The Shackled City

New Faces, Old Agendas
The Cagewrights' Plan

18 Flocktime, 592 CY

The next morning, after residual wounds were tended, the company members set themselves to a number of different tasks. Ashton and Greyjek examined the cage in the safety of the Silver Phoenix House. It radiated strong abjuration, conjuration, and necromancy magic (as well as strong evil, according to Jarvyk). The silver and grey bars of the cage twisted in on themselves in strange and disturbing patterns. The necromancer and the erudite recognized that the cage had some association with Carceri. Bransen overheard this and commented, “Wasn’t the mark on that fella Zenith Splintershield’s forehead somethin’ ta do with Carceri, too?” The others agreed that it was.

So informed, Ashton made his way to the Bluecrater Academy and attempted to glean more answers based on the information revealed in the letter from F. Abradius to the apparent Cagewright Embril Aloustinai. History, however, was not one of his focused areas of study, and he made little headway through the musty tomes. Kort, after locking Karamus’ things in his room, decided to do what he did best and visit every establishment that served alcohol in the city, so that he might consume some of it. Bransen and Jarvyk dealt with selling the items acquired from their most recent endeavors, and Greyjek… did whatever it was that he tended to do with his time when left to his own devices.

After the sales were complete, Bransen went out to the streets again, trying to determine what, if any, fallout would be coming down on the party’s head for their actions at the cathedral. The consensus seemed to be, “They got what was coming to them.” He made contact with Annah Taskerhill, the leader of the Stormblades, to ask her what had happened to Todd Vanderboren. She informed him that the young rake had fallen in the Underdark tunnels below Cauldron. They’d been tasked with a mission by Ike Iverson to investigate the possibility of an attack by kuo-toas when they’d been ambushed by a wizard who seemed to know their strengths and weaknesses. In the wake of the assassination attempt and the reception the Silver Phoenixes had gotten from the Church of Wee Jas, she asserted her belief that they, too, had been set up.

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Death & Magic II
or "Death Magic"

17 Flocktime, 592 CY (Continued)

After looting the corpses of the fallen (and dusted) aggressors, Karamus moved to listen at each of the exits leading from the grand hall. Hearing nothing at either, the group decided to explore the high altar, which was behind a massive set of locked doors. The chamber beyond contained two beautifully sculpted pillars, which framed a massive onyx altar encrusted with runes and elaborate magical glyphs. The jet black walls had been painted with images sacred to Wee Jas: stylized sarcophagi, obscure magical symbols, and other religious imagery. Two massive tapestries covered the wall directly behind the altar, giving those standing to the west an impressive view of the altar and its imagery of the death goddess. A single door sat in the corner of the room to the southeast.

Beyond this door was a hallway that led to a series of other chambers, mostly simple priests’ quarters. Opposite these rooms was a sort of ritual chamber separated in two by a thick curtain. The body of a young man who looked vaguely familiar to Kort lay in state upon a low table in the room’s center. They left the body and the area behind the altar and moved back into the grand hall.

Beyond the other door exiting the main chamber was a small stairwell winding upwards, as well as a lavish bedchamber, likely for one of the upper priests. Searching the desk revealed a sack filled with platinum coins and a couple of items that Karamus shoved into the bag of holding after Jarvyk agreed that any valuables and coinage were likely to be used for nefarious purposes, such as hiring more assassins to come after the company. This accomplished, they ascended the stairs until they came to a door on the inner wall of the stairs. Above, they could see a small landing and another door that appeared to lead back into the main structure of the cathedral. They decided to investigate the inner door first.

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Death & Magic
It's your funeral...

15 Flocktime, 592 CY

Bransen was granted a spell that would let him (and others) transform into the wind and travel very quickly, and so he, Greyjek, Ashton, and Kort made a trip to Sasserine to acquire a number of pearls so that Ashton could identify the multiple magic items acquired from the assassins’ bodies. Karamus and Jarvyk meanwhile spoke to Skylar Krewis about the attempt and at his suggestion, they turned the bodies over to the Guard so that they might discover who had sent them (courtesy of speak with dead). When the others returned from Sasserine, Ashton identified a number of the items, and a strict watch was set in the Silver Phoenix house against additional assault.

16 Flocktime, 592 CY

The following day, Jarvyk and Bransen went out seeking additional information about Maavu’s fate. They were unable to secure a meeting with Lord Vhalantru, but the clerk at city hall did assert that the merchant was being held by the MTA, who were investigating the possibility that the evidence against Maavu had been forged. Additionally, he was not allowed any visitors. Struck by inspiration, while standing outside the garrison, Bransen called upon a fate-given spell to locate Alek Tercival’s signet ring. It apparently rested in a room on the third floor of the structure, likely an office of some sort. He and Jarvyk discussed the implications of this revelation. Jarvyk and Bransen then went to speak with Jenya Urikas to request that she cast sending spells so that they might speak with Maavu via magic. She assured them that she was capable of such a feat and bid them return in the morning.

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Assassins
Yea. You're that important.

14 Flocktime, 592 CY

The party heard that following a bar brawl the night before some evidence had been uncovered which lead to the arrest of Maavu Arlintal by Cauldron’s recently established Magical Threats Agency. The nature of this evidence was unknown, but he was being held at the Garrison under MTA’s watch. Bransen contacted The Foreman via sending, but the man had been unaware that the merchant had been arrested. He asked that Bransen update him if anything else was discovered. Rumors that Alek Tercival had been killed before he was supposed to have recanted in Redgorge were also running rampant. The dwarves were afraid that their conversation with the Striders might have been overheard.

A letter arrived at the Silver Phoenix house for Karamus, who’d spend his first few nights back in Cauldron at the Drunken Morkoth. Jarvyk took word to him about the missive and asked him to come by the house when he got a chance. Bransen, Ashton, and Jarvyk went to the Tipped Tankard, where the altercation had taken place. No one had any great details to give, but they overheard something about a bag that had been dropped, something about “chicanery” and the likely involvement of a wizard. On their way back to the Silver Phoenix house, they overheard a pair of half-orc mercenaries speaking about the possibility of returning to Redgorge.

When they arrived back at the house, they found Kort in his office, frantically searching for something. He told them that he could not find Alek Tercival’s signet ring, which he was sure he had seen only days ago. The paladin’s sword was still there, and everyone checked their personal belongings, but nothing else seemed to be missing. Karamus arrived a few minutes later and the conversation that ensued drew the attention of everyone in the house. They were all congregated in the main hall when the fireball exploded in their midst.

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Welcome Back
Reduce to a Low Simmer

6 Flocktime, 592 CY (Continued)

Bransen broke the dominate affecting the two Watchmen, and everyone went back to town. The party explained the situation to Hetagg who, while relieved at the return of the statue, was downtrodden at the news of Kalina’s demise. He promised he would find a way to pay the adventurers for their efforts on the town’s behalf. They spent the night at the Village Tap again, planning to leave again the next morning.

7 Flocktime, 592 CY

The Silver Phoenixes plus two left Pearlglen.

8 Flocktime, 592 CY

In the afternoon of their second day of travel out of Pearlglen, the party spotted a trio of hill giants accosting a woman on the road before them. Spells and powers led the assault, with Kan’ti’s black tentacles rising up on all sides of the giants and grappling one. Ashton rendered himself invisible and then launched a weakening fireball their way, judiciously avoiding the woman, who was unfortunately caught by the tentacle spell. Then Greyjek manifested a massive opaque mist that burned the giants. As the giants did not come forward through the mist, the erudite realized a potential tactical error in that he was preventing the party from seeing the foe. As such, he began to move it off of the road and into the woods.

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The Ancient Temple
Horrible Realizations Aren't Just For PCs... But Mostly They Are.

6 Flocktime, 592 CY (Continued)

Karamus and Kort walked past the treeline to the left in time to witness the ectoplasmic form of Greyjek revert to normal. They were a little unsettled by the sight. Sage chastised Greyjek for so rashly destroying a creature that might well have been having its actions influenced by magical power, as had the cleric in Pearlglen. Karamus was unmoved by possibilities, and under direction from Kort’s detect magic looted the gnome of his many enchanted possessions. The others meanwhile moved forward to inspect what the dire bears had eating, which proved to be piles of berry bushes. Tedryk’s Grace chided Ashton for being trigger happy, and the magus accepted the rebuke in his usual good-natured manner. Everyone reconvened, wounds were tended, and the group proceeded to the ancient temple, following the bits of remaining stone from the old road since Bransen’s divination had been dispelled.

An hour or so later, they arrived at the structure, which had a pair of village wardens standing guard at the entrance. The right door appeared to have been removed from its hinges and was resting up against the wall outside. They called out to the adventurers, demanding their names and purpose. Once given, one of the guards entered the building to announce them to Tlanextic. Moments later, he returned to inform the group that the couatl would see them. Moderately surprised by the ease with which they had gained entrance, they moved inside.

The scent of flowers perfumed the air in the lofty but somewhat dank main chamber. The scent seemed to come from dozens — or perhaps hundreds — of flowery bouquets heaped upon a massive central altar, which resembled a low ziggurat with three tiers, each perhaps ten feet high. The altar and the double rows of moss-covered wooden pews flanking it fill the chamber’s center. A steep flight of stairs ran up one side of the ziggurat. The many gaps in the high, vaulted ceiling left the chamber open to the elements. Random shafts of sunlight created a dappled effect on the walls and floor. A magnificent, feathered serpent lay coiled among the flowers atop the altar, gazing out over the chamber with an air of utter self-assurance. Its feathers looked particularly dazzling where the light struck them.

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Pearlglen
Personality Rumble

20 Planting, 592 CY

After resting to recover spells, Bransen cast plane shift and the adventurers returned to Oerth. Though he’d been aiming for Cauldron, they found themselves on a beach a short distance from Ashton’s home city of Sasserine, about a week’s ride from the city nestled in the caldera. They retired to the estate manor he’d inherited (and nearly gone broke to keep). A number of errands were run, including selling loot, acquiring food and ale, and for Ashton, taking the Phoenix Heart to attempt to revive Evane. It was a task met with disappointment and frustration but also renewed resolve.

Bransen met with a man calling himself Migos Fehr, a “Champion of the Wind Lords,” who was very interested in the young “sorcerer” and his family. He bought the young man lunch and left a favorable impression upon him, promising to drop into the Silver Phoenix house if ever he happened to be in Cauldron.

At the market, Karamus encountered an odd pair: an elf by the name of Kan’ti and a pale haired human calling himself Greyjek the Woosah. They were each interested in a place called Pearlglen, around which fey creatures had been vanishing for several months, and from which the elf’s mentor had yet to return. The cansin promised to bring their request to the other adventurers’ attention and get back to them.

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Sacrifice
Long Expected Treachery

? ?, ??? CY (Continued)

The party performed a quick search of the throne room, which turned up empty. Then they moved up the wide spiral staircase leading them farther up into the Skull. The stairs opened up into a chamber dominated by a central bonfire of utter blackness. It crackled like normal flame, but it was a slick, glossy black rather than the orange-red of a fire. Surrounding the black flames was a pale yellow corona that cast light about the room. A sheaf of papers lay scattered near the base of the black-flame bonfire. More than a dozen passages originated in this room, with at least some of them doubling back on themselves.

Karamus began moving forward but hadn’t made it ten feet before he noticed a number of large fiendish creatures hiding poorly around various corners. He dashed back past the warriors and announced the fiendish menagerie beyond. The animals quickly made for the stair entry, biting at Kort’s thick armor. The creatures fell quickly to the party’s onslaught, a pair each of fiendish dire wolves, tigers and large vipers. Even the kyton failed to so much as unnerve any of them. Then it proved to be no match for Karamus’ invisible attack. He pierced a vital organ and the monster dropped to floor before vanishing as the summoning spell ended prematurely.

Kort and some of the others had heard a voice chanting rhythmically from somewhere near the black flames, and with all of the visible monsters slain, the voice came again, summoning a cloying purple miasma, that caused harm to the party by virtue of its utter wrongness. Jarvyk moved forward, spotting and attacking a figure standing within the flames, but his blow could not find purchase. Now that he stood close enough, he could see a skeletal creature wearing rotting rich robes and full-plate armor emblazoned with the holy symbol of Vecna, god of secrets. Hateful crimson light danced in its empty eye sockets. Though it was clearly undead, he could not place the type.

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To The Skull!
Killing The Competition

? ?, ??? CY

The party slept in the grove where the teleport circle had deposited them, and were unmolested during their respite from the second trial. The next couple of days of travel sped by and Kaurophon seemed pleased and almost eager, the closer the group came to the Skull at the center of Occipitus. They were perhaps a mile distant, traveling through a patch of Occipitus that was pocked with what appeared to be bleeding ulcers when Kort and Karamus spotted something large a couple hundred feet away and flying directly toward them. It proved to be a black dragon, which Kaurophon identified as Vorkaire. The dragon seemed content to cast protective spells upon itself as it lazily closed the distance to the adventurers. The party cast a few preparatory spells themselves, and Kort even impaled the dragon with a flaming arrow.

Its first attack was a tactic commonly employed by Ashton, casting a ray of enfeeblement targeting Kort. In response, although reluctantly, Kaurophon launched a fireball at the scaly foe. The result was spectacular and terrifying as the flames scorched Vorkaire causing it obvious agony. The half-fiend quickly tried to get behind the rest of the party, but the dragon dived after him and bit him, mostly ignoring the flying assault Jarvyk was bringing to bear. It stayed focused on Kaurophon until Kort interceded, placing himself bodily between the two. He and Jarvyk entered a flying flank with the beast, which quit the skies to bring all of its many limbs to bear against the cleric of Moradin.

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Resolve
BAMF!

? ?, ??? CY

The trip from the Cathedral of Feathers took the party the rest of that waking cycle plus two more. The second day proved interesting as the group moved across what Kaurophon referred to as “Tremor Zones,” the quakes from which occasionally knocked everyone from their feet. On the evening of the third “day” the beam from the lantern of guidance shifted abruptly to the East, which would lead them all down a ridge and into the site of an ancient battlefield now filled with massive cyst-like ovoids. Kaurophon explained that Occipitus found absorbing the bodies of celestials and good-aligned magical equipment more difficult. The group decided to attempt to cross the battlefield immediately, with Elias carrying the lantern.

They followed the beam east for a little over a hundred feet before it abruptly shifted to point to the north. Shrugging, they turned as a group and followed the new directive. After another short distance, the beam again moved, pointing to the east once more. As they were progressing down this path, Kort noticed a shiny golden sword resting just inside one of the ovoid sacs. He went over to investigate, figuring he could easily liberate the supposedly holy weapon and find a use for it. The others stopped while Kort and Jarvyk discussed how to proceed, and a few seconds later Elias vanished. The dwarves did not notice, but the spellcasters and Karamus looked around wildly, wondering where the half-orc could have vanished to.

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