A World in the Balance

The Bad Lieutenant
You haven't gotten to the part where he dances around naked doing drugs yet...

Game #53

Having recovered from their late night, the group decides to explore a smaller hallway that leads further to the east. The passage opens into a room where they find another small campsite that appears to be similar to the previous one in age. There are two corpses here and judging from the wounds, they have encountered a group of orc spirits. Opal’s keen eye spies an object half buried in the remains of the campfire which turns out to be a burnt book. It is a journal from one of the robbers that describes a hidden stash in the crypt that they were going to retrieve. The party continues to the south in the hopes of locating the loot but before they go too far, they can hear the sounds of weapons being sharpened. Gavin sneaks ahead and see a small group of orcs caring for their weapons. Unfortunately, their keen senses pick up his scent and he is forced to quickly retreat to his companions with the ghosts hot on his heels. The spirits are dealt with and leave behind a token with an eagle grasping a spear in its talons. Thorough examination of the area the ghosts occupied reveals a secret wall and the group finds the bandit’s stash which contains much gold and some enchanted items.

Backtracking to the north leads them into another large chamber where they witness a continuation of the events from the past. The commander of the human army is addressing a group of nondescript men and it appears as if he is giving them orders to assassinate Argobast. They ponder the implications of this vision while taking a smaller side passage east. Their ruminations are interrupted when they encounter yet another hostile group of orc spirits and battle looms imminently.

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A Glimpse Into The Past
The hunt for red orc-tober?

Game #52

Further exploration of the northern passages does not reveal a way to get to the crypt but the group does encounter another hostile group of orc spirits that leave behind another token bearing an image of a shield with crossed spears. A small side passage also appears to have been the camp of a lone tomb robber who did not survive. His body and a bag of pilfered valuables are found near the campsite.

The party heads east in an attempt to circumnavigate the collapsed area of the cavern which leads into a large area where they witness a ghostly reenactment of a human commander rallying his troops to hunt orcs in the hills. A bit further to the east, they encounter a ghostly orc who acts as though he has been mortally wounded. He begs the adventurers to return a seal to his clan and gives them another stone token bearing the image of a striped badger with a spear in its jaws. After the token is taken, the ghost dissipates. This passage proves to be a dead end so once again they back track and try heading to the northeast.

They find themselves in a large room and as they enter, they can hear a low growling coming from some of the smaller side rooms. Readying their weapons, they encounter a group of orcs dressed in wolf skins bearing clawed weapons. The orcs fight with primal ferocity and their vicious clawing and biting manages to incapacitate two of the group before the spirits are bested. The foes leave behind a token that bears the image of a wolf that has its paws resting upon a spear. The group decides that it is time to recuperate as they have explored late into the night. Camp is set and the remainder of the crypt awaits them on the morrow.

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War Stories
This crypt be ghost like Swayze...

Game #51

After making their way back to the main road, the party quickly heads to the west. Along the way, they meet a group of troubadours who specifically are headed into the city to see how Belhorn’s quest will play out. Apparently news travels fast and there is a rather large amount of betting going on within the Bengra League of Improvisational Performers as to whether he will succeed. Being this close to Pedryn provides a fair amount of safety and the group finds themselves in the foothills without running into any trouble. Although it is difficult to determine a direction to head once in the hills, Opal is able to navigate a path through the underbrush that quickly leads the group to a clearing in the woods. There, they find two large birch trees that catch the sunlight as dusk causing the bright pillars of light that can be seen from the city. The clearing also contains a waterfall that feeds in to a rather picturesque pool. Finding no structures in sight, they decide to check behind the waterfall. While circumnavigating the pool, they can also see that several of the trees in the area have been cut down. Judging by their size, someone is using them for firewood. As they get to the far side of the pool, they can see a narrow path that leads behind the waterfall.

The path leads to a narrow passage that travels into the depths of the foothills. As they enter, they can see the flicker of firelight ahead. Opal scouts out the cavern ahead and sees only a lone figure tending to a campfire. The group decides to approaches him only to discover that he appears to be a ghost stuck in an endless cycle of greeting them and putting wood on the fire. The ghost tells them that Argobast is not here and is most likely meeting with the leaders of the army in the human camp not too far away. This spirit appears to be none other than Piperil, the manservant of the legendary bard. After consulting the map in Gavin’s possession, the party decides to head straight towards their goal forgoing a thorough examination of side passages.

As they travel on, it becomes obvious that this used to be a well-furnished residence at some point but it has suffered over the years and many of the rooms have had portions collapse. In one of the larger areas, they are confronted by the spirits of several orcs who label them as allies of Argobast and attack immediately. After the ghosts are dispatched, Gwynne discovers that they have left behind a small stone disk with an image of a spear stuck into the ground in front of a waterfall carved on it. A bit further on, another small group of orcs is encountered and they also attack on sight after their leader encourages them to protect the women and children. Once defeated, the party again finds that they have left behind a stone token. This one bears the image of a serpent coiled around a spear.

Upon reaching the far end of this set of rooms, they realize that at one time there was a passage that would have led to their goal but it has collapsed and become impassable. They have no choice but to double back and see if they can find another way to reach the area on their map marked as the probable location of the tomb.

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We've Gotta Get Out Of This Place
Opal's got spirit realm, yes she do...

Game #50

Ghesh arrives at the North Gate only to find that Warden Mordant has personally informed all the gate guards that no one is able to pass without papers signed specifically by him. The group falls back to Plan B and Opal uses her new found abilities to create a portal for everyone into the Realm of Spirits.

Upon entering the portal, the adventurers discover that they have taken on new animal forms that reflect how they are represented in this realm. A moose greets them and lets Opal know that he has been sent by her ally, the Fire Boar, to assist them in their travels. Everything progresses smoothly until the group encounters a pack of vermin intent on causing trouble. They promptly attack swearing that they shall complete “the blood pact”. The party, although endowed with new abilities, still proves competent at defeating their foes. Moose is unable to provide much information about blood pacts aside from the fact that they are usually taken up by mad creatures gone feral. The vermin, however, seemed quite sane and coherent. They finally make it to the anchor that Opal has chosen, a single large tree, and a portal is opened back into the Prime Material plane.

The group finds themselves a fair distance south of the city having successfully bypassed the walls and guards. They reorient themselves to the west and set out towards the foothills.

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Gathering Resources
Too bad someone didn't play a Korean specialized in StarCraft...

Game #49

Everyone meets at Hollaine’s and shares the events of the past couple days. Ghesh, after having his armor modified, has gained access to the keep at the Church of Bahamut only to discover that it appears to be occupied mostly by mercenaries. The second floor of the keep, however, was off limits. Opal encountered a group of three orcs who had been given asylum at the Church of Melora. They seemed to be allies of her people and taught her a few things about her past and future. Gavin was mistaken for a member of the Explorer’s Society due to the amulet he was wearing that belonged to Aldar. He also arranged a possible meeting with a mysterious figure known as the Red Hand. Cauldrev visits the Church of the Raven Queen and discovers that a dozen battle trained maidens that are his to command have been awaiting his arrival. Gwynne has an interview with First Mage Eleanor Macdern and gets promoted to 18th rank with rights and privileges. She also discovers from her father that three of her siblings have disappeared without a trace and catches sight of Montgomery Laroche, the mage in Glimmer who was displaced to make a spot for her at the Balance of Pentacles. Belhorn visited the bard’s guild and ran into his old acquaintances Wynne Goldtone and Gaver Flamefret. Gaver tells Belhorn that the Dirge of Argobast could be extremely useful in their fight against Warden Mordant. Belhorn also has a bit of fun at Gavin’s expense in the Club of Kings with an old friend, Willem the Daft.

The group decides to focus on finding the Dirge of Argobast and Gwynne and Ghesh head to the Bengra Archives. After much research and a conversation with a senile librarian named Harris, they manage to find some information in a journal that points to a location west of Pedryn in the foothills surrounding the city. Meanwhile, Gavin and Belhorn head to the Explorer’s Society. Gavin decides to return the amulet to a high ranking member by the name of Georg. In exchange for information on Aldar’s research and the events in the Lower Caverns, Georg has an assistant locate and copy a map that is supposed to be of the crypt of Argobast. With information in hand, the group settles in for a night of rest, planning to depart the city in the morning using Ghesh’s credentials as a member of the church.

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We Can Do This The Hard Way
...or we can walk in that gate over there

Game #48

Shortly after joining the queue, a courier wearing a tabard of Bahamut rides up in line behind the party. While he is tending to his horse, a city guard arrives and informs him that church members can use the North Gate without having to wait in line. The adventurers decide to take their chances as it seems only city guards are manning the gates. Ghesh dons his armor once again and they ride to the north. After a perfunctory glance to ensure their papers are in order, the party is allowed in the city. They immediately head to the Drexel Compound where Opal once again speaks with the seneschal who leads them into the courtyard. Ghesh, however, is asked to wait outside due to his affiliation with the Church of Bahamut.

Lord Vallyn appears shortly afterwards and identifies the body of his cousin. He invites the group to make themselves at home in his dining room where he says he will join them after arrangements have been made for Amherst. Much to their surprise, Ghesh joins them at the table saying that Vallyn granted him entry into the compound after seeing him. The party realizes that Vallyn is a perceptive and insightful individual and decides that the best course of action is to tell him the truth of what transpired in the Hold.

Vallyn stoically listens to the story of his cousin’s downward spiral and offers to aid the party in their fight against Warden Mordant if they come up with a feasible plan and an acceptable number of allies. His advice is to try and have a course of action ready for implementation by the Solstice Festival as there will be much chaos in the streets from the revelries to help mask their attack. He also offers to have his blacksmith modify Ghesh’s armor so he can pass for one of the local members of Bahamut. While Ghesh deals with the armorsmith, everyone else heads to Hollaine’s, an inn near the open marketplace, to secure lodging. With an agreement to rendezvous in a couple of days, everyone heads their separate ways in an attempt to secure aid from their contacts in the city.

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On The Road
You say Jack Kerouac, I say "Highway to the Danger Zone"...

Game #47

Although there are several smaller roads off the beaten path that could also lead to the city, the adventurers decide to stick with the straight and narrow and continue on towards Pedryn on the main road. Midday, they can hear someone riding fast on the road behind them and decide to wait and see who it is. Gavin recognizes it as one of the outrunners from Glimmer. He states that Madam Velspa said where and when he would find them. He hands them a letter from her that turns out to be a mysterious prophecy. Baffled, they continue on their way.

A couple of nights out of Greyborough on Gavin’s watch, riders from the road approach the camp. Gavin quickly alerts his companions and they take up defensive positions hidden around the campsite. It turns out to be men-at-arms who have been tracking the party since Greyborough. They demand that Cauldrev be turned over into their custody and when Cauldrev accidentally protests from his hiding spot, they quickly leap to the attack. It turns out that they are not alone and three gnomes join them from the flanks out of the darkness. When it becomes obvious that the party will not be bested so easily, the gnomes flee into the night leaving their hired mercenaries for dead. It becomes obvious that bounty hunters are hot on the trail of Cauldrev in hopes of a big reward.

As the group nears Pedryn, Belhorn and Gavin decide to make a detour to the nearby town of Oak Grove to see if they can find out anything about the current state of affairs in the city. The trip proves to be fruitless aside from a nice lunch and good beer. The group continues on through the foothills and upon reach the crest of the hills, they finally lay eyes upon Pedryn. Opal is chosen to scout out the city and after changing into a bird, flies over the wall in attempt to locate the Drexel Enclave. She is successful and speaks with the seneschal of Lord Vallyn, the current head of the enclave in the absence of Lord Amherst Drexel. After providing him with papers from The General, he gives her papers to get passage into the city but lets her know that the party will probably end up spending a week or so in line before they can be authorized for entry. Opal returns to the group, shares this information and after disguising Cauldrev and removing Ghesh’s armor, they get in line at the East Gate and settle in for a long wait.

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Wanted Man
A face only a mother could love...

Game #46

Gwynne’s memory serves true and the party finds a small inn to stay at upon reaching Greyborough. The stable boy seems skittish, particularly of Ghesh, and all conversation in the common room stops when the group enters. The innkeeper seems rather flustered at the arrival of the group saying that he was expecting “Rogyn” but he nervously seats them at the “regular” table by the door. He also mentions that he has doubled the size of the bounty board as requested. Gavin examines the board only to find that a bounty of 100 platinum has been placed for information leading to the capture of Cauldrev “Kinslayer” Havers. The adventurers begin to discuss this turn of events but are interrupted when Paladin Rogyn arrives with his men who appear to be a group of ruffians. In spite of Belhorn’s best diplomatic efforts, Rogyn refuses to deal with anyone except Ghesh. During their conversation, Rogyn seems to take note of something about Ghesh and quickly orders his men to attack stating that they will be able to claim a bounty for killing the dragonborn.

The other patrons of the inn quickly move out of the way of the fighting but panic ensues when Opal summons storm magic in the small space. There is a mad rush for the door and several of the townsfolk are struck down from random blows while trying to escape. Although Rogyn and his men are defeated, 11 of the locals are found scattered about the inn after the fight. Three are found to be alive still but they quickly flee once they are healed enough to move. After cleaning up the carnage, the party decides to stay the night anyways. In the middle of the night, Opal hears movement downstairs and upon investigating notices that the bodies have been taken away as well as the inn’s lockbox. Morning arrives and after leaving money for reparations and a note, they quickly depart the devastated town.

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The Hills Have Eyes
Just goblins, not creepy mutant folk...

Game #45

Although the first watch passes quietly for Cauldrev, Gavin catches sight of two figures sneaking towards the campfire during his vigil. Upon confronting them, he discovers they are goblins. While one presses the attack, the second throws something on the campfire making things very difficult for Gavin and his human eyesight. While the disadvantaged rogue attempts to hold off the goblins and raise the alarm, more lurking figures emerge from the night.

Chaos ensues as the adventurers struggle to get their gear and escape the confines of their tents. The goblins are joined by a savage bugbear and three hobgoblin soldiers. The apparent leader shouts out commands to his allies and they begin to move to advantageous positions on the battlefield. Gwynne assists Gavin’s blindness with magical illumination but it is too late to aid him as he is beaten to the ground by a massive blow to the head by the bugbear warrior. Seeing the quivering lump of their companion in a pool of blood on the ground quickly rallies the rest of the party, however, and they manage to gain the upper hand while reviving the unfortunate Gavin. Examination of the bodies shows that this is a small scouting party with minor provisions. Consideration is given to locating the base of operations for the goblins but is decided against as the group is unwilling to leave the pony and body unattended while they search.

They carry on in the morning and the remaining time in the pass is uneventful. The harsh mountains quickly give way to fertile farmlands. Workers can been seen in some of the fields but they pay little attention to the travelers on the road. The road has been empty but at midday, they come across a group of well-armed dwarven families traveling together. The dwarves tell them that they were delayed in leaving the city because everyone who leaves or enters is thoroughly questioned about their business. The dwarves are warned about the goblins in the pass but they appear to be more than prepared to handle any trouble that might arise. According to signs on the road, the party is headed towards the hamlet of Greyborough. Gwynne recalls there being an inn and hopes of a warm meal and a bed accompany the group as they journey onward.

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Into Danger
You've been warned...several times....at length

Game #44

The journey back to the surface is uneventful. It appears that the events of the past few weeks have once again made the network of tunnels leading into dwarven lands safe for general travel. After being underground for close to three months, the sun is a welcome but somewhat painful sight. The surface world is in the heart of spring and the waist-deep snows that buried the area have long since melted. Cauldrev takes time to marvel at the panorama of wildflowers in the lush verdant mountains and notices a group of young mountain goats frolicking in the fields. It gives him the strength to continue on. As the only way to reach Qimtar is through The Mage Scar, the group sets out for their old haunt, Glimmer.

Halfway to Glimmer, they encounter the first of several dwarven travelers. A small family with a cart that appears to be bearing the entirety of their possessions stops to chat in the road. Noting the honors the adventurers wear, they are deferential although anxious to continue with their journey. As the adventurers press onwards, the dwarven traffic becomes a steady stream. It appears as if the news of Galdegfast has spread.

Upon arriving in Glimmer, the band disperses to visit family and old friends. They learn of events in Qimtar and the news is grim. There is an inquisition of some form being conducted by the church of Bahamut and travel in and out of Pedryn is closely watched. This combined with recent goblin attacks in the pass has made traffic from the west minimal. After a night of relaxation, the party quickly retrieves their mounts from Argok and heads out of town. They notice a crowd of people lined up at the door of Madam Velspa’s shop and Gavin shares that she has apparently become a seer with surprisingly accurate fortunes since they have left. They decide not to stop and get a fortune that could possibly help them with the near impossible task of defeating Warden Mordant and continue on into the mountain passes that lead to Qimtar.

The road is empty and they encounter no one as they travel throughout the day. As the sun begins to set, the quiet dusk is broken by the sound of arrows raining down from the cliffs on either side of the road. Ambush! While the goblin archers distract the party, another stealthy trio of the creatures manages to evade the keen perception of Opal and steal the pony and cart. They do not get far before being run down mercilessly although one of the smarter archers makes a break for the woods instead of facing the wrath of Ghesh. The steadfast pony is retrieved and the goblin bodies are examined. They appear to be dressed in rags and malnourished. These are sad pitiful goblins and it is quite possible that they may have been attempting to steal the pony for food. The rumors of greenskins in the pass appear to be true and a careful watch is set that night in anticipation of trouble to come.

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