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Van
A Dramatic finish
When last we left our intrepid heroes, we had just defeated the group sent by Leska to retrieve the torch. The surviving members of that party were Katrina, who had seen the light during the battle, and Shalosha, who, as the daughter of Lord Shaaladel, could be valuable to our cause.

As the last of our foes fell before us, the final apparition was Drakus Coaltongue bringing down the devil's femur upon Trilla’s jaw as Syana bathed him in fire--the genesis of the Torch. As the vision faded, a diamond-like sliver remained where Trilla's image had been moments earlier.

Van got what information he could out of Katrina, who seemed to have dropped the seductress angle and now was merely a scared girl. She told us that Ragesia was holding her brother hostage, and she had given them information in exchange for his safety.

Karuna examined the glowing gem, without picking it up.

When Shalosha woke up, we interrogated her, instigating much discussion about her value to the party and why she was dealing with Ragesia. Shalosha claims she was secretly working against Ragesia on her father’s orders.

Merrick thinks it’s too dangerous to keep her alive. Everyone else wants to keep her alive for leverage with Shahalesti. Also if she’s telling the truth, she can help us kill Leska and could be a valuable ally. There’s no reason she has to answer for her father’s crime... though she will have to face judgment for her own actions.

Bored with the proceedings, or possibly divinely inspired, Lumi picked up the glowing gem. The man we saw the image of in the mirrors, presumably Forty-One, appeared. “So, you found what you are looking for. It’s amusing that you don’t know what to do with it.” And his arms turned into claws and he lunged at us. After a short exchange of blows, during which the man changed his form to resemble Drakus Coaltongue and then Khadral, the dragonborn, Van blasted him with a bolt of force and he vanished.

We continued on into a room with a giant, mirrored ceiling and walls covered in murals depicting horrible battles and massacres--moments of true evil from history. One of the walls, suspiciously non-threatening, depicts a white cliff with a doorway flanked by dragon statues.

A shrine, roof and all, sat in the center of the room. In the shrine there were many pedestals displaying unfurled scrolls (which are later revealed to be ruminations on the nature of evil).

Forty-One, significantly older than we had seen him appearing moments before, looked surprised to see us from his perch atop the shrine, shouting a warning as we approached him. Karuna was compelled to attack his allies while the rest rushed in to engage the corrupted monk--if that is truly what he was--in combat.

The old man's appearance shifted to look like Lumi, and then Karuna. It was difficult to tell them apart. Merrick accidentally blasted Karuna, knocking him unconscious.

Merrick's healing magic restores the party and helps Van up onto the roof of the shrine so he can join in the fray. Attacking the shapechanger was risky, as he gained the attacks of the people he duplicated. After he took on Van's form, the tiefling stepped back and conjured a hellish rain of molten lead, restraining their enemy and allowing Merrick to finish him off.

With some experimentation the gem shard incorporated itself into the torch, re-activating it (though likely not to its full potency). Before we used it to teleport away from the Temple of Echoed Souls, another vision loomed before us:

The doorway in the white cliff appeared before us. The image changed to Drakus Coaltongue atop his throne, looking down at Leska (some years previous), prostrated before her master. "Emperor, my quest is complete, the secret is ours. I found Immortality, my lord. The Aquiline Heart."
Session: Game Session - Wednesday, Nov 07 2012 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Van
Here you go
We chased the figure we thought was Rhuarc, crossed a river and his trail led to a house on a hill. Heading up the hill we saw him running away. What a surprise.

Riding smelly, Merrick and Lumi try to cut him off. Lumi attacks only to realize it is a duplicate and the real Rhuarc shoots her from the balcony and destroys the bridge they're on.

Everyone charges into the house trying to reach Rhuarc. Merrick flies in the top window and finds himself trapped in a cage of force with a demon. The others make their way up the stairs as quickly as they can.

The seconds tick by. The party cries out for Rhuarc to slow down and talk, but he isn't having any of it.

Rhuarc vanishes into thin air, but Karuna is unimpressed. He pleads for Rhuarc to listen. Rhuarc replies that he has vowed to protect the torch with his life.

Van is chagrined. "Surely one man can't protect the torch as well as six," he bellows. "Leska seeks the torch and we can't allow it to fall into her hands; If necessary, we will destroy you to keep it safe." Rhuarc refuses to listen to reason. The party tries to defeat him but momentarily he flees again.

Everyone goes out the window.

Then, Rhuarc jumps off a cliff.

Lumi jumps after him and grabs him. They crash to the ground. Lumi is knocked unconscious, but surprisingly, Rhuarc makes sure she isn't dying. He seems impressed by her dedication.

As the others make their way down, Shirazade asks him what he wants to do with it, and he explains that he simply wants to keep it hidden.

He doesn't think we're good enough to protect it, but after some discussion, Merrick vows to return it to him once their noble purpose is complete. He seems to trust the halfling's pledge and hands over the torch.

Rhuarc admits that he is in possession of the soul of Drakus Coaltongue. After some bargaining, and a heartfelt explanation of his lost lover's plight, Rhuarc agrees to give the soul to Van, on the condition that he brings Zofia before him sometime in the future.

Rhuarc departs and the party rests. Van disenchants his old Stone of Flame (now in Lumi's possession, after being carried by Alain) and turns it into an amulet that will protect the wearer (and, importantly, his possessions) from scrying. Merrick gets the amulet and holds onto the torch.

Then the party headed to the Temple of Echoed Souls, where Rhuarc reportedly separated Trilla's soul from the torch (thereby deactivating it). We hope that her soul might still linger in the temple, allowing us to fix the torch.

As we ascended the stairs to the temple, bells began to toll loudly, announcing our presence for miles around. Karuna knocks, and he and Lumi open the large doors. The bells stop tolling.

As we enter, facing a large mirror, glowing circles appear beneath us on the floor, and a brown-skinned man in crimson robes appears in the mirror. He warns: "The one called Forty-one controls the temple now, and will destroy you if you enter."
Session: Game Session - Wednesday, Oct 03 2012 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Van
Dead Wood
Resting in the forest proved difficult. Even the sounds of our footsteps and the light of our torch seemed dampened by the eerie surroundings.

As we followed the river, we spotted a procession of glowing ghostly elves. Shirazade and Lumi stepped forward and called out to them. At the sound of their voices, the spirits broke off and passed through bodies of the two heroes, striking them to their very souls.

Asteron spoke in a whisper. "The genocide has scarred the forest on a spiritual level. It's as if the forest itself craves vengeance on the Shahalesti." Karuna shuffled awkwardly and suggested we return to the river's edge, with Merrick's fervent agreement.

Asteron was surprised by a bird-like entity that rose up out of the dead leaves and flew off. "What was that?" No one else saw it.

We came to the mouth of a black cave, from which poured the river's waters. Karuna climbed a rise to get a look around, and spotted a clearing; within the clearing, a group of arrow-riddled corpses drew his attention. We decided to go investigate. "If I die, I'm going to be upset," Merrick quipped.

We cast ghost walk, and the stealthier members of the group snuck around through the woods while the more heavily-armored ones lumbered toward the clearing.

Asteron's hesitance proved warranted as Karuna and Van spotted three Shahalesti snipers hiding in the trees. Karuna lead the attack, catching the archers unaware. A barrage of stones and spells sent our enemies reeling, but they responded in kind. Another handful of soldiers, who had been well hidden in the trees, rushed out to join the fray.

The fight was short and brutal. Our mettle, especially Merrick's spells, proved stronger. The Eladrin captain ordered his men to retreat, vanishing into the underbrush, but Van had taken care to knock a couple of them unconscious.

The soldiers gradually woke. "Tell us everything we want to know." Van glared.

Karuna stepped in. "What are your orders?" "The shining lord Shaladel has sent us here to scour the area while our batallion sets up to the south of here." They were reportedly looking for the torch.

When the soldiers wouldn't divulge any more, Shirazade murdered them in a rage.

Karuna spotted a strange fairy ring--a circle of mushrooms, weeping blood. As Van looks forward to investigate, he notices his flail begins to drip with blood as well. "Strange..."

Shirazade looked up from the bloody scene of carnage she had wrought. She calls to the spirits of the wood: "This is just the beginning of our vengeance!"

We returned to the caliginous cave. Entering its dark mouth, we found ourselves in a subterranean complex. Merrick wanted to continue to follow the river. Karuna wanted to explore deeper into the caves. Shirazade wanted to head North, in the direction the Eladrin search party had been travelling. Van suggested they use a ritual to decide.

As we explored deeper into the cave, Shirazade's keen senses picked up a strange feeling, and we gradually became aware that the cave was somehow linked to--no, tainted by--the shadowfell. Creepy red eyes peered at us from the gloom and then vanished; disconcerted, we hurried on.

Paranoid, perhaps justifiably, Merrick caught Karuna when he made a strange choice of words, and said he was "drawn" to the south somehow. Weighing in, Van suggested we continue up the river and see if Karuna's compulsion became more pronounced.

It did. In addition, Asteron, Lumi and Shirazade were being drawn to the North. Discussion was being made while Merrick walked a short distance into the woods ahead of us. The halfling came back in a fury, having seen what appeared to be Karuna's naked corpse abandoned in the woods, and accused Karuna of being a doppelganger. When we looked, everyone saw something different: a corpse; writhing snakes; a pile of dead leaves.

Shirazade cast corpse light, and the whole forest was wreathed in green flame, signifying that the forest itself was undead. Van's mind was blown, but Asteron was unsurprised.

Karuna felt filled with hatred as they move further from his chosen destination. The forest didn't want him to be there.

We decided to camp for a while. In the middle of the night, Asteron was awoken by his watcher ritual. Soon after, we could hear wolf-like howls from the forest, and a posse of strange elves, translucent and glowing blue, clad in wolf-skins surrounded us.
Session: Game Session - Wednesday, Sep 05 2012 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Van
Foliage Foilage
While discussing our next course of action, Lumi suggests swinging by Gate Pass to pick up the Living Blade. “Surely a weapon that can kill Trilliths would be good to have.”

Shirazade implores the party to visit the Ycengled forest at once, to see if they might encounter the spirits of her kin. Van responds by suggesting the Taryavar River, which, according to superstition, carries the souls of cursed elves.

Lumi chimes in again. “If we continue on this path, we may find Trilla, and there might be Trilliths around. Gate Pass is on the way to Ycengled.”

Van realizes, with some hesitation, “Er, We might have to kill Reogar to take it from him.” He explains the circumstances under which Reogar earned the Living Blade, which is tied to the forest of Inennotdar and the lives of the Seela.

“Wait, if we took the Living Blade, I’d have to bond with it? And then I’d be responsible for a whole race of people? Maybe we should just get this Reogar guy to come along with us. I think it’s worth having around. I feel strongly about this.”

We prepare a sending ritual.

“What tidings, Reogar? Our patchwork crew suffers greatly when facing Trilliths. Need Living Blade if possible. Want to join us?”

“Sorry, can’t leave, busy. Fighting to free Gate Pass.”

We visit Simeon before setting out on our journey. Katrina, the flirty fire mage, is there, and brings news from Gate Pass.

“General Ashok Danava has taken Gate Pass. Some of the noble, heroic citizens of Gate Pass have gone underground and have been striking the Ragesian forces, disrupting supplies, assassinating leaders, and basically making it very hard for the Ragesian army to maintain any sort of peace, as well as stopping them from striking east into Shahalesti--that is, if that is truly what they intend to do.

“It’s a little strange. Leska devoted an entire army to the city of Gate Pass.”

"Do you have any theories on why that is?" someone asked.

Katrina shook her head. “It could be for symbolic reasons; after all, it’s the only city Coaltongue took, and then subsequently lost.”

Simeon seems heartened that our party made a decision, once again in search of the Torch. Lumi pulls out her Lens of Discernment and gazes at Katrina. Nothing special.

Katrina says tell Rantle “His big sister is worried about him.” If we get to Gate Pass, we agree to pass on her sentiment.

We take our leave.

As soon as we are far from earshot, Van gets the group’s attention. “I don’t trust Katrina. On many occasions she knew about events that we had not shared with anyone. I’ve spared her an interrogation because I have no evidence that she is spying for the enemy, and I may just be paranoid. I tell you this because if we somehow encounter agents of Ragesia within the forests of Ycengled, it will indicate to me that she has betrayed us.”

Before we leave, the minotaur Asteron wishes to consult the oracle. He vanishes in a flash and finds himself in a chamber with three cloaked figures. “I am Asteron, priest of Kord. I come to you for simple answers to deep questions.”
“Where is the Torch of the Burning Sky located?” he asks. “We cannot tell you.”
“Why not?” - “It is blocked from divination.”
“Does Rhuarc have Coaltongue’s soul?” - “We cannot tell you.”
“How do we repair the Torch of the Burning Sky?”
“The soul of the Dragon must be reborn and reattached. Look to the echo of the soul.”
There is a flash, and Asteron returns. “The Torch and Rhuarc are well guarded.”

“Maybe he’s in a place that’s not like other places.” blurts Lumi.

“The Soul of the Dragon... Probably Syana, who was killed” suggests Van.

“What if it refers to Drakus Coaltongue?” says Karuna.

“The echo of the soul... Bel’s prophets said that Syana weeps the echo of Primordial souls,” Shirazade offers. “Perhaps we need to restore Syana to fix the torch.”

We summon eagles and fly toward the Nallanthes river. Flying along, we find a cave entrance. We follow the river deep through the earth and come out on the other side. Determined to press on, we follow the river. Subterranean beasts fall to our spells without consequence. After a day of travel we reach the edge of the forest.

The trees are gnarled and twisted. The few leaves remaining on the trees are withered, and shadows grow deeper than they should be at midsummer. No rustling of leaves or bird calls comes from the woods. Instead, the scraping jangle of chains, strung around the ashen trunks, a monument to the Teranesti murdered by Shaladel. Shirazade looks grim.

Inside the forest it is quiet, dark, and snowing. Our light is dampened by the strange magic that pervades the area. Merrick casts a ritual to warm us up, and then Asteron leads the way through the disconcerting silence. Suddenly, a child darts into view and then disappears just as quickly. Following a giggle, Lumi paces forward, sword drawn. She sees a large black obelisk, and near it stands the strange child, staring at the group. Lumi alerts the party. “Do you see this?”

As we advance toward the obelisk, the child darts off into the forest again. Covered in moss and ravaged by time, it is a waypoint that lists directions and distances to nearby elven cities. Although he left no tracks, we try to follow the child, stepping into a clearing.

There is a deafening clamor. Walking tree trunks come shambling out of the woods. Mighty branches clutch at the air. As they clambor towards us, chained to the rotting bark of one of the trees we see the dessicated corpse of a doomed elf.

Shirazade calls out a warning to the group. Van creates a mystical shield of blades. Karuna charges one of the creatures--undead treants--but the awkwardness of its shambling throws him off. Lumi lashes out and tries to sever the chain holding the corpse. One of the trees opens its terrible maw, groaning, summoning a trio of saplings. They burst from the ground and charge in, battering Shirazade.

Van steps forward and lashes them with a chain of his own. Merrick blasts one of the saplings with a lightning bolt, which explodes into splinters. Another sapling holds down Shirazade for further punishment, but she stands fast and unleashes a divine rebuke upon two of the treants, courtesy of the Raven Queen. Karuna delivers a powerful sweep kick which snaps a branch off one treant and nearly severs a sapling in two. Asteron charges another treant. Lumi focuses her martial ability and attacks the chain tree, but her blade is deflected by the ancient, rock-hard bark. The elder treant retaliates with a crippling blow which knocks the wind out of Lumi. A number of saplings burst out of the ground, grabbing at Karuna, and but he deftly avoids them.

Van shouts a warning to Asteron, who steps out of the way as the tiefling summons a dark rain that pours down. Merrick unleashes an elemental storm. Shirazade creates three holy beacons shimmering amongst the black rain, searing the murky treants, which are instantly disintegrated. Karuna is knocked down by a sapling, but he snaps it in half with a focused kick. Lumi’s blows are repeatedly turned aside by the chain treant. Its giant roots burst from the ground and pull her to the ground, pinning her as it viciously batters her with its oaken limbs. The knight is injured, but Shirazade blesses her, calling on the divine potency of her blood. Asteron charges across the battlefield and engages another foe, who summons more saplings.

Van swings his terrible scourge at another treant. Merrick blasts the elder treant with a powerful lightning blast that knocks it off its roots! Shirazade’s eyes blaze with silver fire as she gazes at a treant, which writhes and collapses under her radiant glare. Her divine corona expands, engulfing another tree. Karuna kips up and moves to dispatch another lesser treant, which buckles under his assault. Lumi struggles to her feet and flails against the monstrous oak that has restrained her; her sword erupts with mystical flame and her powerful strike connects. Asteron destroys another sapling. The giant treant continues its assault on Lumi, and Karuna’s quarry retaliates with a necrotic surge.

Van moves to flank the elder treant but his spell is deflected. Merrick calls more lightning. Shirazade manifests the blood spirits of her murdered kin. The trees are not affected but Asteron, honored by the hallowed energy, is emboldened. He brands his foe with a rune of destruction, calling down lightning. Karuna channels his ki energy into a firey burst, scorching the monsters, and is attacked in return.

Van cannot penetrate the chain treant’s bark, but Merrick’s lightning finds its mark. Shirazade emits searing beams of light, vaporizing the tree that towers over Karuna, allowing him to shift his focus to the ancient oak. Lumi slashes again with her flaming blade, and the giant tree shudders, chains ringing. Asteron splits more firewood, sending a sapling flying. The giant tree flails wildly, slamming into Lumi and Karuna and sapping their life force. It steps away and Lumi steps in, striking it with a backhand swing.

Van’s black flail drags the elder treant back into the fray as Merrick launches himself and Asteron through the air with a gust of air. Shirazade blasts the thing with a column of holy fire. Karuna misses. Lumi hacks it again powerfully. Asteron curses as he swings and misses at the retreating monster.

Van steps back and destroys the ancient treant with an eldritch bolt. The battle is over.

“The poor child,“ says Lumi. “We should bury her.” The group agrees. Van wonders what could animate the trees in such a foul place. Karuna suggests it’s just vengeful spirits.

The party decides to rest in the forest, but the dark energy saps their will. They will carry on, wary of what terrors might befall them as they continue deeper into the woods.
Session: Game Session - Wednesday, Aug 29 2012 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Tags: Ycengled
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Van
From the Oracles of Bel
The bright shadow returns to its homeland, and the sky may
burn for its last time.
[Bright shadow = scimitar of Rhuarc]

Five rivers flow, one black, down to sunless seas. Between
lives she sees shades chained, warring against the shining
one. Golden wings, like branches in winter, shelter them
against a thousand scouring eyes.
[Five rivers = land of the Taranesti; Scouring eyes = army of Beholders?

Bells toll at the gate, and winter grips like a wolf as the fire
bleeds from the world. Ursine skulls lead armies against
earth, wind, fire, and water.
[Gate Pass?; War & Inquisitors?]

The devil of the east wind, his mask only a smile, hides a
thunder child in a prison upon a tomb.
[Devil of the east wind = Pilus; thunder child = Yan C Bin?]

Serpents writhe in an eight-armed stone, and soldiers shall
feast upon the rubble of madness.

The earnest lie deceives, and his grandmother weeps
echoes of souls primordial, but the golden ship carries the
word to safe shelter.
[Deception's grandmother = Syana; golden ship = golden sleigh inside Korstull?]

O wintry song of agony, o longwalking betrayer, as balance
shatters like waves against the shore, your vengeful wing
guides the motes of the burning sky, strong by search and
guile, to seek annihilation at the Heart of History.
[Flamebringer Dragon?; We're "motes of the burning sky"?; Annihilation = Trillith?; Heart of History = bottomless pit in which time is as measurable as length]

Deep beneath the gate of summer’s sound where lies
sleeping the Mother of Dreams, her nightmares roam
unbound. Freedom holds her chains.
[Mother of Dreams = Trilla; her nightmares = Trillith; Freedom is another Trillith?]

The nightmares rise, the tempest stares with ire, the eternal
heart falters, and death or life is borne by fire.
[Nightmares = Trillith?; Tempest = Pilus?; Eternal heart = heart of stormchaser eagle?]
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