Book Four: The Shadow Over Vaelen

Betrayed by Azmoda and at their most vulnerable, the party is thrown into direct conflict with Seasinger Verruk’s pirates. Resh is recovering from his reconstitution and Kelshar is badly weakened by his recent resurrection.

The pirates pursued the Golden Rod until Jerrec attempted to seek solace past Krenalir’s wards, having secretly kept watch on the rowboat guided by Seraphina.

He unwittingly brought the pirates to Krenalir. Elder Rafel exhorts the Harbingers to help clean up their mess.  He and the other elders of the monastery mobilize their monks for a direct attack on the pirates, but he asks the party to stay back and defend the village and monastery.

Khymerus has a better idea. He takes Bhediya down with him to the waters, and the two use their considerable magics to assault and cripple a few of the ships. During the assault, one of the pirates’ landing parties makes their way onto the island, but they are repelled by Silaqui, Garret, and Kelshar in a desperate combat on the bluffs of the island.

Even with the aid of a kraken, the pirates see the tide turning against them–sometimes literally–and beat a retreat. The Golden Rod is lost, but the halfling monks manage to overtake one of the pirates’ ships: the Virago.

At the close of weeks on Krenalir, the party is summoned by the elders. They tell the Harbingers that they have weighed how to proceed. Several monks advocated for keeping the Harbingers on Krenalir to protect the island’s secrets, but as a whole, the monastery felt that the party’s efforts were too important to the fate of the world. They sought the wisdom of the ethereal plane. There, they saw seven lights standing against a vast and spreading darkness–lights that they take to be the Harbingers.

The monks bestow the Virago upon the Harbingers. Having no idea of how to sail, the party gives Lord Admiral Jerrec command of the ship, but the trader seems scarcely grateful, noting that the Harbingers have cost him greatly.

After being seen off by the halflings, it takes the party a couple of weeks to make it to the Bleeding Bay, an expanse of coppery water outside of Assur. Garret warns the party that the city is an inhospitable cesspit peopled by all sorts of thieves and miscreants, but this isn’t enough to stop Bhediya from stopping to save two urchins, Susa and his older brother Kahil. She is marked by the two boys, as they are members of a criminal syndicate employing the young: the Children of Mercy.

On the way out of the Flesh Market, a huge slave bazaar at the city’s center, Bhediya is tripped by someone in the swirling crowds and she finds that Iridis has been stolen.

The party’s search for the missing ring takes them to the Temple of Bahamut, where Garret reveals that he was once a fosterling. He was also an unwilling member of the Children of Mercy, which was led by a corrupt nun of Bahamut.

Garret stabbed the woman’s eye out and fled from Assur, but he was changed by the experience.

Since then, the temple has become much more restricted. Magic is forbidden to non-believers within its halls, and the priests have hardened themselves against most of the street children.

A priest named Frater Taelin reveals that Iridis is part of a set of five rings called the Loops of the Scaled Queen. Forged by a draconic descendant of Tiamat, the dark dragon goddess, they were separated and then purified in Bahamut’s fire. For reasons unknown, the Order of Bahamut fears the rings ever being brought together.

Silaqui’s attempts to locate the ring fail, but Bhediya has a bit more success when she tries to scry on Onna, Garret’s former employer, using the mummified eye kept by the priests of Bahamut. Onna is easily able to take control over the scrying spell, using it to mount a mental attack on Bhediya, but she also betrays thoughts of black scales and a sigil of Cyric, an irredeemable evil god.

Taelin’s contacts in the city suggest that Onna may have taken Iridis upriver to Vaelan, where she is trying to build new operations. Before he allows Garret to depart, he reminds him that he is still beloved by Bahamut. He encourages Garret to send those in need back to the temple.

The party roves around, trying to confirm Taelin’s information. They stop at the Raven’s Talon, a magic shop, and make some purchases while pumping the proprietor for information.

Their search takes them to a whorehouse, the Silken Whisper, near the Flesh Market where Garret tries to encourage a prostitute, Leandra, to throw herself on Bahamut’s mercy rather than continue her dangerous career.

Across the street, a male whorehouse puts on a parody play light-heartedly depicting Resh’s fall from grace, reminding the party that his notoriety might be a liability in Durpar.

The party departs for Vaelan on a river barge, but they are delayed when they see fire in the hills near the river. They disembark to find that black kobolds have torn apart the caravan.

Seeing a connection to Bhediya’s vision, they take one of the kobolds hostage. It reveals that its mistress, an ancient black dragon, grew sick and abandoned her kobolds, presumably to die. Her nest is still a couple of miles away, and peopled by hundreds of kobolds. The party resolves to infiltrate it.

Bhediya is able to sway the party away from the self-destructive course of infiltrating the kobold warrens. She prevails upon them to let their prisoner, Tharok, go free. The kobold seems surprised by her mercy.

Regretting their decision to let their barge go on to Vaelen without them, the party lies in wait along the riverside until they see another passenger ship. Khymerus and Garret fly toward it, with Garret in disguise as a human. Khymerus’s devilish appearance incites a hostile response from the sailors, who draw crossbows on the two men. Auryn, a bard who met the Harbingers months before in Dambrath, is a chance passenger on the vessel. She defuses the tension.

Khymerus makes a quick enemy of the captain by repeatedly using magic, insulting his ship, and antagonizing him. When the other Harbingers arrive, they negotiate passage on board, with a hefty additional surcharge for Khymerus’s passage.

Despite the inauspicious start, the party makes it to Vaelan and takes up lodgings at the Bouncing Jug, an inn where Auryn performs on contract. She and its proprietor, Ashrim, are members of a small cell resisting the Farflame cult. They inform the party of its proper name: the Cloister of the Revealing Flame. It is headquartered, in its current form, in Vaelan.

In order to establish goodwill with the party, Auryn shows them a cavern discovered by members of her organization. It was used, until recently, as a ritual site for the cultists. The party discovers that it has been monitored by an invisible sensor, likely betraying Auryn and her compatriots to the Cloister. In a fit of pique, Kelshar attempts to Shatter a metal Cloister seal set in the floor and instead brings down the whole building.

The party is summoned to meet with the Grand Rajah, Jihirem Seltarir, to conduct negotiations on behalf of Trade Prince Dekhor. Resh disguises himself as the ‘actor’ who portrayed him in Assur.

At the palace, they meet some of Seltarir’s advisors: the rakshasa Councillor Kelatz; Crane, a monk of the adama; and Casma, serving as the representative of the Church of Lathander.

The Grand Rajah is a shrewd man. Before he is willing to forge any agreements with Aethel Dekhor, he wants the party to help him with the growing problem of the powerful crime syndicates in his city.

He reveals to the party that an object has recently fallen from the heavens and is in possession of the Church of Lathander at the Radiant Spire. He wants the party to coordinate with Gorimar, First Sword of Lathander, in laying a trap for the Children of Mercy and any other thieving gangs that may try to steal the fallen artifact.

After the dinner, Resh has an uncomfortable reunion with Casma, but she gives no indication that she knows who he is.

Meanwhile, Nishri reveals to Garret that the artifact is the Shield of the Hidden Lord, its angelic guardian having been set upon by misfortune. Garret resolves to build a team of mercenaries to get the shield back in order to return to Gargauth’s good graces.

To be added…

The party is given a walkthrough of the Radiant Spire by Gorimar, now First Sword of Lathander. The upjumped armsman despised Resh and was a close confidante of Fjath, who caught Resh standing over Kastolat’s body on the night that he was assassinated. Resh holds in his hatred of the man, but only barely.

The Lathanderites have evacuated non-essential personnel and have sealed most of the entrances to the Spire in hopes that they can funnel any enterprising thieves through well-guarded channels. With Gorimar’s blessing, the Harbingers lay additional traps and set up a defense perimeter around the complex’s central spire.

Within the Radiant Spire, the Harbingers set up for their defense of the shield. They are waiting for the thieves to arrive when they hear a scream. One of the guards has been murdered, and it appears that several of the sealed entrances have been unbarred from the inside.

Originally, they think that someone within the Radiant Spire has betrayed its defenses, but then they see shadows moving of their own volition. One of the shadows takes the form of Onna Carrick, who has attuned to the black ring Sygrim. It allows her to project shadowy simulacra of herself from a great distance. She also appears to be bonded to Iridis.

During the fight, it’s revealed that Nishri has been impersonating Garret. The Harbingers destroy one of Onna’s simulacra, but another materializes and taunts them. This enrages Auryn, who reveals herself as the spawn of Sygrim’s prior holder, the ancient black dragon Nyxondra.

In the midst of the fight, Garret’s party causes a detonation in the tower overhead that rips open a hole in space. Auryn attempts to rescue the party, but when she uses a teleportation spell, the infernal energies seeping through the hole interfere with the magic. Half of the party is sucked into the portal, and the rest are left, badly injured, on the Prime Material Plane.

(Continued in the Keepers’ 1st Anniversary episode.)

After the destruction of the Radiant Spire, Silaqui, Resh, Auryn, and Khymerus awaken in a sterile white room beneath what remains of the temple complex. Their chamber is magically sealed, and was previously used to contain a powerful solar. Auryn cannot transform and Resh is unconscious.

To the two conscious Harbingers’ shock, individuals wearing Cloister sigils arrive and take Resh away, using powerful magic runes in the walls to subdue the captives in the meantime. The three manage to destroy some of the runes keeping the room secure, and escape from the ruins of the Radiant Spire.

At the same time, the other Harbingers have managed to escape Avernus after their rendezvous there with the Keepers. They are joined by Monok, the Mystran barbarian, who has been charged with seeing the dwarf Felgrin resurrected. Having returned to the Prime Material Plane near Old Vaelan, they make their way downriver, stopping in the village of Tearfall.

Disaster has struck in the small village. Most of its inhabitants have been transformed into mindless Far Realm monstrosities, while the few who are still human are mounting a desperate escape. After the Harbingers help the villagers flee their home, they learn that a man named Auseus Grey came to Tearfall and that he corrupted the people there.

Upon returning to Vaelan, the Harbingers reunite at the Bouncing Jug. Just moments after they have settled down to share their collective stories, armsmen from the Radiant Spire surround the inn to arrest them.

Asrim admits that he has betrayed Auryn and the Harbingers. Agents of Gorimar came to the inn and threatened him and his livelihood, and he promised to notify them when the Harbingers arrived. The Church provided him with a Wand of Fireballs to hold off the Harbingers, but Kelshar quickly disarms him of the powerful magical weapon.

What follows is a brutal brawl between the Harbingers and a company of Cloister-loyal Lathanderites. During the fight, Gorimar is severely injured and is spirited away by a farflame wielder.

After fending off the attackers, the Harbingers learn that the unthinkable has happened. Gorimar has used the destruction of the Spire to accuse the Grand Rajah of conspiring against the Church of Lathander. A civil war has broken out in the streets, and with the church’s vast army, they appear to be winning.

Taking to the sewers to avoid the clashes in the streets, the party finds that there are signs of Cloister presence everywhere in the old subterranean tunnels. While finding off mutated crocodile hybrids, the party discovers an entrance to a strange necropolis buried below the city.

The Harbingers are alerted to the presence of a fight in the sewers. They rush toward it to find that a Cloister force is fighting with members of the Grand Rajah’s personal guard. After vanquishing the Cloister cultists, they find that the guards are defending Seltarir himself.

When the Lathanderites had him chained and sent to prison, a group of his most loyal guards attacked and stole him away. They were pursued down into the tunnels by members of the Cloister, now brazenly acting out in the open while the Church of Lathander furthers their interests in the city above.

The Grand Rajah shows the party to a safehouse in the sewers, one built by an ancient ancestor who had feared just such a coup.

Now in hiding, the Harbingers and the Grand Rajah feel impotent as the Church of Lathander eliminates resistance in the city above. Seltarir feels that if the Harbingers can find proof that Gorimar is acting on behalf of the Cloister, it will break his power over those in the church who are genuinely faithful.