The Hopes of Karenguuld

Chapter III: Cells, Crowns, and Curtains

(Recovered from the Legendary Scrolls of Kheldar. It is rumored that these records are penned by the psion himself…)

After waking in the prison, the party escaped from their cells with the help of Corvus’ phasing and brilliance, and got to know their new allies (and mourned for exactly 1 second about their old fallen allies).

They sneaked noisily through the rest of the prison rooms, finding important documents, a few gems, and all our gear, and even managed to destroy a helpless warden, who tried to raise the alarm to the entire keep and then go back to his family. What a loser.

They exited the prison into some sort of keep courtyard, and were attacked by vicious eladrin guards who were nasty and tricksy and not all that pretty. Even though they released a gigantic Fomorian onto the party—really, a large ugly monster—the heroes slew them all bloodily and explosively, perhaps even suffering from some crazed friendly blades.

Corvus, Barakas, and Kheldar disguised themselves as the guards and made their way to the Shady Merchant’s store, pausing only briefly to re-engage/fool the eladrin sergeant into thinking they were three competent guards and not a shifter, tiefling, and deva.

Shady Merchant agreed to help the party, offering information (Baron Killenguard’s Cirque du Tiefling that very night) and better eladrin disguises in exchange for running Emporium Merchant out of business.

Returning to the Keep, the party donned their new disguises (eladrin nobles and their fat eladrin children), and considered their options. They elected to ruin Emporium Merchant’s business through an elaborate hoax involving dead guard bodies, a well-timed mind control, and a swarm of guards who’ve been looking for an excuse to beat Emporium Merchant stupid.

As every guard queued up at the Emporium beating, the party explored the old castle ruins and the town hall, finding that some sort of ice apocalypse had occurred there, slaying the royal family and making way for one S. Banterlock (the family’s advisor) to seize control of the town.

The party discovered that Swiften Banterlock is a lich and behind every last bad thing to ever happen, including the Mordenkrad of Protection being stolen, all those people at the archive dying, the coming of the terrible ice in Eladrin Town, the royal family dying, and the economic devastation and housing crisis.

Locating the lich’s phylactery and the protection ritual to contain the lich’s soul once it’s destroyed, the party goes to the Mincing Tiefling show, and all their plans are immediately screwed up by Baron Killenguard/Swiften Banterlock/Evil Undying Lich inviting them to join him in his theater box for the show.

Baern the Baby Eladrin throws a violent temper tantrum, freaking out the escorting guards enough so Kheldar can get away into the actor’s changing room under the Baron’s box, and while the Baron interrogates the disguised party about who they are and where they’re from, Kheldar casts the ritual and then destroys the phylactery, which totally wrecks the Baron’s night.

The lichy Baron jolts from his chair, transforming into a rat and scuttling off while the party gets manhandled by their box chairs, and the actors transform into flesh spiders, sorcerers, and devils. A pale rider cavalier appears, and the devils hop up onto the horns of raging behemoths which crash through the theater walls, and baby, it’s on!

The party lays waste in all directions in a massive, sprawling battle, and the only real victim is the Arts, which makes Baern very happy.

NOW WHAT WILL THEY DO?!!

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Chapter II: Ascent to the Frozen Dome

After taking to the skies, our heroes make their way to the Isle of Udacha. When they reach the island, they find a shocking change has overcome the island. The legend spoke of a beautiful spring land, but the heroes find a floating rock overcome by a deep deep frost. Udacha’s peaks are covered in snow, the forests are frosted, and an icy wall seems to sequester the center of the island.

Despite their rudimentary map, they make a fly-around and find an appropriate place to land. They hitch their steeds to a nearby tree, barely noticing the Pegasus bones littered among their feet. They proceed down a rough trail to Udacha’s interior, quickly coming to a shallow river. After some deliberation, they begin to wade through the chilly water…

Towards the center of the stream, the water accelerates and becomes unbearably swift. A massive waterfowl beast rises from the water, hellbent on making sure our heroes keep it eternal company. The heroes can barely keep their footing, as they are quickly dragged toward the beast’s mouth. Several of them become wedged between the gnashing teeth, but with a few valiant strikes, Artemis and Corvus separate the beast from it’s own jaw. After finishing off some of the beast’s undead minions, the party finally reaches the other shore.

They trek onward. Soon the roughshod trail becomes nearly discernible, but Corvus is able to make out a few footsteps leading in diverging directions. After following one path but becoming hopelessly lost in a dense forest, the group retraces its steps and follows the second. Soon they arrive at the humble cottage of the Lady Malus. She offers them a warm meal of steak tar-tar. They are provided with cots for the night, as well as an updated map.

Lady Malus relays that the previously unexplored interior of the island actually houses a robust village of elite Eladrin, Whitehurst Village. She mentions that they aren’t particularly used to strangers, so our heroes may want to tread lightly. More importantly, she mentions seeing an Eladrin pass by recently carrying a large hammer. Although they were expecting a tiefling, they are able to piece together a few clues and realize that perhaps Swiften is a changeling. Lady Malus heard the visitor was later accused of stealing chickens, and may have fled to the Hamas Peaks behind the village. When the heroes question her desire to live outside the great wall, she mentions that she just prefers to live alone, as she doesn’t always see eye to eye with the villagers. She mentions that she still receives her daily delivery of meat, despite her remote location, and that she harbors no ill-will against the villagers.

As the heroes rise the next morning, they are greeted by a commotion outside. It appears the town guards have arrived with orders to take the visitors to the Baron Kildegaard. This name strikes the party as odd, as they hail from the Region of Kildegaard (their version is much less float-y). After a bit of stamping, pawing, and man-measuring by Artemis and Corvus and a bit of gentle prodding by Baracus, the sergeant tells them that he will give them a few moments to flee, but they’d better not be here when he returns.

The heroes flee back down to the fork in the road. WIth their updated map, they are able to navigate the gnarled pathways of the forest. Soon, they arrive at the towering Wall of the Deep Frost. After feeling around, Corvus finds a hidden door, and they enter the Wall. Inside, they find a stream of cold water, several goblets, and a strange engraving on the wall. They eventually discern that a specific quantity of water will allow them to move forward. Solving the riddle, Corvus and Barakus pour water from the stream into a small goblet and the Wall opens up.

The heroes continue onward along the edge of the forest to avoid detection. They re-emerge just quickly enough to gather some intel from an unsuspecting Emporium owner (Baracus and Katsako had disguised themselves as eladrin) about his missing chickens and learned that the culprits had fled high into the caverns atop Peak Hamas.

The sinewy trails of the icy mountains prove no match for the wilderness-conquering skills of our heroes, and they quickly reach the mouth of a dark cavern.

The cavern is black as night, but our crafty heroes are able to sneak in undetected. To their horror and delight, they see a sleeping band, headlined by a tiefling in robes, who they assume to be their mark, Swiften Banterlock. Unfortunately, he is accompanied by two hyenas and a large cave-troll wielding an enormous hammer. THe party charges across a rickety bridge to assault the sleeping band and recover the legendary mordenkraad.

A vicious battle ensues. The troll leaps up and charges across the small bridge, nearly sending Katsako and Barakus plummeting into a large chasm. Corvus quickly destroys the two hyenas, sending them to the Great Laugher in the Sky. Swiften chastises the group for their foolishness and morphs into a large Frost Dragon, spraying the party with icy blasts. Artemis deftly leaps upon the beasts back and swings wildly at the dragon’s neck. The dragon takes off over the chasm and shakes the fighter off, but Katsako is able to reach out and save Artemis from falling to his doom. Eventually, the party prevails and Swiften crashes back into the cave floor, withering back to a small changeling.

The party discovers that the true power of the mordenkraad came from a small stone in the hilt. Swiften had removed it and was wearing it around his neck. Corvus picked it up and placed it around his, making him feel safe. Unsettlingly safe…

Before they can search around further, the party grows heavy and weary, drifting into a deep sleep. Their next moment of consciousness finds them tied up in the back of a wagon, before they drift off again….

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Chapter I: Part II - The Battle of the Pegasi

As the heroes approach the location of the animal trainer, they begin to see a number of billboards and advertisements. “Pet a Pegausus! Hug a Hyppogryph!” It seems like they are approaching a very commercialized stable.

They find the location, nestled in the foot of a large hill. As they approach, a tiny goblin exits the nearby tents. “Hello, I’m your animal technician, Morc. Here to hug a hyppogryph?” he asks, while keeping his gaze fixed upon the heroes’ coin purses. When Katsako asks the price, he quickly declares, “Platinum apiece and I’ll let you pet one.” Although the heroes attempt to negotiate the exorbitant price, invoking their new nobility status, yet they seem to get nowhere with the greedy goblin. Soon, his even tinier assistant, Mirc, comes out of the tent to observe the commotion. The negotiations begin to escalate into an argument as Morc demands that the only alternate form of payment is the heroes’ fine magic weapons. Even when the heroes begin to consider walking away, the greedy goblins, with eyes now glowing with greed, demand that they leave their weapons, or they will be removed from them. When the heroes question how two goblins will overwhelm the five of them, they scoff and say, “Well, we’ll just have to call our friend Mimzy.” Eventually the two goblins draw knives on the heroes, and Morc yells, “Oh MIMMMMMZZZYYYY!” The heroes hear a low rumble in the hillside as the goblins leap to attack them…

As the heroes begin to counter the tiny goblin’s leap, three gigantic owl bears come running down the hillside. Shortly after the commotion begins, two gigantic spiders, also Morc’s pets, appear on the hillside and begin to lob arcs of poison onto the heroes from above. A valiant battle ensues, and eventually our heroes prevail. Baracus is able to sufficiently scare Morc to cower, at which one owl bear looks confused and darts off into the woods. Corvus bravely sprouts wings and soars up onto the hillside to wipe out the spiders. Kheldar is able to whisper into Mirc’s mind and cause him to attack his own master. After which Artemis smashes him.

The heroes are able to overwhelm Morc’s forces, and they began to search around the campsite. They find an old withered goblin, Marc, who looks terrified. Katsako feels the familiar urge to devour the goblin, but is able to hold off and shows mercy to this old fool. He is eager to help, in hopes they won’t decide to eat him after all. He gives the heroes an ancient map from his childhood that shows the Isle of Udacha. The interior of the island is shaded black with a skull and crossbones. The heroes realize they are likely to find a fight on the island.

The heroes then enter the stables, with numerous pegasi and hyppogryphs. Fully unaware of how to control these beasts (and having killed their masters) it is up to them to earn the animals trust. Katsako is the first two approach. He nears the wildest looking pegasus and, using his knowledge of the wild, he is able to approach the beast without drawing its ire and deftly leaps upon it. Soon he is soaring around the stables on his new steed. Corvus is able to use his knowledge of hyppogryphs to spring on one as well. Artemis approaches the largest of the beasts and stares it down. Although puffing himself up, the pegasus eventually backs down and allows Artemis to climb on. Baracus begins to beat his war drum, and eventually one pegasus begins to nod off in a hypnotic trance. After accepting a gift of food, the mesmerized beast allows the bard to climb aboard. Kheldar then tries to perform a historic dance the ancients once used to control flying beasts. However, his pegasus scoffs at him and turns away. He is able to approach the beast eventually, but the party wonders whether or not the beast really respects him.

And with that, the brave heroes soar off into the sunset, hoping to find the island and knowing that more mystery than certainty awaits them…

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Chapter I: Part I - The Archives of Karenguuld
The Summoning

The adventure begins as our heroes approach the Magical Archives of Karenguuld. Each has received a scroll, sealed with the Signet of the Archive Staff and signed by Headmaster Luden, summoning them to the archives to receive the adoration worthy of their noble deeds. Kheldar, the Deva Psion, has risen from his crooked beginnings to become the Adept of Ioun. Katsako Daidoji, the Vrylaka Blackguard has channeled the horror of her bloodlust to become the Cursed Vrylocka of legend. Corvus, the Shifter Avenger, has sworn himself to and is becoming The Retribution of the Raven Queen. Artemis, the arrogant human fighter has so proven himself in battle and is being named the Hero of Kildengaard. Popular Baracus, known for his epic tales and more epic battle savvy, is being honored as the Minstrel of Karenguuld.

The heroes arrive at the archives at roughly the same time and realize they are all arriving for similar purposes. But something strange seems to be afoot. The usual bustling activity of the archives seems to have slowed to a grinding halt. In fact, other than the receptionist – who seems to be overly concerned with her pet kitten – the heroes are unable to find anyone until Kheldar goes to visit his old library stomping grounds. There the old librarian Mido points them towards Luden’s small office on the second floor, although he’s quite irritated that they interrupted him from playing with his ferret. Upon closer inspection of their scrolls, they realize that this may be where they might find Luden, since he left them a hidden message by capitalization. “I Am In The Observatory Help” Other than a brief encounter with the Assistant Headmaster, Nalia, and her pet pig, they proceed to the office without incident.

Inside, they find only a desk with a tome and Luden’s journal on it. Otherwise, the office is tiny and stark. There are 9 decorative stones imbedded into the wall and a small token with a hand-shaped groove upon it. THis strikes the party as strange decor, and they pour through Luden’s journal for clues. One page stands out from an otherwise mundane index of students and archival business. Luden wrote, “I keep forgetting how to get into the observatory, so I set up my office to help. Remember, the passcode is not a real word!” The heroes realize that this must be the purpose of the stones. After checking for traps, Artemis places his hand in the groove and says, “What is this” The moment he begins to speak, one of the stone’s begins to glow. The heroes soon realize that the red glow corresponds to correct letters, and a blue glow from the seating represents a correct but misplaced letter. Soon, Corvus says, “Imaginary” and the wall slides open to reveal a hallway.

As they approach the door across from them, the heroes hear a faint chanting and are illuminated by a sickly yellow glow emanating from the room beyond. As they slowly open it and peer into the room, they observe a horrific scene….

Piles of bodies are strewn amongst the cold marble floor. Pale and sickly, Kheldar recognizes the staff of the archives among them. Small rivulets of blood seem to be flowing from these bodies, which are approaching husk status. Pools of blood and bloody statues have been arranged around the room and religious symbols have been painted on the floor in the blood. Five blood cultists, draped in red robes, are the source of the chanting. Katsako and Corvus recognize them to be in the final stages of a summoning spell. All this comports with the burgeoning mass upon the observatory’s altar, the source of the summoning. Luden is attached to this mass by a tube, which seems to be draining his life force.

The heroes charge into the fray, but quickly find themselves encumbered by the mass of bodies struggling to grab the warmth they no longer possess. Nonetheless, the heroes begin to assault the cultists in hopes that they can stop the spell before completion. One by one, the cultist begin to fall. But with each death, the spell seems to accelerate. After the first cultist drops, the mass opens into a gory, oozing eye, that fixes on Kheldar, freezing him in his tracks. After each, successive death, the eye grows stronger, eventually penetrating Artemis’s mind and forcing him to attack Corvus. Quickly after, the spell seems to complete, and a withering devil bursts forth from the eye. It attempts to devour the souls of our heroes, but they prevail in battle, with Katsako leaping upon his back and beheading him.

As the devil’s blood splashes over the poor creatures on the ground, they begin to revive, and Luden is the first to regain full capacity of his mind. Slowly, the staff and local villagers that had been subjected to these horrors become aware of the brave victory our heroes had forged, and they drop to worship them. Luden bestows the promised honors upon each of them, and they are rewarded handsomely.

After resting and filling their bellies at a grand banquet, the heroes speak with Luden on how the day’s events had transpired. Luden professes to them that the situation is not completely resolved. Many months ago, his former assistant, Swiften Banterlocke, had been frantically researching the ancient lost Isle of Udacha, rumored to have ascended to the sky. Around the same time, he disappeared, along with the magical mordenkraad that had long protected the archives. He guesses that he had completed his research and had uncovered the horrific source of power that the legend speaks of.

Because the mordenkraad no longer protected the Arhcives, local robbers and thieves had begun to wreak havoc upon them. The most recent events were an eventual inevitably, Luden feels. The blood cultists of Orcus had arrived a fortnight before and began their summoning spell, using the local population’s life force as their power source. They attempted to avoid suspicion by casting spells of symbiosis on several of the staff, so they might work through the spell – explaining the obsession with ferrets, cats, and pigs the heroes had observed. Luden pleads with the heroes to recover the mordenkraad, lest the archives be subject to greater destruction. THe heroes agree that this meets their mettle, but are unsure where to turn.

The heroes follow Swiften’s trail. With the help of a much more amicable Mido, Kheldar and Baracus find that Swiften had stolen a tome of the ancient legend of Udacha from the library, confirming Luden’s suspicions that his disappearance and the legend were linked. Meanwhile, the rest of the heroes search Swiften’s old room. Corvus finds a small stone on the floor, and when Artemis steps on it, a small compartment opens under the bed, revealing a journal and the missing tome. The journal is filled with mathematical calculations, religious diagrams, and a few journal entries. The last says, “I’ve done it, now I must find a Pegasus.”

The party infers that he found the location of the lost Isle, and that Swiften has attempted to reach it. Luden points them towards the region where the legend claims it ascended into the sky. When they mention the journal entry, his eyes begin to dance – it seems he loves the majestic nature of their adventure – but more importantly, he points them in the direction of a local animal trainer, rumored to have flying beasts.

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