Banner Marches

Session #19
A phallic object!

With their tentative ally, the apprentice mage Morakh, in tow, the party entered the dungeon beneath Inverness. Their first challenge was a bead curtain, which Vy quickly recognized as being imbued with teleportation magic and being woven of several beads of force. Not something to tamper with. Vy was able to temporarily suspend the magic of the curtain, allowing her companions time enough to slip thru, though both Omnom and Morakh triggered beads of force which shook them and Vy to the bones.

Finding themselves in a magically darkened room, the party used their sunglobes/sunrods to see, discovering a pedestal holding a single journal page which read: “Behind the greatest events are the hands of mages, for woe or weal. It is by the mage’s hand that his or her heart is known, and within the mage’s heart lays the key to understanding the Art… Yet one of my apprentices has consulted the Dark Grimoire, learning the secret history of our Art. Such knowledge comes with a price…”

Carric gave the NPC Morakh a sidelong glance, but the party the pressed on. They came to a creepy deadend with five lifelike human indentations in the stone; there appeared to be some mechanical apparatus that pivoted the indentations into a secret chamber. No one really wanted to try it out, so they retreated a ways and Raphael tried another door…that led him into a series of teleport trap chambers that also summoned hell hounds. Though Raphael was quick to puzzle his way out, albeit a bit scathed, the hell hounds proved to be a challenging fight for the party, particularly due to the fact that they were invisible to everyone except Raphael. Was it a special trait of the hellhound? Or some sort of magic spell? Also, Kirito had astoundingly poor luck facing the Hellhounds, his secondary sword alternately lodging in the floor, imbedding in Omnom’s shield, or flying from his grasp at several points. Had he been cursed by the dragon treasure? Or were the dice gods not with him?

Faced with the option of entering thru a different tower or trying out the creepy human indentation cubicles, the party went with the cubicles. They found themselves on a giant multi-colored chessboard. After Kirito got pummeled by a blast of thundering force, they became much more circumspect in how they approached the room. In a flash of insight, Omnom realized they had to move as the chess pieces according to their entry square. Who knew dwarves were such consummate chess players! Reaching the statue at the far side of the room, Omnom reached around and manipulated its moveable hands to both grasp it’s staff, causing a secret cubbyhole to open in the statue’s heart. Within was a strangely shaped mithral key.

A mithral key! Or a tuning fork and insidious sex toy? Our brave heroes will found out next time…

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Session #18
A Wandering Encounter & A New Party Member

Last session, the party decided to travel to the ruins of Inverness to retrieve the corpse of the great mage Fastilbras and resurrect him to serve as court wizard. Once this task was finished, they would venture to Bechaeux to secure the border and deal with the fabled Beast of Bechaeux. First things first.

Setting across the Misty Downs, the party encountered a group of bedraggled soldiers dressed as military rangers persecuting elves who’d allegedly served the Alder King in a plot against the King. Two elven scouts had been hung and a third eld – a simple mushroom gatherer – was being prepared to be strung up, After some initial violence to save the elven mushroom gatherer, during which the wood elven archer Carric met the party, Raphael’s silver tongue got the ear of the captain Morakh who turned out to be a mage! Strange because supposedly there were no longer any mages in the King’s service. A truce was called. Morakh told a tale of how he’d been part of a special forces unit that was investigating the wood elven Alder King for six years, having begun his mission under the former King and weathered the civil war, still trying to carry out that mission. Moreover, Morakh explained he was a former apprentice of Fastilbras but had a philosophical difference with the great mage and went his own way a long time ago.

Carric agreed to set aside his mistrust of Morakh and join the party on their venture into the ruins of Inverness, so long as Morakh kept his men from harming the wood elven mushroom gatherer (despite the mushrooms being deadly poisonous). By way of compromise, Morakh turned the elf over to the party’s custody for trial. With the rest of Morakh’s soldiers and the wood elf mushroom gatherer camped outside the ruins, the party entered with Morakh and Carric. It was night, and strange growls echoed thru the ruins of the town. Vy, the tiefling warlock, recalled how Fastilbras was a goetic mage who summoned infernal and celestial beings as a way to test his virtue…was it possible some of his summoning seals had broken down and foul creatures lurked within?

Finding the central tower of Fastilbras’ keep missing save for a bit of rubble and dragon fire scorch marks everywhere, the party decided to delve into one of the side towers. They discovered stairs descending down into a dungeon. Just then a group of wights dressed in the tattered clothes of servants attacked the party, led by a wight in the robes of an apprentice mage. After a brief skirmish, the party was victorious, but decided to bar the tower door behind them just in case. Could a necromancer be afoot? Or an undead-making devil maybe? They descended the wrought iron spiral stairs into the darkness of the dungeon below Inverness…

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Session #17
Politics and dancing swords

The party held council with young King Arslein, placed on the throne by adventurers, whose profession he holds in high regard. However, not all in the King’s council are so positively inclined. Knight Commander Roderic, in particular, seems to have a vendetta with Kirito for leading the party in which his son was slain; and Rafael’s belittling comments did little to appease the man. Moreover, there was some skepticism toward Vy, the tiefling warlock who joined the party only thru intervention of the Princess Merisende. Despite these differences, the party was able to sort thru several pressing issues facing the Banner Marches:

1) First of all, the party discovered that the red dragon attack on the King’s citadel Tir Uldeir was orchestrated by the Cult of the Dragon and a man calling himself the Wyrmlord wielding the Ord of Red Dragonkind, The Cult of the Dragon apparently operates from a secret hideout somewhere in the Howling Hills. If only someone would rid the land of this evil once and for all…

2) There is mounting evidence that the magocracy Suleistarn is gearing up for war against the Banner Marches. For a long time witch-finders of Suleistarn have been abducting youth with the gift of magic for nefarious purposes. The leader of the King’s special forces, a shadowy man named Dacarde, cautioned that since all teleportation circles were destroyed linking Suleistarn & the Banner Marches, the only way for Suleistarn to invade is overland, and that means passing thru the freehold Bechauex. Problem is Bechauex’s duke has declared independence and may be convinced by Suleistarn into allowing movement of troops thru his lands. If only someone could convince the duke of the King’s goodwill by solving his monster problem, the legendary Beast of Bechauex…

3) During the initial red dragon attack, Cerad Zforta, the emissary of Suleistarn who gifted the King with the Orb of Green Dragonkind, fled on horseback. Everyone suspects his actions precipitated the attack. Fortuitously, he was captured by a petty lord in neighboring Urelgaine who is seeking a vast sum of money from the highest bidder: Suleistarn or the Banner Marches. Princess Merisende is leading an expedition to speak with the dangerous Witch Queen, leader of all Urelgaine, to make a case for custody of Cerad Zforta being given to the Banner Marches. However, if the princess needs help her closest allies will be the party…

4) The Wild Hunt had descended upon the Banner Marches with the coming of winter. These spectral horsemen appear to pillage villages and carry off the young to another world. Complicating matters, the Horned Lord of the Wild Hunt is seeking Synovel, young daughter of the wood elven Alder King, as his bride. If only someone would send these riders back from whence they came…

5) They say the favored prey of the Wild Hunt is a catoblepas, also called the Questing Beast, which is of interest to paladins, servants of the Raven Queen, and certain witches for its body parts. A catoblepas has been reported by peasants in the northeastern Shiver Moors, leaving death in its wake. If only brave adventurers would slay the beast…

6) Synovel fled the arranged marriage and sought sanctuary with the party, who brought her to the King’s citadel Tir Uldeir. While there is some human animosity toward the wood elves, given the current racial tensions, she seems safe there for the time being. However, Eolais, herald of the Alder King, gave warning that the Horned Lord will be far more dangerous if the Alder King doesn’t fulfill his end of their bargain. Nobody trusted Eolais. If only there was a way to avoid conflict between the humans and the elves…

7) Drow had arranged for passage thru Dragon Mountain to the surface for a group of over 100 warriors, though to what end is unknown. Clearly the drow are planning something, if only cunninng adventurers could find out what…

After much debate, the party decided their immediate course of action would be to travel to the ruins of Inverness to retrieve the corpse of the great mage Fastilbras and resurrect him to serve as court wizard. Once this task was finished, they would venture to Bechaeux to secure the border and deal with the fabled Beast of Bechaeux.

All of a sudden, council was interrupted by Kirito’s dancing sword, which had triggered a curse when the gnomish artificer hired to dispel the curses attempted a ritual to cleanse the party’s dragon hoard treasure. Glowing with drowish runes, the sword attempted to assassinate King Arslein. Thankfully, the party was able to fend it off long enough for Kirito to reassertion his will over the sword and sheath it, ending the assassination attempt.

Not wanting to waste any more time than necessary, the party got a good nights rest at the inn and set off for the ruins of Inverness the following morning…

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Session #16
Never trust an elf bearing gifts

The party had traversed the Misty Downs with the dragon’s hoard and now the rescued Alder King’s daughter Synovel in tow. Along the way, Zolar and Miri parted ways, and the elf Giliana (Kirito’s former adventuring partner) returned to her people, giving the PCs the case of elven heart wine she unearthed in Dragon Mountain, suggestingn they share it with the royal family. Later, once their NPC henchman “torch guy” (Kirnwedigan) brought a bottle of heart wine to share with some ruffians camping on the other side of a river, the PCs would discover the wine was poisoned with Belbol d’Elgeth (“gift of death” in drow), a drowish poison which caused the ruffians and “torch guy” to die from hemorraghing. Had Giliana been hoping to assassinate the King or was it simply another example of cursed/trapped treasure from the dragon’s hoard? Either way, the PCs buried the rest of the poisoned heart wine in an unconventional way, then returned to the King’s keep at Tir Uldeir.

While searching the ruffian’s camp, the PCs ran into a wandering Druid named Killian (Tom’s PC) who was investigating how the Wild Hunt was disturbing the natural order. After mistaking each other for bandits, several beard and wild shape jokes, and the general ribbing that adventurers enjoy, the party consented to have Killian join them, though there would be lingering distrust. Killian seemed particularly interested in Synovel, the Alder King’s Daughter.

They found the gatehouse under repair after the dragon attack they thwarted two weeks ago, and many humans were giving Synovel unwelcome stares. As first order of business, the PCs found Baldoun & Baldourum Dwarven Bank where they stashed the dragon’s hoard in a vault and contracted a gnomish artificer named Dunderbund to cast a massive remove curse ritual on all the treasure (which would take 3 days).

The PCs wanted to audience with the King and put in word with his Seneschal Hubrecht who poshily suggested they take a bath first. Having overheard the party discussing the catoblepas, also called the Questing Beast, the Seneschal offered that he heard the village of Pondswallow had its water supply tainted in a manner consistent with what little is known of the catoblepas. Tristan was actively pursuing the geas the Vistani witch had placed upon him to retrieve the heart of a catoblepas for her (part of the deal to break the curse on Miri). The King would meet with them later that night, and they were relived to hear he wasn’t dead from their breaking the dream gems in Dragon Mountain.

At the baths the PCs were approached by a wood elven messenger of the Alder King who called himself Eolais, who had been sent to retrieve the Alder King’s daughter, whose hand had been promised in marriage to the Lord of the Wild Hunt. Eolais seemed like a non-traditional sort of elf but he was bound to serve the Alder King and those of the Elder Blood, including Synovel. He also revealed that Synovel possessed the rare ability to open portals to other planes. Raphael traded information with Eolais, revealing what little the party knew of Synovel, in exchange for Eolais revealing that Giliana (Kirito’s former adventuring companion) had been replaced by a drow agent. That would explain the poisoned heart wine! And how she survived Dragon Mountain! After some negotiation, the PCs decided they would not turn Synovel over to the Alder King. Eolais cautioned them that he had bought 3 days reprieve from the Wild Hunt, but after that they would begin seeking the girl again. He also implied that if anything threatened Synovel (such as the Wild Hunt), he would be compelled to intervene to protect her. The party knew which inn Eolais was staying at, and vice versa.

Though Eolais came off as a smarmy conceited jerk (aka “politician”), Synovel warned the PCs that he was good with a bow, sometimes was accompanied by an elven Mage, and had dealings with the “Huntsworn” (elves who left the Alder King’s court to join the Wild Hunt). They suspected it was only a matter of time before Eolais tried something to convince them to capitulate, but it wouldn’t be direct conflict… that wasn’t the elf’s style.

Having bathed and donned their court clothes (or whatever passed for those), the PCs went to audience with King Arslein…

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Session #15
Hexed hex overland travel

The party descended the Stormbanner Peaks, leaving Dragon Mountain in the distance. A troop of 8 kobolds and 2 giant pack beetles followed them, along with two inexperienced adventurers rescued from Dragon Mountain. As Miri the barbarian surveyed the terrain, the party’s suspicions were confirmed. When the wizard Zolar planeshifted Dragon Mountain out of the state of planar flux it was left in by the dragon Infyrana, the mountain returned to the world 50 miles to the northeast of its previous location. They had a long trek back to the king’s castle at Tir Uldeir, and the supernatural winter storms that wracked the mountains made them uneasy. Spirits of the Wild Hunt were visible in the storms…an omen of war, plague, and death.

Travel thru the mountains was mostly uneventful. The party almost lost a pack beetle (laden with treasure) tumbling down a steep escarpment, but Zolar cleverly cast a web spell to catch the tumbling beetle. Miri investigated a large basin filled with kobold and giant bones, but when something moved in the center of the bone pile, she thought better of it, and ventured on.

In the Dunwood, the party began noticing that they’d been cursed. It started when they noticed black marks on Zolar’s usually unblemished skin. Lily identified it as a curse and Zolar cast remove affliction on himself while the kobolds hunted elk. When the kobolds returned from their unsuccessful elk hunt, one had a dislocated shoulder. While Kirito was enthusiastic about punching the kobold’s arm back into place, to everyone’s surprise Zolar cast thunderwave and smashed the kobold against a tree, killing it. “What?” said Zolar surprised, I was only trying to help.”

Others were behaving strangely too. Kirito surrepitiously checked his newly acquired dancing short sword to make sure it hadn’t wandered away. Tristan gazed at the emblem of the Raven Queen on his newly acquired shield. Miri was seeing ghosts that seemed bound to her newly acquired flail. Was the entire dragon’s hoard cursed?

At this point, the other kobolds fled and Tristan the vampire took them under his wing, leading them to safety in a nearby cave. With the aid of the kobold Pick-Pick, Tristan proceeded to trap the entrance to the cave, telling the kobolds they’d be safe from the wizard here.

Lily realized the nature of the curses was stronger than remove affliction. She also noticed a nasty storm descending from the mountains and felt her newly acquired magic ring charging with static electricity. Was it drawing the storm? What would happen if the storm broke on her while she was wearing it? Lily didn’t want to find out. She convinced Zolar to cast a fey crossroads ritual (and Zolar was only too happy to oblige), and convinced Tristan to depart with them as the “safest course of action for the kobolds.”

An old oak split open, revealing a green firefly-lit passage thru the Feywild. Stepping in, the party felt their heads swim and suddenly they were only a few miles from their original basecamp where Dragon Mountain used to be. They heard echoing cries in the Feywild of “Synovel!” An elven name, perhaps?

Kirito led the giant pack beetles and noticed their henchman Kirnwedigan (a.k.a. torch guy) was drunk. Their henchman related what happened over the last several days, how he and Miri’s horse killed two trolls leaving the mountain, what he saw when Dragon Mountain planeshifted, and how surprised he was that the entire party was alive. Transferring their treasure to carts and mounting their horses, the party followed the mountain path to Harker’s Ferry.

While in Harker’s Ferry, Zolar cast remove affliction on Tristan, nearly killing him, but the ritual was unable to break the powerful monster apologist curse. It would seem only a series of side quests would break the curses on the party. In the middle of the night, Miri vanished. Just then Raphael remembered the story behind the belt of dwarvenkind Miri was wearing – it had belonged to Hrenbled, a dwarven performer, who led a circus troupe, but the dwarven mountain king was offended by these un-dwarven actors and had them killed, but the dwarves returned as ghost mimes who haunted ancient dwarven treasure. Guessing that her horse might be able to find her, Kirito led the party to the stables. Indeed, Miri’s horse pointed them to the old barn at the edge of town where they’d met a Vistani witch before braving Dragon Mountain.

Miri had been woken up by the ghost of one of her tribesmen who pointed toward the barn. All this while, Miri could see and hear her friends, but they could not see or hear her. She even walked thru them a couple times in frustration. In the barn they found the Vistani witch who could see Miri through her white glass eye; the witch was upset at Miri for shattering the gem the dragon Infyrana had trapped her sleeping consciousness in (in turn shattering the witch’s crystal ball). Thus, the witch was reluctant to help Miri. However, she did cast a spell which allowed the rest of the party to converse with Miri, though they still could not see or interact with her. The Vistani witch warned that the curse of the dwarven ghost mimes would only get worse, eventually drawing Miri into the Shadowfell and compelling her to join the undead dwarven circus. With a wry cackle, the witch offered to break the curse if the party agreed to certain conditions. Tristan did not trust Vistani, and he negotiated hard. Eventually, to save Miri, the party agreed to the following terms:

Miri’s curse would be ended first, and in return the party would tell her the secret of the Alder King’s daughter, retrieve a catoblepas’ heart for the witch, and perform an undefined favor for her (involving protecting someone or something) at some point in the future. As insurance, the Vistani witch geased Tristan to do these latter two things for her. Once the geas was cast and the deal struck, the witch told them they just had to extinguish the candle to bring Miri back. Zolar did so with his mage hand, plunging the room into supernatural darkness. Pulling out sunrods, the party found Miri had returned! The Vistani witch had vanished once again.

Gathering their horses and treasure cart, the PCs headed southwest across the Misty Downs, bound for Tir Uldeir. The Misty Downs was a haunted place, with the light of the sun muted through the ever present thick mist which wrapped around hills and oak copses like fingers on a loom. In the distance storm clouds were moving in, and the first snows of winter were falling. Then they heard the disembodied voices of elven men singing a dirge and a horn sounding from the woods. Elven men cried, “Synovel! Synovel!” Squinting into the woods, the party saw a golden haired elven girl in a torn dress with red sores on her forearms fleeing thru the woods. Behind her three undead riders emerged from purple mist. Tristan’s attempt at parlaying with the riders was only met with a steely “We are servants of the Horned Lord.” The party decided they would rescue this elven child, and engaged the three undead riders in combat. Though the riders nearly abducted the child, and momentarily possessed Kirito to turn him against his friends, Miri was able to mount her horse and rescue the girl from being taken. Strangely, when the riders died it was almost as if time was catching up with them and in the blink of an eye they aged hundreds of years and turned to dust.

The girl revealed she was the daughter of the king of the wood elves – the Alder King – who had promised her hand in marriage to the Horned Lord of the Wild Hunt, and she was fleeing the arranged marriage.

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Session #14
Dragon Mountain epilogue

As the old red dragon Infyrana died, she began to discorporate, her essence merging with Dragon Mountain in a rare event mages call “environmental diffusion.” Lily realized she could absorb the dragon’s elemental energy to prevent the lair’s collapse; boldly stepping forward she touched the now insubstantial burning body of Infyrana and was consumed in flames. Seconds later, Lily emerged with cinders floating around her. Infyrana’s corpse fell to the cavern floor. The party had emerged victorious!

Many kobolds soon emerged to witness the death of their master Infyrana. Crusher uneasily approached Raphael to discuss the matters of his kingship, to which Raphael readily suggested Crusher use the Gold-Cursed Crown as a decoy. Pleased with this, Crusher warned Raphael that there was one group of kobolds – Clan Wyrmguard – who remained loyal to Infyrana and would seek retribution against the party, for Crusher had provided a decoy to prevent them from joining the fight. Raphael advised Crusher to turn as many of Clan Wyrmguard into golden statues as possible and then return. Crusher nodded sagely and trotted off.

Raphael found a magic mirror filled with grey mist. Touching the mirror, Raphael activated it and in a flash of light a githyanki’s image materialized, “Ah Majestic Infyrana…this is a new form I take it?” The githyanki inquired archily.
Surprised, Raphael tried to bluff, “You know, I got tired of being an old bag.”
Not convinced, the githyanki switched to speaking in Draconic, and when it was clear Raphael did not understand, the githyanki waved his hand with a snarl and the mirror went grey again. Raphael and the rest of the party exchanged some ideas of what this could mean.

As Miri and Kirito loaded treasure into backpacks and on to pack beetles lent by Crusher, Zolar seemed perplexed. “We are in a state of planar flux. It would appear that I deactivated the planar sextant just as Dragon Mountain planeshifted. I will need to cast a ritual to restore us to the material plane. Do not fear. I have done this before.”
After debating for a brief while, the party aquiesced to Zolar’s plan and he cast a planeshift ritual which returned Dragon Mountain to the material plane…only 50 miles from where it previously was located!

Among the treasure was a box with notes: There was a map locating the Cult of the Dragon in the Howling Hills, with sidenotes indicating the Wyrmlord leader of the cult possessed the Red Orb of Dragonkind. Also, there was a contract between a drow house and Infyrana allowing a party of 200 armed drow safe passage thru the mountain in exchange for tribute to Infyrana. Crusher confirmed that the drow had not yet used the mountain for safe passage. But now that the mountain had moved, who knew what this meant…

Crusher returned to warn the party that Clan Wyrmguard was agitating for reprisals against the adventurers and the “weak” Crusher. Things could get messy in Dragon Mountain for the next day or two, and Crusher would rather legitimize his rule without the aid of humans, to appear as kobold-y as possible. Raphael, as the designated human-kobold spokesman, agreed this was the wisest course of action and shared parting words with Crusher, who declared Raphael to be as close to a kobold as an half-elf could be. A high compliment indeed.

With pack beetles and a small troop of kobolds, the party trekked back thru Dragon Mountain, past triggered traps, many dead kobolds, and ruined passageways. Interestingly, the sphere of annihilation was gone, apparently having sunken into the earth leaving behind a circular tunnel. Zolar worried that the drow had taken the sphere.

At last the party emerged in light of day once again. Squinting, they looked across the snow-swept mountains with adventure awaiting them. Triumphant, they descended from Dragon Mountain…

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Session #13
How to kill a dragon

The air was hotter here, not like the rest of Dragon Mountain. Descending the sloping passage, the party entered Infyrana’s lair. It was a vast cavern, the ceiling beyond the range of their sunrods, with only the occasional stalactite hinting at its existence. Four massive stone columns supported its weight. To the left and right were 40’ ledges, accessible by natural stone stairs. Across a 20’ wide, unfathomably deep chasm was another 40’ ledge overflowing with treasure, on top of which the dragon Infyrana was curled gazing into a crystal ball which recounted scenes of the party’s journey thru Dragon Mountain…from the perspective of kobolds and various scrying sensors.

Zolar’s mass invisibility spell seemed to be working well enough. Several pieces of treasure were scattered around the lair almost haphazardly, as if a wanton gesture of the dragon’s copious wealth. Raphael noticed a crown of charisma and a ring of fire resistance nearby, which he stealthily grabbed and donned.

“So, you survived the Mountain…” Infyrana stretched her wings, revealing a tremendous array of orange, red, and yellow colors, fading to black wingtips. She shook off some coins from her back, her massive wickedly curved horns nearly the length of two men, and craned her neck to peer across the room trying to locate the invisible party.

Zolar called out to the dragon, “Why did your mate Kaldwarag attack the king’s castle Tir Uldeir?”

“Kaldwarag was a young fool, lured by the promises of the Cult of the Dragon, lured by immortality as a dracolich. He should have known it was only a matter of time before the Cult betrayed him…used the Red Orb of Dragonkind to command him to attack Tir Uldeir.”

Raphael commented nonchalantly, “Kaldwarag as a mate, really? Was that the best you could do?” However, suddenly Raphael did not feel right, and reaching his hand to his ear, felt the crown he’d donned turning him into gold! It was cursed! Wrestling with the crown, he managed to tear it free before he became a statue.

As Infyrana and Raphael exchanged taunts, the party began to fan out to get into position for the fight. Sensing Tristan’s stealthy advance in bat-form, Infyrana roared, “Come no further unless you wish for a fight that will only end in your deaths! I am old, out of practice at fighting adventurers, but I am not without tricks. For I am Infyrana the Majestic, Master of Magic, Ruler of Dragon Mountain!”

Raphael grimaced, “Wow, this dragon’s even more egotistical than me. I really don’t like her.”

Tristan called out, “Infyrana, cast aside this mad quest to become a dracolich. It is folly.”
Infyrana arched her scaly brow, “Ah, vampire, it was Kaldwarag’s dream, not mine. He believed the promises of the self-styled Wyrmlord and the Cult. I have no such illusions, no your succubus companion dispelled me of such notions long ago.”

Tristan mused, thinking of the Raven Queen’s quest, “It would seem I have been misinformed.”

“You have bested my kobolds and their traps, you did far better than Kirito’s former party who perished in my Mountain like insects.”

Kirito drew his blades. “We’ve already killed one dragon. You’re just a number to us…”

“Is that so, adventurer?” Chortled Infyrana over-confidently. “Let’s put that to the test.” And a bright blue orb surrounding the aged red dragon, a minor globe of invulnerability protecting her from ranged attacks.

And with that, the battle was joined.

It was vicious and bloody, and without mercy. Some of the highlights included:
• Lily and Zolar breaking the dragon’s Minor Globe of Invulnerability with focused fire and an out-of-the-box use of a Rod of Beguiling.
• Lily getting ravaged in the dragon’s jaws and nearly dying, but making a comeback later to punish the dragon with devastating amounts of frost and lightning damage.
• Kirito connecting with six hits in one attack against the dragon.
• Zolar blinding the dragon and engaging in a bit of a wizard’s duel involving a spell quite familiar to him: Visions of Avarice.
• Kirito stealing a dancing sword and Anduvaar’s Blade from the dragon’s hoard, then returning to be invisible while tossing Anduvaar’s Blade to Ardell.
• Ardell keeping the party alive at one point with lay on hands.
• Raphael discovering the ring of fire resistance was actually a ring of fire vulnerability, and contemplating cutting his finger off to remove it.
• Raphael momentarily bluffing the dragon into believing if she flew that the god of mercenaries and warrior-bards would strike her down.
• Tristan dominating the dragon to fly and provoke opportunity attacks while surrounded.
• Miri scoring multiple critical hits with her flail, and pummeling the dragon to the cavern floor.
• Infyrana calling on her kobold minions, and none showing up, suggesting that Raphael’s deal with Crusher had paid off.
• Ardell and Miri getting teleported in the Kobold Proving Grounds and surviving through wits alone with flying colors.
• Zolar narrowly de-activating the planar sextant with an extended mage hand and a little help from the party.
• A last ditch effort to end the Pillars of Arcane Negation by smashing gems which contained the trapped essence of several important NPCs.
• The frontline PCs stabbing Infyrana to death in ferocious melee, despite her ominous warning of a Killing Curse she had cast upon herself.

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Session #12
Kill kobolds like a hero, Solve traps like a kobold

Ascending ancient stairs through collapsed tunnels, the party could hear the kobold horde in the distance. Tired of worrying about kobolds breathing down their necks, they decided to make their stand in the storehouses, where raw minerals extracted from the mines were taken by the kobolds for delivery to the dragon’s lair. As the rest of the party took a moment’s respite to sharpen their weapons and prepare, Zolar set about beating the kobolds at their own game: First he set up a kerosene trap above the door leading up to the storehouses, then he set up decoy caltrops down a hallway with a light spell cast at the end. As Zolar worked, he spotted the first of the kobolds in the horde come charging round the corner. High-tailing it back to the party, Zolar gave them the heads up. “The kobolds are coming!”

The kobolds came so fast, and from every possible fissure, in every direction that only a few of the party were able to get off spells or ranged attacks before being swarmed by the horde. Miri the barbarian managed to actually throw one kobold at some of the kobolds caught in Zolar’s kerosene trap. It was a furious fight, with PCs getting dragged down tight passage away from their party, knocked to the ground, pummeled, and even disarmed. As Ardell attempted to make it back to the party after being dragged off, he prepared to jump over a spiked pit trap only to trigger a tripwire which sent him careening into the pit; at the last second, he caught the edge of the pit and saved himself a painful fall. One of the highlights was Raphael bluffing the horde that he was one their side – since he’d been adventuring with the kobold Crusher – and it bought him a momentary reprieve from the horde. At least, long enough for the rest of the party, with Raphael’s propituous leadership, to kill a sufficient number of kobolds to break the horde’s morale. Yelling taunts at the fleeing kobolds, the party regrouped and ascended ancient dwarven stairs…

Raphael noticed the albino kobold Crusher peering at them from a fissure. Rolling his eyes, he looked at Crusher, “You. What do you want?” Wringing his hands, Crusher emerged from the darkness decked out in adventurer’s gear – 50’ of rope, gloves, thieves’ tools, even a potion bandolier – and explained that he felt taken advantage of by Infyrana and that he saw an opportunity for his advancement to the kobold throne. Raphael and Crusher swore a blood oath (with an epic bluff) that Crusher would help lead them past the gauntlet of traps before the dragon’s lair and convince any kobolds minions Infyrana might summon to not heed the dragon’s call; in exchange the party agreed to help Crusher become the new Kobold King provided the kobolds stopped raiding human (dwarven, elven, etc.) villages. As part of this deal, the party took two of Crusher’s potions of vigor. Miri noticed Crusher’s rations pouch was jostling about and making funny noises which sounded an awful lot like her missing pet monkey; she and her friends convinced Crusher to give them the monkey (his dinner) as a gesture of good-will (and in exchange for a potion of healing). Crusher considered that the party had saved his life and agreed to the trade. Kirito was less than pleased to have the kobold chief who killed some of his former companions now joining the party.

The first trap was a pit which Crusher was thrown across. However, when Raphael attempted to jump the pit, gravity reversed and he fell “up” thru the plaster ceiling and into a 50’ shaft. After some climbing, several gravity reversals, and extensive rope work, the party managed to get past the reverse gravity pit trap.

The second trap, they found themselves in a corridor with dwarven pictograms representing dwarven mages with frustrated faces. Crusher found the flame jet traps, but in the process of opening a portcullis accidentally triggered the flame jets, jumping back just in time to avoid being burned to a crisp. After some debate involving the red dragon scales of the last dragon the party slew and mis-labeled sovereign glue (to which Crusher sagely commented “switch labels, yes, yes, old kobold trick”), Lily decided to use her frost magic to partially quell the flames while the rest of the party ran through. They made it past the flame jets a bit seared, but not well done.

The third trap was a heavy stone block with a 2’ gap on the bottom. Crusher examined and reported back that there was a combustible gas and a pit trap with a narrow walkway. Zolar went “first” this time, ducking into the room and levitating, only to discover the poison was toxic to breathe. Extinguishing their torches, the party decided to just take damage from the poison gas and move past the trap; fortunately they’d set up planks and ropes across the pit so the dizzying gas didn’t cause anyone to fall into the pit.

The fourth/fifth trap appeared to be a pit which Zolar noticed. At this point Zolar cast tenser’s floating disk to ferry people over the pit. It was at this point that several party members felt Infyrana scrying on them and Zolar realized the dragon had True Name magic. Crusher reported that the next room was clear of traps, and so the floating disk ferry process began. However, when three people were in the next corridor, suddenly the entire corridor tilted, sending Lily, Raphael, and Tristan careening toward the pit. Lily and Raphael luckily landed on the tenser’s floating disk. Tristan had readied himself to assume the form of a bat should he fall, and that’s precisely what he did. Crusher, who’d leapt clear of the trap, was duly impressed.

An old mithral gate lead into what was once the dwarven treasure vaults. The party was surprised when Miri pulled old a mithral key her monkey had found somewhere and handed it to Crusher. Hand shaking, Crusher placed the key in the mithral gate’s lock and winced. No trap was forthcoming as the mithral gate opened, revealing a fog-shrouded chamber. As the party advanced thru the fog with Crusher almost gleefully pointing out traps, Tristan wryly pointed out it was like a kobold trap museum. It was at this point that Crusher and Raphael parted ways, with Crusher declaring Raphael had learned to think like a kobold (a compliment?), Ardell declaring he was glad they’d saved Crusher’s life and that Crusher’s reign as king would be just, and Crusher giving a guilty look farewell. Perhaps humans weren’t so bad after all? Or was Crusher planning betrayal all along?

There was one last door to be opened, and Raphael did so with aplomb. A bunch of centipedes, spiders, and snakes dropped on his head…followed by several mithral bars. He stepped out of the way as a dwarven keg of ale and several rusting suits of ancient dwarven armor came tumbling down after. Lily consoled him that the loot was well worth it.

The passage became natural cavern and was noticeably hotter. Along the walls were the petrified remains of several adventurers. Among them was another of Zolar’s past lives, his outstretched hand petrified as if it once had clasped a book; Zolar and his grimoire mused what would happen if they cast remove affliction on the petrified old incarnation of Zolar. Lily found a petrified devil, and flashbacked to many centuries ago, when she had helped corrupt the Cult of the Dragon which sought to turn Infyrana’s progenitors into dracoliches; the dragons refused and so an army of devils laid waste to their lair…the only survivor to escape was the then young Infyrana. It would appear fate indeed had drawn them to Dragon Mountain.

Kirito, twin blades drawn, turned to look at the NPCs Giliana and Theadric, “You’d better wait here.”

As the party advanced into Infyrana’s lair, Zolar wove a spell of mass fire resistance and another of mass invisibility. The dragon had a lot to answer for…

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Session #11
In which the wizard collapses the mines...

As the party looted and licked their wounds, Ardell drove the kobold’s poison from the elf Giliana, who then warned them that she’d witnessed a kobold horde – hundreds of kobolds – amassing to hunt down the PCs. Realizing they were in dire straits, Zolar conferred with his ancient grimoire which revealed a secret but deadly technique to impart one of his old rituals into Zolar’s subconscious. Determined to succeed, Zolar touched the grimoire and for a moment turned into living lightning as memories swam thru his brain; tempering the energies, Zolar returned to corporeal form and his eyes flashed open. “Get me a rope…”

Kirito scouted out the old enormous carrion crawler’s pen in the arena as a safe (if terribly smelling) location for a Rope Trick ritual. Zolar cast Rope Trick, accessing an extra-dimensional space of mists and images of his past incarnations; Raphael made several off-color commends on the deeds of Zolar’s past incarnations. Despite the rescued slave Theadric’s frightful stories of kobolds in the mines, the party took a desperately needed sleep, confident the kobolds would not find them here.

Refreshed and girded for battle, the PCs found the entrance to the carrion crawler’s pen covered with hanging dwarven corpses strung up like kobold Christmas tree lights (i.e. trapped with translucent thunderstone containing poison gas). Apparently, the kobolds had found their hiding place. They could smell a sickly sweet burning smell, and could hear the enormous carrion crawler munching on dead kobolds above. Tristan, assured by Zolar’s casting of his fortunes, disarmed the traps, then proceeded to cut down one of the dwarven corpses. Doing so, however, triggered a counterweight trap which spilled a swarm of dire hornets upon Tristan. As Zolar and Lily blasted the swarm away with spells, Lily mused that the kobolds were not much in a fight, but they damn well knew their traps.

The arena floor was now a gaping pit dropping 80’ into an underground river, and the party set to work setting up an anchor for a long rope which they began descending. Lowering Tristan’s worg Vitejie took a bit more ropework and the combined strength of Kirito, Raphael, and Tristan. As the trio lowered the unhappy worg, the enormous carrion crawler attacked from above, attempting to grab them with its tentacles. Lily narrowed her eyes, then let go of the rope and began flying as lightning arced from her fingertips and severed the tentacles grabbing her companions. Several of the PCs dropped into the river once a safe distance down the rope, but Ardell in his plate armor began to sink; Miri dove after him and dragged him to shore. Once most of the party was safe, Kirito and Raphael looked at each other, shrugged, and swan-dived 80’ into the river below. Tristan calmly turned into a bat and flitted down, materializing on the shore of a massive lake as his soaking-wet companions climbed out.

They found the aftermath of a fight between the kobolds of clan Mangled Fist and clan Kneebiters – apparently Mangled Fist had been decimated and the Kneebiters were victorious. Zolar sighed, and reluctantly checked off “Chief Molokac” from his “Kobold Chiefs to Kill” list. Catching their breaths, the party decided to move rapidly thru the underground river and mines to outpace the kobold horde as long as they could. Though they stumbled upon a black pudding, they chose to run into the mines rather than fight it.

Beady red eyes glinted off their torch light, picks echoed in the darkness, and a creepy knocking pattern seemed to come from the stone itself. Upon coming across a door, Zolar flung it open with mage hand and a scything blade swung out toward Kirito…only to break apart and the rusting blade landed at Kirito’s feet. A single kobold was tormenting a bunch of baby stirges trapped in a shallow pit, and Raphael boggled the kobold’s mind so it stumbled into the pit and became stirge-food. Then Raphael entered the room, only to feel the hairs on the back of his neck rise as he realized it was haunted. The door slammed shut, and a dwarven ghost (Kirito’s former companion Brimli) appeared on the side where the rest of the party was, demanding Kirito prove he’d overcome his pride. Raphael, not one to mince words, kicked down the door and charged thru the dwarf, only to be rendered unconscious. The rest of the party assuaged the ghost and promised to help prove Brimli’s ancestral claim to the dwarfhold and find his body. Appeased, the ghost released Raphael from his thrall and agreed to help the PCs against the kobolds as best it could.

As the party continued exploring the mines, they soon were attacked by rust monsters and kobold commandos (and kobolds riding rust monsters!). As the rest of the party did battle with a seemingly endless stream of rust monsters and kobolds, Miri charged ahead, discovering the far end of the hall was lit on fire; she also found a concealed door, which she kicked down, only to fall into a pit trap which wedged her under iron slats. As the fire advanced down the hall, it drove a swarm of dire cockroaches before it, many which fell into the pit and began biting Miri. As Miri climbed out she was assaulted by kobold commandos and slingers which tried forced her back into the trap. Catching herself, Miri did a dynamic leap to the other side of the pit and rolled thru the fire to get to her feet. Shaking smoking dire cockroaches off of her, Miri said bluntly, “I need a healer!”

Tristan fought alongside Ardell, Zolar, and the NPCs against waves of rust monster-mounted kobolds. Leaping onto his worg Vitejie, Tristan was surprised by a steel-jaw neck snapper trap, and despite being badly wounded, teleported free of the trap. Tristan then made short work of the remaining kobolds. Ardell concentrated on taking down kobold minions attacking from the rear, healing Miri, and dragging one of the NPCs who’d been mortally wounded by kobolds to safety. One of the kobolds Ardell felled had a keg of explosive powder strapped to its back and a long trail of powder going around the corner; Ardell could only look on incredulously as the powder trail was lit…only to be mysteriously blown out by invisible breath. Had their ghostly dwarven ally done his part? When the black pudding from the river began slowly moving into the room, Zolar decided he would collapse the room with a spectral ram, and advised his companions to make themselves scarce.

As Lily blasted away at rust monsters, Kirito had taken the fight to kobold commandos on a ledge, deftly avoiding caltrops and a pit trap, only to be surprised by a steel-jaw neck snapper trap. By sheer strength alone he was able to extricate himself, gritting thru the pain as he growled at the kobolds laughing at him, “When I get out of this, you’re next!” One of the kobolds took off running and never looked back.

Once the rest of the party was clear, Zolar cast spectral ram at the ceiling supports, and the entire room came down on a rust monster and the black pudding. However, Zolar had overdone it, and the entire passage they were in began to collapse! Racing against time, the PCs dodged falling rocks, blasted at cockroach swarms, and extinguished flames as they attempted to escape the mine collapse. First Miri was crushed by rocks, then Tristan, but both were saved by their resourceful allies. In the last second, the party made it out of the collapsing tunnel, squeezing cheek-to-cheek in a cramped side passage.

After a short rest and a bit of exploring, the party found the stairs leading to the approach to the dragon’s lair. They could feel the dragon’s presence nearby. Were they ready for facing the legendary Infyrana?

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Session #10
You mean this kobold king?

Sneaking thru the darkness, the PCs came across the kobolds’ arena, where three hapless slaves were pitted against a basilisk in pitch darkness. Overseeing the festivities was the Kobold King himself, along with his Kobold Wizard. As the PCs circled the arena and debated on their course of action, they saw Giliana the elf (Kirito’s former adventuring companion) dragged before the Kobold King by kobold commandos. Quickly conferring, the brave heroes figured their cover was blown and decided to stage a full-on assault…was it for the magic items held by the Kobold King and Wizard? was it to free Giliana and the slaves? was it simply because they were tired of being sneaky? Whatever their reasons, the party decided to take on the entire mass of kobolds, and Zolar led the assault.

While the kobold rank-and-file proved no match to the PCs, the magical prowess of the Kobold Wizard and the deviousness of the kobold commandos proved quite lethal. The already depleted party felt their resources strained to the max. Zolar engaged the Kobold Wizard in another epic mage hand duel for control over the Grimoire Astralus, the ancient spellbook which once belonged to Zolar’s past incarnation…ultimately Zolar won, and though the Kobold Wizard evaded Zolar’s wrath with a cunning mirror image, Miri was not fooled by the Kobold Wizard’s shadow magic and crushed him flat with a well-placed flail strike.

Meanwhile, Tristan had flown as a bat to the balcony where the Kobold King was and found it swarming with kobold commandos (which weren’t visible until Tristan activated his sunrod in the midst of them. Soon, the vampire-cavalier was standing atop a mound of kobold corpses, hewing away with ferocity despite countless wounds and javelin heads broken off in his armor. The backup that his party had promised him, however, was not forthcoming.

Kirito and Ardell, trapped in black tentacles summoned by the Kobold Wizard, were immobilized or engaged in bloody close combat with kobold minions for most of the fight.

Lily fried the basilisk then directed her baleful magic against scores of kobolds, who fell to arcs of lightning and blasts of frost. When the kobolds unleashed an enormous carrion crawler into the arena, the carrion crawler killed several kobolds and one of the slaves before grappling Tristan and Vitejie. Just then the damaged arena floor gave way and the carrion crawler began to fall. Thinking fast, Lily phased thru the earth to sever the carrion crawler’s tentacles with a blast of lightning and ice, and as Tristan and Vitejie were released, a blast of scintillating water shoved them against the sides of the arena wall, where they clung for dear life.

The battle was won and the Kobold King was routed. Raphael, who’d been squeezing thru tight passages with Crusher, his pet kobold, realized what was happening, and emerged on the scene to slaughter the Kobold King’s entourage and in the chaos one of the King’s minions shot the King in the back with an arrow, killing him. Raphael, being a bard, certainly embellished the circumstances of the Kobold King’s death in the re-telling.

However, as Raphael was busy killing the Kobold King, Crusher scurried off down the narrow passage they’d emerged from to plot his kobold-y revenge…

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