Reborn

Session 18

Wary of another encounter with bounty hunters along the trail to Waystone Market, you choose a circuitous route along Kal’s rocky southern coast; the journey is slow. In the late morning, while passing through a copse of palms, you spy a scaled beast fishing in the tidepools along the shore. Large wings and a wickedly barbed tail clumsily cantilever the wyvern in its fishing; it doesn’t notice you. It scarfs down a half-dozen large, silver fish while you watch from concealment. You opt to leave the creature alone.
A curiosity catches your attention before you leave: a weathered stone statue buried in the beach. Shaped like a dragon’s head, you suspect it is an artifact of a time long before the Injau ruled here. A healthy fear of disturbing the hungry wyvern deters a detailed inspection and you backtrack to a safer route.
It’s the early afternoon crest a ridge and catch sight of your destination; something is very wrong. A funnel of dark clouds surrounds the clearing and the wind, even where you stand miles away, is whipping the jungle canopy into a frenzy. Burst of blue- and purple-white lightning pierce the interior of the storm. This is not a natural phenomenon! Worried that the Seravash are up to something dangerous, you rush forward through the writhing undergrowth.
It takes nearly an hour to push your way to the Waystone Market, whipped by vines and bruised by fallen branches. The staggering wind is eerily calm as you enter the clearing to the scene of massacre; dead lizardfolk of the Seravash tribe lie scattered, burned and bloody, throughout the market. One shaman, scroll held aloft, chants a ritual at the obelisk and its previously illegible runes glow defiantly white in response. A pillar of black magic rises around the obelisk and pierces the storm clouds. A streak of lightning arcs down into the shaman’s guards, taking the form of ghostly dragons as it strikes, but the Seravash that remain are girded against the obelisk’s defenses.
The guards ring the shaman as you attempt to disrupt him. The Seravash are well trained and hold long enough for demons to reinforce the line, spawned from the dark energy surrounding the obelisks. The belching, putrescent foot soldiers of the hells are resistant to conventional weapons and harry your spellcasters. Still, you are able to prevent the shaman from completing the ritual as you battle the demons and lizardfolk. The ritual ends with a sudden hush as the arcane scroll is destroyed with your fire magic. Livid, the shaman screams and launches a suicide attack against you. The lizardfolk fight to the death even after their demon allies are banished, though you manage to capture one alive, even after your intent is discerned and the warriors execute the fallen.
Without a moment’s pause to heal, a bounty hunter steps from the forest and delivers an ultimatum, “Surrender and there’ll be no trouble.” It is the cleric of Seref from the ambush along the trail. In no mood for conversation and distrustful of the cleric, you attack. Your magic quickly impedes and disables the group of bounty hunters. A few arrows from the elven ranger find a mark, but the fight is fast and brutal; the ranger escapes into the forest while her companions are killed.

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Session 17

After breakfast in the clearing you head southeast towards the Atavash outpost through an unusually steamy jungle; light showers do nothing to break the heat or humidity. Two hours along the trail you are surprised to find a magical trap, a swarm of summoned insects waiting for an unsuspecting traveler to step on them. Is the trap for you? The jungle is quiet, but there is no sign of an ambush. You determine it is too dangerous to attempt disarming and opt to skirt it instead.

The undergrowth is still damp with the morning’s rain as you push into the jungle. On edge, you scan the jungle one last time before pressing on and discover a magical aura deep among the trees. You move to investigate and, just as you are about to reach it, an elf betrays her nearby hiding place with a flurry of arrows. You are sorely wounded as combat erupts in the undergrowth! The aura stirs and magically gathered shadows disperse to reveal an armored priest of Seref. He raises his holy symbol, declares you a fugitive and demands surrender.

Immediately on the defensive, you shroud the jungle in a choking mist. The elf still never misses her mark, but you are able to badly wound both the cleric and a heavily armed fighter accompanying the pair. After a few clamorous moments, you force the trio of bounty hunters into a stubborn retreat. Wounded and surprised by the assault, you take some time to eat and recover your strength before continuing your journey.

The Atavash outpost is better defended and more heavily patrolled than you remember it. A wooden palisade now rings the small collection of huts and at least twenty extra warriors can be counted from the entrance. You are halted at a gate that smells of green wood and fresh tar. An elderly shaman is summoned to greet you.

Nissek introduces himself and delivers an ultimatum from the king of the Atavash, Salmussata: submit yourselves for judgement or be declared enemy of the tribe. Much to your surprise, your presence on the island is causing the Atavash harm! The shaman assures you that you are free to leave if you wish, but you will never again be welcome on Atavash lands. You deliberate and ask for more information, but Nissek is reserved. He points at a second Parnish bireme now moored in the bay to the northeast and informs you that outsiders are now aware of the Atavash. You agree to submit for judgement. Nissek seems pleased and leads you slowly, laboring under the weight of a water-filled satchel, into the outpost, over the bridge and east towards the heart of the Atavash lands.

Several hours later you arrive at the Atavash village, a large collection of varied huts in a sheltered cove, similar to A-ka. The waves have carved dozens of small grottos from the walls of the cove, lizardfolk swim effortlessly among them in the shallow waters. A clearing in the center of the town is preparing for a feast; small torches and candles are lit as the sun sets, fresh fruits and fish are gathered in baskets. A soft horn sounds, a gathering signal, and members of the tribe trickle into the clearing. Each lizardfolk nods in genuflection at the ceremonial totem on the clearing’s north side as they enter.

Once gathered, the shamans of the tribe usher in the largest lizardfolk you have ever seen, a bulky, twelve-foot-tall creature with a long arms and an even longer tail. Salmussata is impressive to behold. Despite his oafish size, the king of the lizardfolk is eloquent and surprisingly reserved. His eyes occasionally change color as he relates stories of the lizardfolk during the feast, but mostly he asks questions about you and your past. He is particularly interested in your encounters with the Seravash.

After the feast, and several hours of conversation and questioning, Salmussata decrees that you are free to leave the lands of the Atavash, not complicit in any complications caused by the invading Parnish, but not welcome to return without a sign of good faith. The king wishes you to free the Seravash of Shurensha’s influence.

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Session 16

You say farewell to Walt and board your skiff, bound to A-ka, which doesn’t yet feel like home. It is a three day voyage, with overnight stops at Kal-mata and the small barrier island on which your bireme wrecked.

Sasha is reserved, distracted. She is glad for the company when inclement weather delays your journey west. The marid remains distant but sends you off with her best wishes. The skiff is low in the water, weighed down by your loot. Two days later you arrive in A-ka as the sun sets.

Wota greats you heartily on the docks, many of the villagers come to the water’s edge to see you unload your spoils. There are smiles and hugs and questions about your adventures. An impromptu feast is prepared. Food, drink and stories are shared. Afterwards, you ask Sim for news of the Atavash and Seravash. He is dubious that any diplomacy with the Seravash is possible. The Seravash have occupied Kal-toka and issued ultimatums to both A-ka and the Atavash: submit or there will be war. Sim thinks that you will find what you’re looking for in Kal-toka, but warns you that it may just be walking into a violent end.

You wake with the dawn and tread the familiar uphill path to Kal-toka. Signs of lizardfolk passage are fresh at the clearing near the lifepool. You head north and pass between the crumbled draconic idols for the first time since your arrival on Kal; the jungle reclaimed this road long ago. Vine-strangled stone walls and a group of armored Seravash guard the entrance to the ruined village.

You approach in peace, but the guards quickly resort to violence in an attempt to wrest your precious metal armor from you. The fight is difficult, the Seravash disciplined and skilled combatants. The four guards die without a single cry of alarm or call for aid to the lizardfolk that can be seen to the north. Troubled and bloodied, expecting another fight, you move deeper into Kal-toka.

One of the merchants from the Waystone Market is among the Seravash in Kal-toka’s central plaza. The warriors shift apprehensively as you approach the group, one particularly powerful warrior greets you and commends your skill at arms. You are appalled and confused at the lack of regard for the slain tribe members, who are dismissed as weak and unfit to live. At the same time, you better understand the divide between the humble, peaceful Atavash and the warlike Seravash. Of note, there is a twelve-foot tall, copper obelisk in the plaza that appears recently erected; etched draconic runes professing the worship of a being known as Shurensha decorate its surface.

The merchant, Azak, bears Sasha’s Marriage Knife. You bargain with the lead warrior, Kanna, for its trade, finally settling on a sum of ten thousand gold coins, several suits of masterwork chainmail and other armors found during your adventures. Regardless of the cost, you are glad to escape Kal-toka with your prize and no more bloodshed. Rather than return directly to A-ka, you decide to head east from the clearing towards the Atavash.

You reach the Waystone Market in the late afternoon and take the opportunity to set up camp. Jurim stands motionless near his cart and there is no sign of the Atavash. You peruse the azer’s wares and learn from him that Fisk and the Atavash have not been to the market in over a week. After some haggling, you purchase a magical shield from Jurim.

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Session 15

You continue to explore the tunnels beneath Kal-ereska. These areas are a network of small chambers, once richly appointed and now gathering dust. By the heraldry on the moth-eaten carpets and tapestries you identify the rooms as the personal chambers of a highly ranked official, perhaps even Kal-injau. Through a secret door you find a cache of potions and gold that evaded the kobolds’ notice all these long years.

Near the entrance to the surface you encounter the serpentfolk for the first time, a pair of warriors wreathed in illusions slither into view. The creatures attempt parlay with a sibilant telepathy and claim you as sacrifices for Isrissi when you refuse to submit; combat ensues. Despite a fearsome appearance, their lightning-quick blades are unable to pierce your heavy armor. You force them into a retreat after whittling away their protective glamers and cut the last one down as it turns to flee.

The entrance is littered with dead kobolds and serpentfolk in various states of decay, a battle the kobolds appear to have lost. You assume that only serpentfolk can be found beyond and choose to focus on the matter at hand: finding and freeing the remaining slaves. With that in mind, you continue your search of the tunnels.

After an hour of careful exploration you find the stairs leading deeper into the complex and prepare an ambush. Two long hours pass in the quiet darkness as you wait for the slaves to return from their shift. Heralded by the shuffling of feet and clinking of chains, they come flanked by kobold taskmasters. You spring your trap! The skirmish is over moments after it begins, the slaves freed.

You weigh your curiosity against the slaves’ safety and decide the latter is more important. You return to the Smugglers’ Temple rather than delve the depths of Kal-ereska; the kobolds’ half-brother, half-god remains a mystery.

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Session 14

You climb down the narrow chimney found in the manticore’s lair a few days prior. The small chamber at its base is thick with dust, barrels in various states of decay line the east wall. Torchlight reveals rooms to the west and south, but thick webs obscure the interior. You tentatively press south and the darkness comes to life!

A trap of webs is sprung! Monstrous spiders are upon you, led by a spindly-armed purple abomination, its sharp claws and teeth drip with venom. The narrow confines of the chamber and the creature’s cunningly laid traps put you at an early disadvantage. You fight through poison and sneak attacks, chase the creature into its lair in an adjacent room and cut it down. It has a gathered a small hoard of gold pieces and gems from somewhere, which you gather into your pack.

The series of cleared chambers appear to be the end of a mine; picks and spades bristle from barrels, dusty crates are filled with stores. A rude barricade stands at the head of a ramp that leads down into the darkness. It is a defense against the spiders you just fought. You clear it and descend with caution.

A long hallway stretches to the west from the foot of the ramp. A barred, iron gate can be seen at the edge of the torchlight. Clicks of loaded crossbows beyond the gate alerts you to incoming fire! A volley of bolts comes through the gate as you dive for cover. An unsettlingly loud, metallic clang issues from the direction of the bolts and moments later, along with a second volley from crossbows, a ballista bolt nearly takes your life.

From a scroll, you summon magic beyond your skill and, for the first time, wind wails in the deep. Crossbows are fired in vain, their bolts scattered by the summoned wall of air, as you force the lock on the gate and close into melee with kobold guards, who prove inferior in close quarters combat. Standing amongst the dead kobolds, you measure the ballista — it might just fit on the skiff — and get your bearings; to the north lies another iron gate with a passage leading even deeper in the earth, the west and south are corridors with several rooms each. You head south.

An alarm rings as your passage triggers a trap! Though the magical bell silences after a few moments, you suspect there will be kobolds swarming the area soon. The southern passage is lined with empty cells save one, where two human slaves wearily greet you. You release them as you prepare for battle. Six kobold guards led by a sorcerer and shaman send a volley of spears from down the hall. You charge, but the kobolds laid a cunning trap! A pit of vipers complicates the melee as the kobolds are divided between the hallway and an adjoining room. You make quick work of them despite the difficulty terrain and emerge with only a few cuts and bruises.

The freed slaves are heartened by your victory and, once provided with water, become more talkative. You learn a few things of import: there are other slaves working down in the mines; the kobolds are at war with the serpentfolk, who are encamped within Kal-ereska and making daily assaults on the tunnels; the kobolds have nursed a being they claim is “half-god” back to health. The master of the mines is unknown to the slaves, but the kobolds revere him. A disturbing thought is discussed in hushed tones: what if it’s Kal-injau?

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Session 13

You wait the five days for the Stormsign to arrive and nurse Walt back to health. He is in good spirits, despite the betrayal of his friend and mentor. On the morning of its arrival, you stand beside the statue of Seyahet and watch the sparkling ocean for signs of the clipper. Stormsign breaks the horizon an hour before noon and not long after a jolly boat darts through the waves toward the shore.

Seven crew members of the Stormsign approach, including the captain. Blackfeather sits near the back of the boat and surveys the landing. There is some commotion as you are noticed. Even from here, as the jolly boat prepares to moor, you can sense their ill intent. You hurry down below to prepare an ambush.

Two members of the crew enter the Smuggler’s Temple from above while you hide. The pair ask Walt to present them to Avir, but the young acolyte nervously delays. When Walt retreats into the inner sanctum, the sailors trade whispers of concern, “Something is wrong.”

You strike! You hope to drop the pair before they can alert the others. Both men fall before their weapons clear their sheaths, but not before one yells for help. Another pair of crewmen rush down the ladder. Unprepared for your onslaught, one of the crew is quickly killed while the other is forced into submission. You rush the surface!

Here is Anidaine Blackfeather, renowned smuggler. He fires from behind his bodyguard’s shield as a priest of Kelek struggles to bolster the efforts of the now outnumbered pirates. Your magic overwhelms the bodyguard, who flees in terror back to the jolly boat with stirges clinging to the chinks in his armor. The priest is battered, but manages to stand, dark magic alive and threatening on his open hand. “Run, my captain,” he calls between spells before he is slain.

Blackfeather transforms into a crow! However, his flight is not timely. Your magically summoned allies entangle Blackfeather long enough for a blade to find his heart. He crumbles and his form shifts again. You easily dispatch his bodyguard without the priest of Kelek’s aid. What is this? Blackfeathers corpse has turned into… a doppelganger! Is this what Avir’s documents meant by “converted to the worship of Kelek”? Is the real captain Anidaine Blackfeather dead or imprisoned? You carefully fold his black cloak and stow it.

You use semaphore to signal the Stormsign and the crew respond, they will parlay. Another jolly boat is lowered into the sea in minutes. Once docked, Dena Elderij and a host of crossbow-wielding sailors approach.

Dena is suspicious, but open-minded. With the evidence from Avir’s documents and the captain’s corpse she accepts that Blackfeather was both an imposter and a worshiper of Kelek. The crew retrieves the bodies of the fallen, including the false captain, and return to the Stormsign on both jolly boats, but not before you strike a bargain for transport off of Kal: one hundred gold coins per person for passage to Gael-amad. The Stormsign will return in four weeks to pick you up, after it has delivered its cargo to Parn-tora.

You have a promise to keep before you go, to recover Sasha’s marriage knife. First, you are at the entrance to the lair of Kal-ereska’s kobolds, where human slaves are rumored to toil in an endless tangle of mines, and you are eager to rescue those you can.

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Session 12

Ready for battle, you burst in on high priest Avir and his acolyte, Nenat. The pair gird themselves in dark magic as you press into melee. You near the altar to Kelek and you feel its power weakening your arms and spirit. Nenat shields his master with his body while flinging spells, inflicting horrible wounds that rip open skin with no regard for armor. Meanwhile, Avir calls for aid from the statue of Kelek’s handmaiden behind the altar. Its eyes glow a menacing red, to match the stone of swirling color set in its brow.

Nenat falls and, bloodied, you press Avir. The older priest cries out for Kelek to intervene, desperation thick in his voice. He is wounded, he demands that the handmaiden destroy you, but the animated statue seems content to watch. Avir turns to scream at the statue and you hit him soundly, he falls. The handmaiden viciously decapitates the body! The swirling red stone tumbles from its brow and the statue becomes inert once more.

You feel the magic of the altar wane in strength, though it lingers in the stone nearby; it will fade in time. The stone that graced the handmaiden’s brow springs to life with new color — blue or green as you trade it back and forth — in some hands, but is anathema to others. You think it is a chaos stone, its powers rare unknown.

Your business is not finished in the Smuggler’s Temple. You rouse Walt from his rest. The youngest member of the temple is unaware of Avir and Nenat’s betrayal. His faith is strong in Seyahet. You trust this young man, Walt’s innocent as a lamb. He shows you to Avir’s study and you rifle through reams of damning documents. They contain the names of ships, captains, quartermasters and more all converted to the worship or purpose of Kelek; a network of evil spread across southern Kesh with Avir and the Smuggler’s Temple near its heart. You also find some magical goods, including an interesting pair of boots and a cutlass, tokens of another named captain of Kelek, Ilan Vernard.

Walt shows you the cargo storage, where smugglers hide goods between ports, or trade goods from ship to ship without notice. The Stormsign is due in five days time and three of its crates are here. Wary, you search them for traps, but poor Walt! He succumbs to the contact poison on the crates just as you identify it. When did he touch them? As he moved them aside for you to see! He collapses, pale and clammy. You rush him to his bed and do what you can to stabilize him.

The crates are filled with poisons, powders, dusts and leaves. There is a note:

Your contact is Veldegar.
Meet at the fountain of endless tears.
Fifth moon.
Bring the three signs.

You search the crates with greater care and find that each has a false bottom! Inside you find three playing cards: the five of flowers, three of crowns, and two of swords. Puzzled, you hang on to the cards and reseal the crates. You decide to wait for the Stormsign, confront its captain, Anidaine Blackfeather, and convince its first mate, Dena Elderij, of your worth.

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Session 11

The manticore’s lair is thick with the bones of its previous meals. Weapons and armor splotched with rust are scattered among the remains. You spy another cave entrance higher up along the path and climb its switchbacks to investigate. Another manticore sleeps within, though it stirs at your presence.

The surprised beast is put down quickly. The smelly, detritus laden chamber seems unworthy of attention until you notice a wall of mortared stones. Bashing through the crude masonry, you find a narrow chute leading deep into the earth and draconic scratchings on the stone, “Death Is Here.” The kobolds knew of this place and sealed it, you’ve found a way into the ruins of Kal-ereska.

However, you instead decide to pay your respects to Seyahet. The statue is ten feet tall and offerings of heather and rosemary lay at his feet, but something is amiss. Seyahet is usually facing east, toward the rising sun and now he faces strangely to the north. You find a metal-reinforced oar among the rocks nearby and, while puzzling over its craft, a matching hole in the statue through which it can be passed. Using the oar as a lever you turn the statue so that Seyahet once again faces east. In doing so, you reveal a secret door!

A ladder descends into a thirty-foot shaft. You climb down into a small, carpeted room with a magical torch ensconced upon the wall. Barrels are stacked neatly near the ladder and a closed door is in the south wall. You creep into the next room carefully, a carpeted hallway with several exits. Voices can be heard through the doors at the end of the hall. Abruptly, the doors open and two men dressed as priests are surprised to see you. They stammer a welcome and a blessing to Seyahet. Nenat and Walt introduce themselves as acolytes of the Smuggler’s Temple.

The Smuggler’s Temple, you learn, is a secret known to pirates and other ne’er-do-well sailors who must pass the island of Kal. The temple was founded a hundred years ago and survived the eruption of Dragonmaw. Though traffic through the temple has slowed significantly in the last quarter century, it still serves the purpose for which it was originally built: a safe house for illicit goods between ports of call.

A meal and talk of trade — a few potions, wands and scrolls made by the high priest, Avir — leaves you wary of Nenat, whose demeanor hides a dark aura. You sense he is evil, which is uncommon for those who worship the god of good fortunes. Your suspicions deepen when you learn the inner sanctum is off limits to visitors and that Avir will not treat with you.

Despite your concerns, you donate a few extra coins to sleep in a warm bed. The acolytes retire and you take the opportunity to snoop. You creep through the heavily carpeted Smuggler’s Temple and place an ear on the door to the inner sanctum just in time to hear two men, Nenat and who you believe is Avir, speaking:

“We could do it tonight, master. Walt could easily kill one of these adventurers in their sleep, then he would be one of us.”

A voice heavy with age but still commanding responds, “Fool! What would we do with the other five? There are too many.”

“They will die quickly and quietly! It is Kelek’s way,” the young acolyte pleads.

“You know nothing of this bloody work! I am not certain of Walt’s strength. He is still faithful to the sea god. I fear he will not pass the test and then we will be doomed. Better to wait—”

You pull away from the door as the conversation winds down, shocked. This temple to Seyahet has been defiled by worshipers of Kelek! You return to your room to make plans.

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Session 10

Your skiff cuts through the rolling waves under a clear sky on the morning after the storm. The craggy eastern coast of Kal-mata slips by under close inspection. You spot the lair of a Drowned Durna, the sea hag, the entrance to the small grotto is narrow but you expertly navigate it. Your eyes adjust to the dim interior as combat with the wretched creature ensues. She hisses vile curses and scratches with razor sharp claws, but is put down after only a few solid blows. The fighting disturbs a large group of sleeping bats that swarm dangerously before you scatter them with flame.

Inside Drowned Durna’s lair you find a few trinkets, but the prize is a living locathah. Weak and suffering from the hag’s treatment, you carefully transfer it to the skiff and press back into the sunlit straight in search of its people. The search is not long, a few hours. The locathah scouting party informs you that you have rescued a princess! Your surprise is unnoticed by the slimy denizens of the reef, who gift in return a magical horn.

With a good deed done, you turn your bow south and head into the wind, bound for Kal-ereska and the kobold warrens. Just north of your destination, after a long day of sailing, you spy a large statue in an inlet along the coast. There is a dock! You land and make your way up the gravel path towards the statue, a smiling likeness of the sea god Seyahet, when motion on a ridge above catches your notice.

A manticore lies in wait, greedily watching the group pass beneath its lair, but you are able to bait the hungry creature into a trap. Its wickedly spiked tail lashes out, quills firing. You are wounded, the battle is difficult, but eventually the beast is brought to rest.

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Session 9

A heavy fog rolls in as you journey to the northeastern promontory of Kal-mata. It begins to drizzle and visibility is limited. The lighthouse looms ahead and the large form of a giant eagle ghosts into and out of sight above you. Through the destroyed entrance to the tower, a much larger form can be seen moving sluggishly in its shadowy interior. The occasional crunch of bone can be heard during a lull in the tide.

The mist and crashing waves mask your presence long enough to sneak up and see the merrow feasting on the bones of a recent kill. Its partner’s snoring echoes from the chamber below through a hole in the floor. You move into position just as the behemoth notices you. It struggles to fit its massive frame through the broken door and you fall upon it with challenges, insults, blades and clubs. Its clumsy limbs strike with the force of thunder, knocking you back and rending flesh. The giant eagles swoops to your aid and your joint efforts quickly fell the first merrow as the second wakes and pulls itself from its watery lair.

Canny enough to recognize that its partner died attempting to gain purchase on the promontory, the surviving merrow lobs javelins with the force of a ballista from inside the lighthouse. You close into melee at great cost as the beast’s long reach exacts a punishing toll for entry. It is not fast enough to attack each of you, but it need only hit once or twice to bring even the most stalwart to their knees.

As you pound the merrow with bullets and bombs, its massive claws crush and throw. One among you falls and is discarded with glee, thrown as if by a child abandoning one doll for another, but the creature’s triumph is short lived. You surround and overwhelm it.

And what a reward! The lair of these two hulking beasts is rich with treasure; gold and silver coins, and bones litter the floor in the thousands. The creatures had gathered magical items, too! You limp back to the village with your spoils. The thunderstorm that rolls in provides ample time to heal and count your winnings.

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