact and in working order.

Upon reaching Gryphon’s Bluff the party discovered that the entire region, including the city, had been taken over by aberrants serving the One Who Hears. After meeting with members of the resistance, which included Chesty, Jeska, Solara, Laren Shadowheart, and Branwin, the party was told that the primary problem facing the resistance was that a beholder had erected a tower halfway between Ravenswood and Gryphon’s Bluff and that from the tower it was able to see any massing of resistance forces. Although several attempts had been made to destroy the beholder, none had been successful. It was decided then that the party would attempt to destroy the beholder and that if successful, then a raid on Gryphon’s Bluff could be made.

The party used Obsidian Steed to fly to the tower and in the process also used Traveler’s Camouflage to conceal their approach to the tower. The party was able to bypass the foulspawn that were massed outside the tower in part with the rituals, and in part with the distraction set by other members of the resistance. The party made it inside the tower without alerting the forces outside, but they were soon alerted when Kildrak erected his wall of thorns. The party was also confronted by several of the beholders allies, including a mind flayer, in the entrance to the tower. Those enemies were defeated just as the first of the foul spawn burst through the barricaded door from the outside.

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