The Nizarian Bolt

Shave and a Haircut

The crushing darkness lasted for a very long time. Then, flickers of light, of strong hands, of concerned faces. In and out of consciousness swam the heroes of the Nizarian Bolt, struggling against death and against the powerful medicines that kept them in a semiconscious haze. From time to time they would cry out for each other—“G’Yest!” screamed Noor—but heard nothing. And then, slowly, the haze lifted.

Weeks had passed, and the heroes were abed in Oloben’s abode in Pettumal. They called out for each other again, and found all accounted for—all except for G’Yest. The tortured rogue had perished again—this time for good—in the collapse of Andok. The others had been extracted by villagers nearby who had heard the rumbling and come seeking treasure in the “Valley of the Graves”.

And over the past few weeks much had occurred. After word spread that a silver-scaled dragonborn was pulled from the rubble, the dragonborn of Samarra sent two red-scaled dragonborn (a male, Mareok, and a female, Ravairies, in black cloaks) to investigate. Speaking to Torinn for a long time in Draconic, the dragonborn eventually asked the party for help.

A human necromancer, Orobius Arcturus, had recently been raiding dragonborn villages and travellers, with foul duergar companions. Now, he was attempting some sort of ritual that would do Very Bad Things.The dragonborn had tracked him to a ruined manor house in the hills. Though Torinn had an emotional reaction to the request, the party decided in favor of helping the dragonborn, and set off.

Coming upon a bloodied group of dragonborn rangers who had been keeping track of the comings and goings of Arcturus and his companions, the heroes scouted the manor house and determined to break in through the back door while the dragonborn provided a loud ritual diversion in the front. Torinn shattered the door like no door has ever been shattered, and the heroes charged in, surprising a handful of duergar and a human.

Torinn’s mighty charge fell flat, but he quickly recovered and, shaking off beard-quill barrages, entered into an incredible killing mode in which he slew three foes in quick succession. T’Kar took a risk and dropped a shocksphere directly on Torinn, who shrugged it off and watched foes fall around him convulse as electricity ripped through them. Some foes snuck away, but soon all was quiet.

The heroes then made their way downstairs toward the crypts, where the necromancer was preparing his ritual. A fiery bloodclot attacked them, and the heroes cleverly turned a whirling blade-trap against the clot. Achieving victory, the heroes descended further, entering a gory room of horror where a woman in red and a human in gold-edged armor (?) waited…

Circles and circles, and circles again

The Vecna cultist was wounded, but he had a head start. The party knew it would take all of their skills to face the challenge of tracking him down before he escaped. Striking off towards an obvious trail, the party was soon dismayed to find the trail evaporating into the woods.

T’Kar’s knowledge of nature enabled him to halt the group before they stumbled into a patch of witchbind. Did the cultist go this way? Keeping on, with G’yest keeping a perceptive eye out for tracks, Noor stumbled upon a circle of defiled earth, where the foul spellcaster had sucked essence from nature to heal himself. Torinn pondered the religion of Vecna and misremembered something about Vecna cultists lighting signal fires on hilltops as they fled from enemies (though it didn’t sound that dumb to the party in the heat of the moment, so cut them some slack). Tio concluded that he wasn’t trying to hide his tracks, which let the party breathe easier (though that turned out to be wrong, too). Running along a ridge to avoid some possible dead-end trails, the party realized that he was heading south…toward Andok, the city of the dead. (Quite strange, since wasn’t Andok the home of Orcus-cultists, who hate Vecna-cultists? And that’s where they were bringing Tio?)

Finally the party neared Andok and again marvelled at the warding rune circles surrounding the cave entrance. Their quarry was just ahead, being careful to skirt the runes. Charging to attack, the party was surprised as flaming-headed monsters rose from the hills behind them, and other horrible undead things shambled out to surround them. An ambush!

A terrific battle ensued, as the undead used their own rotting entrails as weapons and ensnared various party members, pulling them closer with their poopy whips. The flaming-skull monsters hurled fireballs down on the party and radiated terrible heat. Torrinn caught fire and could not seem to put it out for eons. Thankfully Tio had some fire of zhis own to wield.

As the moment of victory was upon the party, the sound of crashing came from the woods. Huge undead humanoids came stumbling out of the woods, along with a mortal wizard-looking guy commanding them and some other assorted horrors. More fiery-skulled things could be seen in the hills.

And so the party retreated, crossing the runic circle for protection (T’Kar searing the foes with a well-placed fireball as he scooted to safety). Tio winced as the radiant power of the runes punished zhim for zhis daemonic heritage. But perhaps it would keep them safe from the undead…

And yet one party member had not retreated—had, in fact, advanced. Torrinn, determined to fell a huge beast, leapt into the fray despite shouts of, “Get back here, you idiot!” Confidently, he said, “I got it” and very nearly annihilated a giant undead with a blast of divine power. But then their clubs went to work, and he went down under their furious pounding. Stumbling to his feet, he barely made it to the safety of the circle.

“Stop this at once!” shouted the wizard, bringing his undead allies in line. He then engaged in a conversation with the group, asking them reasonably to turn over Tio. You see, zhis blood would power a ritual that would seriously fuck the Orcus-cultists inside Andok up. A sort of infernal feedback.

The party pushed back, refusing to turn over their new friend. The wizard—who ignored Tio, calling zhim a non-person—persisted in his reasonable arguments. He revealed that Tio had once been a cultists of Vecna and had stolen valuable secrets when zhe left the cult. Tio denied it and, since zhe was so far a faithful ally and the other guy was STANDING ARM IN ARM WITH THE GROSSEST UNDEAD MONSTERS OF ALL TIME, the party believed zhim.

“We’ll wait you out!” promised the wizard. “You can try,” the party told him, and retreated into Andok, caught between a hellish rock and a Tartarean hard place.

Showdown in Vyborg

The party heads north to Vyborg in pursuit of the Vecna followers whose plans to sacrifice Tio in a dastardly display of dark arts had been thrown into disarray by the Bolt. After four days of travel, the party arrives in Vyborg. The light of mid-day provides a clear view of the small town, nestled in the foothills of mountains and surrounded by the city’s legendary forests. Viborg has a thriving timber industry that accounts for a good portion of the city’s trade and provides thick, study wood for the town’s infrastructure, which blends almost seamlessly with the heavy woods.

The Bolt arrives at an Inn made of cross sections of timber, three stories high. They seek Branslav, the weapons dealer, and consider entering straightways, but are worried that the sight of a Tiefling might compromise their plans to catch ze’s would-be killers. Nor and Tio decide to remain in the woods and groom the nits from each others hair while the rest of the heroes head to Inn’s bar to look for the weapons dealer and sell the frosty morningstar – the spoils of a recent battle. Before Gyest, Tkar and Torrinn depart, the party has a brief discussion of how they might approach Vecna’s followers, should they find them. Perhaps the party will pretend to deliver a chained or caged Tio to them?

At the bar, a sedate crowd sips ale, relaxing to the lute and fife stylings of “My Heart Will Go On.” Tkar approaches the bartender and asks where he might sell a morningstar. Fortunately, the Bartender has no need of such an item and directs Tikar to Bronslaw’s place – a shop and home 3 or 4 building up. Tikar “tips him nicely” and surveys the room.
He spots some semi-official looking people in green garb scattered about the premises. Tkar sips his mead while Torrinn ask, “what’s up with the stiffs?” The Barkeep replies: “this ain’t no winesink. That’s the tavern guard.” Torrinn asks if dragonborn could be hired as guards. The Barkeep thinks it over and says, “Yeah, but we won’t hire Fey” and offers to introduce Torrinn to the owner of the place, Ike Turner. Torrinn thanks him, but before any meetings can take place, Torrinn, Gyest and Tkar decide to head out to the arms dealers house.

Bronslaw’s place turns out to be an ancient, moss-covered building with a heavy, closed door. Knocks on it lead to the opening of a knot-hole and a voice informing the visitors that the shop is in fact closed. Tikar and Torrinn, however, name-drop Oloramas. They are so smooth that Bronislaw opens the door and invites them in.

Bronislaw is middle-aged and scarred, missing three fingers on his right hand. Turns out Bronislaw fought side-by-side with Oloramus in the Baron’s Charge, a famous battle in King Havard’s War. He also lets the party in on some gossip that’s been floating around Vyborg about the arrival of 3 men several days hence. Two waited with a horse-drawn cart while a giant, pale third man bought provisions at the inn. Tongues wagged: “He looks like he’s on death’s door.” The other 2 wore moth eaten robes, told the innkeep they were waiting for to do business with some people from Shorehold that they expected to arrive shortly. Branislav says to go to the blacksmith’s house north of town and perhaps our heroes will find the three mystery men.

Torrinn, Tikar and Gyest mull this information over and decide they need a rest. Branislav won’t house them, although he will buy the Morningstar for 3400 GPS, so they decide to pick up Nor and Tio and stay in the Inn for the night. Upon request, Branislav gives them some old chain and shackles.

Bronislaw says the blacksmith’s house is a couple of miles north and east. Abandoned nigh on twenty years ago, it’s little more now than a run down cabin and a long neglected forge.
The party heads back to the woods, where they tell Nor and Tio all. On the way to the Inn, Nor, now without lice, gives a brief lecture on King Havarard’s War, where, during the Battle of the Golden Crescent, Esorian tropps beat back a larger Disanzian force by using a risky wedge maneuver. They were led by the Baron of Three Rivers Keep.

After a restful and uneventful night at the inn, the party heads north. After some time, they encounter rusty, unlit lanterns lining the path, which then opens to a clearing – a small structure at is far end. A thin pillar, like a staff, protrudes before them. It’s topped with a head of some sort, complete with translucent eyes. Tio rolls an arcana check — the place reeks of magic.

Oh the brave tomfoolery of the Dragonborn! Torrinn charges ahead. The staff glows, then emits a blast of energy. People stumble! Needle-sharp groundspikes! Torrinn makes it to the door of the house, where a chompface monster chomps off his face and swallows it. Gyest and Tikkar get hit with a ghoul’s dart-bone. It’s cold and it rots. Torrinn and Gyest are attacked by a power that makes them crazy afraid. Everyone fights long and hard.

Eventually, the Bolt emerges triumphant, but one of the foes manages to escape into the woods.

The party picks over the dead. They find that 2 hooded figures have facial tattoos that look like skulls, nasty robes and a rod each, made of bone.

Tio guts the chompface monster to extract Torrinn’s old face, which ze then wears over ze’s own.

In the house itself, under a table, the party discovers a small, locked steel chest. Gyest picks the lock and finds 600 GPS. Tio says the money was stolen from zem, but no one is interested in justice.

In the main room, the party also finds two hard-bound copies of the “Path of Whispers.” It’s written mainly in the common script and contains prophesies about Vecna’s return. One copy opens to a page, marked by a strip of linen, that tells of a conflict between Vecna and the Orcas (?) and details the ritual use of Abyssal bloodlines in turning Orca’s power against himself. The ink is old, but on one page, there’s a drawings in newer ink: concentric circles with a black triangle center. Then sets of Abyssal glyphs, which the party has come to recognize as the hallmarks of the Cult of Vecna. Tio and Noor study the books. Tio reads well through Torrinn’s eyeholes.

Finally, GYest urges the party that it is imperative for the party to pursue the surviving cultist.

Thumbing My Way... to samia

In the safehouse the group decides they need to meet with Olaramus outside the city. This poses a problem for them considering the gates of Shorehold are heavily guarded, and due to the spectacular trail of destruction they have left behind, fey and dragonborn are on the top of the city guards’ hit-list. while discussing their options Torinn remembers that Quoven has the ability to cast a ritual that changes ones appearance and feels this may be the easiest way to sneak a dragon and Tiefling through the city gates with minimal issue.

The group arrives at Quoven’s and asks for his help. He is very reluctant, but after some smooth talking from Tkar, he is convinced to do this one last favor for the group. Quoven then informs the them that the ritual is complex and will take some time. So while Quoven is preparing his components and studying up, Tkar and G’yest made their way to the temple of the Raven Queen to get the tattoos that Noor copied from the, seemingly undead, guards on the Gond’s hammer examined by a priestess in the temple.

At the temple of the Raven Queen, Tkar is shocked to find how open G’yest is with his new found deity and the priestesses of her order. While Tkar was picking his jaw up off the floor the priestess told them that the markings were indeed used by the cult of Vecna and that sometimes they utilize living sacrifices as components to larger, darker spells.

As soon as Tkar and G’yest returned to Quoven’s, he had the ritual ready and is relieved to find out that he will only be performing it on Torinn and Tio. The ritual is performed without incident and rather than looking like a dragon and a demon, they look like large humans with unfortunate skin conditions. so with much appreciation, our heroes headed for the gate.

It was then decided by all that the best course of action would be to split into smaller teams. First to make an attempt to pass the city guard are Noor and G’yest. When asked what business they had in the city and where they where headed: the pair declared themselves to be an elvish handy man who specializes in “handy stuff” and his sister. Suspicious, but ultimately wary of the growing line, the guard decides to let them go on their way. Next to attempt the passage are Torinn and Tio. When asked their business in the city and their destination: Torrin explains that, he is a crippled dock worker, and he was looking to retire with his enormous, mute brother to chop wood in samia. Seemingly more disgusted and annoyed by the grotesque flaky man and his mute hissing brother than suspicious, he lets them pass and suggests a visit to the herbalist for Torinn’s skin condition. The final adventurer to give it a shot is Tkar. Armed with the story of being a scholar, he approaches the guard, But when asked where he conducted his scholarly pursuits he could manage no more than to say the city library. when asked which one, he could only respond by saying, “the one with books in it”. He then made an attempt to convince the guard that he, in fact, was in the city for the festival and could hardly remember a thing because of the ale. Unconvinced, the guard asks him to follow and talk to his captain. But while en-rout Tkar manages to fey step his way through the crowd as if only moving through air, and in an instant, he is through the gate, tucked safely in the crowd, on his way to meet his companions at the safe house of Olarums.

At their first approach the bolt member that escorted them to see Olaramus the first time, seemed a bit wary and suspicious of Torinn and Tio. He escorted the group down regardless and after entering the hatch, hidden under bails of hay, they finally rejoin with Olaramus. He too had some difficulty recognizing Torinn but when he was told it was Quoven’s handy work, he began to glow with admiration of the spell-caster’s artistry. At that point the group began to inform Olaramus about their growing concerns of the resurgence of the Cult of Vecna, the possible alliance with Orcus in Andok and the abduction and intended sacrifice of Tio. Seeing as how he believed these new developments to be of high importance, and our heroes motivations to be noble, not to mention that the bolt is now in a position where all they need to do is sit back and watch the merchant houses tare themselves apart, he gives the group his blessing for their departure and warns of the dangerous road ahead to Samia.

So began the long walk on the road to Viborg, the city where the precious cargo that turned out to be their strange new friend, Tio, was headed. The first day on the road passes without incident, but while camped that night Noor and Tkar are startled by a noise in the woods and began to rouse their friends. They seemed all the more taken back when Torinn, in a grumpy state, pulled out a sun-rod and tossed it at the noise, striking whatever was out there sending it running. The following day the group happened across a rather large tree blocking the road in the middle of a ravine. Noor ascends one side of the hill to inspect the tree and Torinn up the other, to see if there is evidence of foul play. all suspicions are confirmed when Noor informs the party that the tree was definitely from somewhere else and was brought there rather recently. At this point a dragon born female appeared asking for a toll to cross the road. After brief words with Torinn, the rest of her bandit gang appeared and with a few more choice words a battle ensued.

At this point our heroes finally got to see the handy work of their new friend Tio. Raining hellfire from above and below ze set a blaze of zhis share of bandits. Assisted now by this blazing fire the rest of the party picked off one bandit at a time and as the smoke cleared you had a dead dragon born (not Torinn) two dead elves, a shattered giant beetle and a captured bomb tossing dwarf. On which was found: bark skin armor, a frosty morningstar and 200gp. After a brief round of questioning and a heated debate about to what to do with the dwarf, Tkar quickly silenced all with one slash to the dwarfs throat but not before Tio got a souvenir.

Tiefling, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

The raid on House Fell successfully completed, the adventuring party recovers and regroups in their Bolt safehouse. G’Yest, having stayed behind to complete his ritual passing of the souls to the Raven Queen joins the group shortly thereafter.

Together, they examine the documents in the metal box hurriedly snatched from the merchant house as the flames were catching. The documents show an agreement between Merchant Houses Fell and Gambon on the topic of limiting the flow of goods to Helra while simultaneously establishing profitable underground trade routes. The party discusses these documents, interested and yet also puzzled by these brief windows into larger political intrigue in the Kingdom.

Most interestingly, the group examines a scroll with an intricate seal. It is recent, and indicates that there is some important cargo to be brought into the city. Specifically, the cargo is from Maleva, one of the Southern kingdoms, and contains a talisman to be delivered in Vyborg, a city in Samia province.

The party discusses these developments. Having completed the raid and assassination in the Fell library, the adventurers had earlier decided to continue their investigation into the unsettling stirrings of the Cult of Vecna, some concerns were voiced that the party was losing sight of the greater danger and enemy. Coming to an agreement, the group decides to do this one last job in Shorehold to further weaken the merchant house and sow distrust, and then move on to their other objectives.

That day, the adventurers check out the harbor. It is bustling with activity. Torinn recalls from earlier study that Malevan fashion features reds and purples, and the adventurers keep their eyes peeled for signs of those styles. G’Yest, stakes out the ship while the rest of the crew decides to knock back a few with some salty sailors to get word of this mysterious cargo and anything else that can be strategically useful.

G’Yest finds the ship, Gond’s Hammer, at the end of a dock. He notices four sentries on the deck, all armed with crossbows and wearing green cloaks with sigils of scales and a sword. He strolls back to meet the rest at the bar. At the tavern, Tkar buys a round for some sailors who are already good and drunk. He chats them up with some talk about the ladies and gets them to share what they know about the Gond’s Hammer and her crew. They claim that the Malevite soldiers drink harder stuff at the bar and are eager to get the cargo and its unsettling guards off their vessel. Tkar rents a rowboat from them for the evening and leaves them to continue their mid-morning consumption.

Our adventurers reconvene and strategize at the safehouse. They decide on a stealth attack, using distraction from the docks and sneak attacks from the boat. After night falls, Torinn and Tkar approach by way of the dock and Torinn loudly makes a scene regarding some financial dispute. Simultaneously, G’Yest and Noor deftly climb the ship using grappling gear, and G’Yest creeps forward silently sending their souls to his queen. Torinn bumbles a charge, nearly falling on his own weapon, and one of the guards screams out for help.

Good ol’ fashioned melee breaks out between our adventurers and the guards. Hatches fly open, and the bowmen are joined by two humans- though something is amiss. They are covered in bandages, and their skin has a sickly pallor to it. They attack with crooked fingers and growled words, sucking life energy from their targets, and at close range have a knack for using razors and cutting deep. With Noor’s rally cries, Torinn’s brazen front attacks, G’Yest’s nimble blade, and Tkar’s fiery sorcery the enemies are all slain. The bandaged men have mysterious tattoos on their chests, similar to the runes seen before. The adventurers go below decks.

Our heroes find a small wooden chest containing 500 gold pieces and a vial full of a purple and gray viscous liquid. Tkar takes a sniff of it and identifies it as a Gravespawn Potion, which bestows some special healing properties to be described in full detail later. The party also finds an Evil Eye Fetish 2 (2 to fort., refl., and will).

In another chamber below deck the crew finds an iron cage covered by a heavy cloth. Bracing themselves for the worst, Torinn throws off the cloth to reveal a creature of legend before their very eyes; a young Tiefling, in a cloak, looking out at them with alert, careful eyes. The Tiefling is Tio, and ze has been held captive on this ship. Is Tio the precious cargo? We think so.

The adventurers decide to free Tio and look further into the circumstances of Tio’s abduction. Who captured Tio? For what diabolical purpose? Torinn hands Tio hir knife, and the crew leaves the ship, setting it ablaze.

This isn't my beautiful house

G’yest returned to his companions after seeking wisdom from the temple of the Raven Queen. G’yest told his friends that the priest was only marginally familiar with the language, but could tell that the message generally pointed to some action of raising the dead. With more time the priest may be able to make a stronger interpretation of the document. G’yest would return to the temple to get further information. Regarding his own destiny, G’yest relayed how he was introduced to some rituals for the dead and the soon-to-be-dead that would clear the passage of their souls. G’yest seemed impatient to put his new rituals to use.

In the meantime Tkar, Noor, and Torrin had dug up information on House Fell. The patriarch, Luthor Creacril has a son, Mees, known for his debauchery and insobriety, as well as a nephew, Gregory known for his prudence and trustworthiness. While, the line of succession fell to the son , the nephew was a clearly more reliable choice. There was some word on the street that, in fact, Luthor would promote his nephew over his own son. However, if Gregory happened to be removed from the picture, Mees would be the only choice to take over Luthor’s seat – a turn of events which would likely set off an open revolt among the other council-members.

With this information gleamed from the streets of Shorehold, the companions chose to find and terminate Gregory. The nephew was known to stay late at the family business headquarters, deeply enthralled in the ledgers. At a late hour, when all had left but Gregory and a few of his guards, the companions would strike. With some thorough reconnaissance work, the companions were able to discover a disgruntled former employee who revealed the entire layout of the office building where “Z” would be located. This man revealed that the office was situated adjacent to the treasury, which was well-armed at all times. Connecting these two buildings was a single corridor that was raised above an alleyway. The corridor had doors at either end, which could be locked if necessary.

After much deliberation, the team decided to split into two groups. Torrin and G’yest would attempt to sneak into the office through the roof. Noor and Tkar would try to talk their way in from the front. While Noor argued for a role as an important business woman, she eventually fell to the persuasion of her companions, taking on the stereotypical strumpet role, again.

Arriving at the office Torrin and G’yest slipped down a side alley, and finding the darkest area, attempted to climb the side of the office building. In several failed demonstrations of physical prowess G’yest and Torrin nearly broke their necks – and alerted the guard to their position. Finally, Torrin was able to lift G’yest, until he could swing up to the roof. Upon reaching the roof, G’yest attached a rope to a tree, whose branches extended out from a small atrium, and extended the rope to Torrin, allowing him to climb up.

At this same time, Noor and Tkar met with the two guards in front of the office. With much gallantry, Tkar introduced Noor, producing deference in the guards. However, following this promising initiation to their discussion, conversation degraded substantially. Each thinly veiled lie put the guards at less ease. Finally, after nearly crashing the entire operation, Noor and Tkar retreated to the street where Noor began to sob.

On the roof, G’yest and Torrin found two chimney holes and took a look in each. On one side of the building G’yest could hear guards speaking casually. On the other side, Torrin saw the hands of a nobleman stoking the flames of his fireplace. G’yest and Torrin concluded that this must be Gregory. G’yest also convinced Torrin that he had no place roaming through the house, and would need to remain on the roof. With that G’yest slid down the tree into the atrium, put his ear to a door, heard nothing, and proceeded into the house.

Outside, on the street, Noor continued to cry, and wail, and then fall into convulsive waves. Though her sexuality did not move the guards, this sad display did. The guards approached and asked the two strangers to come into the house. One guard escorted them inside, while the other remained outside. A third guard joined the group from down the hallway. After calming down, Noor asked a guard if she could perform for Gregory as she had intended. The guards relented. Noor asked to be taken to a room to prepare herself, and was so escorted to a room at the far end of the building. Alone in the room Noor sang to distract the waiting guard, outside from his impatience. Tkar remained behind with a guard, entertaining him with erotic tales of the arcane arts.

After breaching the house through the atrium, G’yest carefully made his way into a library, filled with seemingly important documents. Walking through this room, G’yest was able to make out the sound of Noor and a guard walking by. With, the opportunity G’yest made his way out of a door, and found his way to the door separating the office building from the treasury. Quickly, G’yest locked the door, preventing the incursion of reinforcements.

Meanwhile, on the roof, Torrin was becoming bored – which is never good for a dragonborn. In a fool-hearty attempt to cause trouble with the guard below, Torrin tossed a roof tile at a pair of businessmen walking by. In the process, Torrin kicked an additional tile that fell just next to the guard, waiting below. However, with great aplomb, Torrin beguiled the guard into thinking that a pigeon was at fault. Torrin remained quiet on the roof of the house, grateful but humble from his near-miss.

After locking the corridor door, G’yest began to investigate the rest of the house on his approach to “Z”. In a room that was adjacent to “Z’s” supposed location, G’yest stealthily entered, hoping that an additional door separated the two rooms. Instead, G’yest found a shining sword locked behind glass, showcased in the center of the room – irresistible to any rogue. With no reproach, G’yest checked the case for traps, and proceeded to pick the lock separated him from his new found steel. The lock opened, and just as G’yest thought he was clear, the glass fell off the display table and fell to the floor in a mighty crash.

Immediately, an alert flew through the house. The strange guests, the noise on the roof, strange noises on the side of the house were all too much – the guards began the attack. Several guards rushed in from room, yet unvisited across the building. At this time, Tkar, who remained at the front entrance was the recipient of a volley of bolts. Torrin was able to swing down from the roof and attack from the entrance of the front door, and add to Torrin’s cause. Noor, readied her crossbow for the waiting guard, and upon his appearance cleanly sent him to his maker. She then disappeared through a wall, as she tends to do, and came to the front entrance, reclaiming her spear from Torrin’s back, and aided the attack. G’yest emerged from his room and began a fight with a waiting crossbowman.

While the companions sustained heavy damage in early rounds of the fight, with Torrin’s overwhelming force, directed at the clear leader of the guards, the battle swung to the side of the companions. As the fight began to dwindle Noor made a rush for “Z’s” room, with the protestations of G’yest unheaded, and gave Greogry a swift, fatal blow.

G’yest, clearly upset that his rituals had been overlooked, demanded the life of the one remaining guard. Following the guard into a room, G’yest convinced the guard to disarm, and lead him to the safe – although he could not open it. With the sounds of other guards attempting to break down the door from the treasury G’yest asked the others to leave so he could finish his work with the remaining guard. G’yest was left in the house with his crossbow to the head of the last remaining soul in the building.

Liar Liar Pants On Fire

Fresh from a victory against Vecna cultists, the party prepared to press onward to find the traitor Robin Goode at the Bolt’s secret meeting-place in the Shorehold catacombs. Noor placed a dainty diadem on her head and muttered about how it was more suited for G’Yest. As they pushed forth, though, G’Yest stumbled and began to stagger—his recent resurrection was catching up to him, and perhaps the Raven Queen was drawing him a little too eagerly toward her bosom after the bloody death he had just sowed amongst the cultists.

But as G’Yest toppled backwards, a figure stepped from the shadow to catch him—T’kar! Having finished up his business, he had been smuggled into the city and been sent along to catch up with the party. T’Kar strode forward, letting G’Yest fade into the background to rest.

Winding through dark and crumbling tunnels, the party eventually approached the meeting place: a room behind an iron door, with VICTALYSSA written across the top of the doorjamb, with a statue of a blacksmith and a generic fancy person statue flanking it. Without G’Yest to sneak in, the party resorted to a noisy, Kramer-like entrance: T’Kar used his magic cantrip to open the latch and Torinn kicked the door in.

The party found themselves in a small crypt. Behind one of the sarcophagi crouched a single man, pointing a poisoned crossbow at the party. He boldly shouted for them to freeze and asked who they were.

It soon became clear that he was Robin Goode, the putative traitor. But he seemed to be taking refuge here, not waiting in ambush. And where were the thugs the party supposed would jump out at them at any moment? Nowhere to be seen. Goode, it seemed, believed the traitor to be Gertha. After some discussion, the party decided to disarm him and walk him out of the catacombs, quickly, in case foes were descending on their location. Goode reluctantly went along.

Because the party discussed sneaking out of the city, Goode led them towards a cache of documents they could use to safely pass through the gates. However, as the party approached the section of the catacobms where the documents were hidden, Goode stopped. “Why is that door closed?” he asked. “The Bolt always leaves the door here open.” Compounded with the foul smell coming from the doorway, the party knew some horror lay beyond and prepared for battle. Torinn threw Robin his rapier back and warned him that he better not betray them.

Kicking that door open, the party darted into a room full of staggering, rotting corpses, skeleton archers, and a hooded man riffling through spread-out papers on a sarcophagus. Whirling around and seeing them, the man snatched his papers, gestured at the undead, and fled. The monsters moaned and began to attack.

Noor leapt onto a dais to better position herself. Big mistake! That disturbed a horrid offalian, which wormed its way toward her and grabbd her with a mouth made of the teeth and jaws of many people.

While Robin and Noor struggled with the offalian, Torinn laid about him left and right with his holy axe, slaying zombies. T’Kar activated his repulsion armor and kept the monsters at bay, using his thunderwave to great effect to blow them to smithereens three at a time while being ventilated by shitty bone arrows fired by a skeleton archer. Finally, Torinn charged the archer and slew it while Robin and Noor finished off the offalian.

The hooded man had long fled, but had left some papers behind—scrawled with strange writing, nobody could make them out. The party retrieved the documents from another room and left the catacombs, wondering how they would figure out who the traitor was.

Robin led them through secret alleys toward Quoven’s place of business. Pushing in, they found Gertha still weak, and outraged that they had not slain Robin. The party pitted Robin and Gertha against each other, demanding they accuse each other to their faces and explain themselves with their accuser present. Robin claimed Gertha had betrayed the Bolt because she had been stealing from merchant houses using Bolt resources; Gertha claimed Robin was using the Bolt as a route to power and had been disowned by his father after being caught stealing. Robin admitted his father had disowned him, but said it was because he had stood up for the rights of peasants.

The party asked them why they shouldn’t kill both of them to save the Bolt. Gertha protested that most vehemently, saying she would claw out their eyes if they tried. Suspicion continued to grow that Gertha was the traitor. Finally, T’Kar suggested that Quoven use a magical ritual to help uncover the truth. They tied the two hostages together, back to back, and Noor told them that the ritual would cause unimaginable pain to the traitor and only the traitor. Torinn helpfully added that it would cause their limbs to burst into flame, hence the ritual’s name “Liar Liar Pants On Fire”. Gertha snorted at this, but once the ritual was complete, she found herself magically compelled to explain that she didn’t MEAN to betray the Bolt, that she had been caught by Lucas Clayacrell of House Fell and forced to return gold the Bolt had stolen from him earlier and then been used as a spy.

The party tossed Robin his rapier and told him to do the deed, since it was his life Gertha tried to ruin. He impaled her and she fell dead.

The party discussed the need to strike back immediately and visibly at the government, to show that the Bolt had not been broken. They discussed assassinating the Duke or his son, but that seemed like it might provde too difficult—and besides, T’Kar refused to kill families. They discussed burning the noble docks and the barracks, but Noor was worried that killing commoners’ husbands and sons would turn opinion against the Bolt. They decided to case the merchant houses of Fell and Gambon and find a high-ranking merchant they could assassinate, while G’Yest took the scraps of Abyssal writing they had found to the temple of the Raven Queen to learn more about the Vecna cult.

Resurrection G'yest

Signaled by a young boy along the road, Tkar, Noor, and Torinn were lead to the secret hideaway of Oloramas. There, sitting silently, faced drained of blood, yet living, was G’yest. Noor, in the full exuberance of her youth, pounced upon the recently dead man in a full embrace, thanking her goddess, Sehanine. “Sehanine”, G’yest mumbled, “that is who I expected, who I wanted to see on my death. But it wasn’t her, it was the raven. And then the raven became a woman, The Queen. She told me that I was to do her bidding in the mortal realm.”

“The Raven Queen”, Noor exclaimed in a shocked outcry, “why would she send you back? Doesn’t she seek the souls of the living?”

“No, she has other plans for me. She told me to seek her out in this world and deliver to her the souls of the wicked. I renounce Sehanine and all other gods.”

The party grew quiet in the midst of their friend’s unexpected conversion. What kind of zealot had their friend become – a dangerous cultist of death? Even G’yest could not say exactly, he knew little of his new found deity. After some discussion the group recalled the longstanding feud that the Raven Queen carried with the undead and their lords. While G’yest may have been transformed through death, his interests still aligned with those of his companions – they could only hope.

Upon the reintroduction of G’yest to the party, the discussion quickly turned tactical. The companions endured much horror to gather the Nightfern – it needed to be transported into Shorehold to be used for the resurrection of their comrade Girta. But, returning to the city would not be easy with the increased lookout for Fey and Dragonborn in and around the city. Entering the city together was out of the question, and alone was nearly as risky. Yet, Girta may have been the only remaining link to the traitor within the Bolt.

With the advisory of Oloramas the companions – save Tkar, who remained behind for a further discussion of the insurgent activities in Nabil – approached the city through the western market. Walking through the market with their eyes on the unbreachable city wall, they noticed a quiet entrance, used rarely by no more than a pair of well-dressed citizens at a time. As one of these apparent noblemen approached the entrance he would call out to a guard tower standing in front of, but apart from the gate. From the tower a bell would ring, signaling a guard from inside the gate to emerge, taking the man inside. Several other guards patrolled the area around the market.

The three companions decided upon a plan that would commence after dark, requiring guile and subterfuge. Noor, but a slight girl, took the afternoon to construct a manly façade to the amusement of her compatriots. As night approached, the three planned to fall upon a pair of guards who found themselves far from the guard tower. The best plan, of course, would be to tempt the guards into compromising their position even further. Noor, the temptress of the group (by default, that is), called out to the guards in their rounds, “Hey boys can you come over here, I seemed to have lost my… (giggle).”

The guards approached, and even in the dim light seemed to sense something amiss in the flirtations of the young girl. As their eyes became adjusted, the false mustache played strongly into their suspicions. “What is this then, aye? You’d betta’ get outta here.” Sensing the failure of her advances, Torinn appeared behind the guards, grabbed them by the collars and, with the full fury of his dragon soul, commanded them to silence. The guards collapsed into horrified submission – and not without soiling their breeches.

So far their plan had been successful. The two guards’ clothing and weapons were removed and placed upon G’yest and Noor. G’yest artfully bound the guards so tightly that only a master thief could ever hope to free himself. In full dress of the guard Noor and G’yest took Torinn as their supposed prisoner, and led him to the tower. Approaching the tower, G’yest called up, with conviction, “we found this drunken monster out in our rounds. He gave us chase, but we were able to subdue him. We seek to bring him to the cells.” The head guard descended the tower to inspect this new prisoner. After a convincing act of offensive insobriety by Torinn the guard called to his partner, who rang the bell, leading to the emergence of guards from inside the gate. These guards, like their brethren, were confounded by these unknown – and in one case, quite feminine – guards. After some convincing, the guards were convinced of the story, but attempted to take Torinn in on their own.

With no other recourse, but to fight, Torinn lashed out at the guards. Knowing that the charade was soon to be over, G’yest took his new found lust for life (that is, the lust to take others’ lives), and shot an arrow directly at the head guard, causing immense damage. A fight ensued, leaving three of the guards dead on the ground before the gate. Yet, one managed to escape and enter the city crying for reinforcements. The companions rushed in, but not without G’yest recognizing a strange, and potentially magical, garment draped over the head guard. Removing this cloak, G’yest and his friends dove into the city, and quickly sought to disappear amongst its people.

The three were able to make their way to the home of the ritual caster, Quoven, where Girta lay dead. The bounty of Nightfern that the companions possessed exceeded the wildest expectations of the caster. In his profound gratefulness Quoven gave the companions a potion of healing, each, and a powerful potion of vitality, which G’yest kept to ward off a premature return to his new goddess. To G’yest’s further surprise, the caster revealed a strong power in the cloak removed from the lead guard – seemingly, tailor-made for his benefit. Yes, the gods are good to those who do their bidding. While waiting for Girta to awaken, Torrin left to perform an unknown task in the city – drinking a face-changing potion that shifted his appearance from a mannish dragon, to a dragonnish man. After some time he returned holding a vicious-looking war axe, and an itch for a fight.

When Girta awoke they discussed the nature of the crime against the bolt. Girta was convinced that a man named Robin Goode was the most likely suspect. She had never trusted the man – the son of an adviser to the Duke of Huirg. Several years prior, Goode was dismissed by his father and Girta alleges he is now seeking a path to power through the Bolt. Perhaps this betrayal was his opportunity to return to the good graces of the royals? She told of a meeting place in the catacombs under the Temple of Avandra, in the merchant area of the city. Olaramas also spoke of this place. If Robin was anywhere, he would be found there. And if he was the traitor he required immediate, unmerciful judgment.

The companions traversed the city with great care and found the temple. Inside the temple a stairwell lead to the catacombs – dark and damp. With a glow stick lit from afar behind, G’yest lead his group through the catacombs until he espied a light from a room off to the side of the main corridor. With the stealth of a panther G’yest crept to the door, left slightly ajar, and witnessed a ritual of clear necromancy centered around a roting corpose elevated on a stone dais.

G’Yest snuck back and described the scene to his companions, at which point Torinn recognized elements of the ritual that called to mind the rituals of Vecna being carried out by the hag on the Lizard’s Claw. Calling his companions to back an attack, G’yest aimed his crossbow and bestowed a sudden death upon an unsuspecting cultist. Just as quickly, G’yest flew into the room and fell upon another minion with a slash of his sword, killing him instantly. When the others entered the room, only two cultists remained… until the body in the center of the room rose to attack. The clear leader of the cult attacked, dazing G’yest, and then retreated to a back chamber passing by a stinking pile of human remains. With a reckless fury, G’yest rushed to follow the leader, only to be wounded – nearly mortally – by a pile of undead remains lying at his feet as he passed. With little life to cling to G’yest was heartened by encouragement from Noor, and found himself able to heal and remove himself from danger. Once Torinn and Noor had dispatched with the remaining minion cultist and undead creature the three companions moved in to surround the evil cult leader. Again, G’yest was able to deliver the final blow in celebration of his new lord.

One night in Andok

After studying the runes and informing the party of the potential resurgence of the Cult of Vecna, the ritual-caster begins to prepare G’yest for his return to the land of the living. The ritual is performed without incident and all seemed well for our adventurers for a change, until Oloramas arrived at the spell-caster’s shop in a frantic state with the lifeless body of a woman in hand. He then proceeded to inform the group that the Bolt’s position in Shorehold had been compromised and that there were a number of casualties as a result.
The key to finding out the root of this treachery, according to Oloramus, was to revive the very woman that lay dead before them. And this posed a problem because the spell-caster had just used the last of the most rare component in the revival ritual, the elusive Nightfern.
Being the only members of the Bolt that Oloramas could trust (our heroes were not in Shorehold at the time of the betrayal) he turns to them for help in collecting this rare shrub.
The group agrees to make a trek to the closest location known by the spell-caster to find the shrub… the mausoleums of Andok, ancient city of the dead, located just over the northern border of the province of Samia.

But leaving the city proves to be no easy task. Shorehold is overrun with city guardsmen looking for whatever remains of the Bolt. So our heroes are smuggled out in the false bottom of a carriage and taken north.

Guided by a hand drawn map that had been given to the spell-caster by a merchant who recently survived the horrors of Andok, they arrived at the large mouth of a cave, surrounded with concentric circles of runes that stretched back for hundreds of yards. Using his experience with the arcane, Tkar was able to identify these as symbols of protective rituals, probably designed to keep something from exiting the cave. The party was able to pass over them without effect.

Entering the cave, the three heroes slowly and cautiously made their way through dark, rough tunnels lined with broken patches of cobblestone. Midway through the decent they came across a large iron gate. The gate was ornamented with etchings that depicted the demon prince of the undead and lord of Andok, Orcus. The thought of Orcus possibly being around in a time when the cult of Vecna is poking its head up again and causing trouble seemed to be a recipe for disaster. But our heroes had more immediate matters to tend to and pressed on deeper into the city.

Beyond the gates, the city reached an underground avenue lined with ruined stone buildings, as well as smaller structures that seemed to be constructed out of bones. In the middle of this path, the trio was confronted with a giant blue sphere of light, surrounded by skeletons and zombies that seemed to gain some sort of strength from it, though when our heroes approached the light it seemed to weaken them. Luckily, the party was able to identify two piles of skulls as the sources of this ghostly energy and Torinn and Tkar were able to dispatch with the vile energy using brute and magical force, respectively. They then made their way to the mausoleums where hell hounds and more undead lay in wait. These ghouls where also dispatched and the Nightfern was successfully recovered in bulk along with:

• 400 gold
• A steel mace with beautiful carvings
• A black pearl
• And a wand with copper bands

Now our heroes are on the road to meet Olaramas in the outskirts of Shorehold to plan their next move and hopefully rejoin with their newly revived friend G’yest.

The Lizard's Claw, continued

G’yest is dead and drained by the shambling mound. After the remaining members of the party finished off the mound, the markings on the ground faded. Noor investigates the runes and ascertains that they were related to dark magics and the undead. The party also figures out that the runes have more to do with religion than the arcane. Hmm.

Merville is drawn out of the lighthouse by these phantom wraiths of his dead wife and child! Tkar recalls that ghosts of those who passed from traumatic deaths can return as corrupted souls with more malevolence. We battle the phantoms and they disappear.

Taking a moment to make a plan, the party decides to attempt to complete the mission and then immediately rush G’yest back to the ship so that he can be resurrected.

Merville seems as if he was enchanted. He recalls that the hag fed them apples which could have had something to do with his enchantment and loss of memory. He doesn’t remember our party- we find that the bodies are in the side room of the lighthouse are those of his wife and child.
The party investigates the lighthouse more- up in the tower there has been recent fire! We realize this could have be the cause of the missing ships. Torinn restarts the flame.

Torinn brings in G’yest’s body. That night, while the party rests, there is a mysterious scratching at the door. Tkar casts a light spell out into the light but can’t see anything through the window. In the morning, Merville buries the bodies of his family- Torinn plays a song on his flute, the other members of the party say prayers and express their condolences.
When asked, Merville hazily remembers a crashing ship. Tkar, casting a ritual spell, summons a steel disc for G’yest’s body to float on while the party attempts to complete the objective of their mission. Descending stairs behind the lighthouse down the Lizard’s Claw, we find a rocky cove with the wreckage of several ships!

There are two smaller and two larger ships. Using a combination of skills, the party successfully helps Noor make it to the ship. Tkar uses his nature skills to analyze the water currents for the best way across. Torinn uses his strength, and also beseeches Melora, sister goddess to his deity, for guidance, and she reveals a burst of light and a glorious rainbow, and a way across! Noor uses her agility and martial studies to swim and deftly leap to the Crow’s Beak. The rest of the party joins her, aided by rope, and go below deck.

In the gut of the now rickety ship, we look through crates and find two sets of markings that repeatedly come up, as well as several reinforced strong boxes. One of the markings is for the House of Eir, a longstanding merchant house of Gadrain. Inside the Eir boxes we discover the gleam of silver! There are five or six crates of these. Realizing it would be technically difficult and extremely dangerous to take much of the silver, Torinn takes one of the bars to bring back to Olaramus.

We also find an area secured with iron, just beyond some treacherous holes in the floor. The boxes in this section are marked with the Margrave’s seal. Noor, the lightest and most deft of the crew, makes her way over to it. Unable to pick the lock, she cleverly dislodges the whole iron gate and slips in. In these boxes are exciting treasure:

• One box of scrolls, though they are not magical.
• A crossbow with intricate carvings that resonates with magics.
• A finely woven set of clothes that is also resonant with magical power.
• An ornate rapier that does not have magic (this was discovered on a body).

Having acquired evidence of the silver and some promising booty, the party leaves the Crow’s Beak and makes our way over to a place on shore where the currents likely carried some more goods. There we find several wooden crates that yield:

• 100 gold pieces.
• A piece of aquamarine.
• A soggy ritual scroll for the Knock ritual.

We then say our goodbyes to Merville and hurriedly return to our own ship. However, on our way through the swamp, we are assaulted by panthers! The party kills them, guts them, and keeps their hides. We get back on the ship and return to Shorehold. The trip takes a few days, and Noor ascertains more specifics of the magical properties of our items:

• The crossbow is quite powerful. It is called the Targeting Crossbow +2. When it gets a crit, there is a 1D6 bonus & combat advantage. Additionally, as a daily power, when it hits an opponent, until the end of the next turn, other members of the party can roll twice on attack rolls on that opponent and choose which roll to use. It has a ~3000 gp value.
• The clothing is Repulsion Cloth Armor +1. As a daily minor action, if an enemy moves to an adjacent square, the wearer can push them back as an immediate interrupt- this lasts until the end of the encounter.

We also read the documents, which are addressed to the Duke of Huirg and signed by the Margrave of Gadrain. They appear to indicate some secret political alliance and portray antipathy toward Northern nobility and the Crown itself. This secret alliance seems to include Gadrain, Huirg, and Samia.

Back in Shorehold, we immediately meet up with Olaramus, who is pleased with our success and upset that G’yest fell in battle. He immediately dispatches fast ship to get the silver, and we also hand over the scrolls to him. Olaramus takes us to the ritual caster affiliated with the Bolt, and the old man says he can, indeed, bring our dear comrade back- though at a cost. The ritual requires 500 gp and some rare components, and we agree to help him in replacing these components after G’yest is returned to the land of the living.

Just as we are to leave, Noor remembers to ask the ritual caster to take a look at the runes she copied from the ground near the lighthouse on the Claw. The old man is immediately troubled- he explains that the runes are connected to the Cult of Vecna- the god of secrets and the undead. Years ago this cult troubled the Southern Kingdoms and brought dark days upon the land. If the followers of Vecna are indeed rising again, it would spell trouble for all of us…


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