Machines and Madness

Session 30

The party arrives in Regalport, but they are unable to find Syl’mayeth. Asking around, they discover that someone matching his rather unique description caused a scene at a waterfront bar when he triggered a massive bar brawl, threw an ogre bouncer through a wall, and killed a few members of the Sea Dragons, the most powerful of the pirate fleet in the region. He was “invited” to join the group, and he did so, hoping to use the new position as a tool to find information about the next schema.
The party is approached by the group’s leader, Prince Ryger ir’Wynarn, who offers his aid, and to reunite them with Syl’mayeth, but first he requests a show of ability and loyalty. A small port used by the Sea Dragons, called Waverest, has gone quiet and the ship Ryger sent to investigate, the Blue Drake, has not returned. Ryger will have the party taken to the village, and asks them to locate the Drake’s captain, Nerala Steelflash, and to find out what happened to the port. The party agrees and travels to the village on the Wavewing, one of Prince Ryger’s smaller vessels.
The Sea Dragons are under orders not to get too close in their own ship, so the party is sent ashore in a row boat under the pouring rain. About halfway to Waverest’s harbor, the tiny boat is capsized when the party is attacked by a dragon turtle. Nathanial magically takes to the air, but the rest of the group is plunged into the freezing sea-water, where it quickly becomes apparent that only Tamsin has any real ability to swim. The beast savages those in the water, but Nathanial’s spells finally drive it off and with Tamsin’s help the whole group is able to get onboard the overturned boat and get to shore. With the very real threat of exposure to the frigid water, the party quickly builds a fire on the shore, a short distance away from the dark village. They are greeted cautiously by a guard with strange, nearly translucent skin from the village, who initially asks the party to leave. They insist and are shown to one of the town’s vacant buildings and locked in. They spend a nervous night indoors, but fortunately the heat and shelter help them recover from their aquatic ordeal.
They spend the next day investigating the village, starting with the Blue Drake, which is still moored in the harbor. The ship appears to be abandoned, although there are some signs of struggle on deck. The party’s inspection of the ship is cut short, however, but the sudden arrival of Captain Steelflash herself. She tells the party to leave, saying that Waverest needs her to protect it and that she and her crew have left the Sea Dragons to stay there. She provides little other information, and returns to the temple over looking the village. The party waits a short time and then head to the temple themselves. Along the way, they find something buried a short way off of the path; closer inspection reveals it to be an icon of the Devourer, god of the destructive power of nature, discarded by the temple. They are sent away from the temple, after being informed that they are not of “the faithful”. They are warned to leave the village before nightfall.
Waverest was a fishing village, but on this clear day the party notes that all the villages fishing boats remain ashore, and that the townsfolk themselves seem to avoid the water. In addition, the buildings closer to the water seem to be abandoned, and the townsfolk are affecting some kind of repairs on the other structures. Trilla and Tamsin keep an eye on some of the villagers while the rest of the group inspects a few houses closer to the water. Under one of the houses, Lomé discovers a dead body, curiously dried out; the dead man’s face seems to be gasping for air. In another building they find some evidence of struggle –damage to the walls and floor, and a dark, blood-like stain. Convinced that something bad is going on, the party withdraws from the village as night falls. Tamsin finds a few caves and ledges in the rocks away from the village, but with line-of-sight to it, and the party makes camp.
In the middle of the night however, the party hears a man screaming, and set off for town. Able to Featherfall down from their camp, Nathanial, Lomé, and Trilla get a head-start on the rest of the group, finding a man in the center of town. His skin seems exceptionally dry and cracked, and he is fighting for air. Lomé tries to drag him toward the seawater, but he fights to get away from her. Trilla lends a hand, while Nathanial keeps an eye on the village, convinced that he noticed movement in the shadows. As Trilla and Lomé give their water skins to the strange man, several creatures rush the group from the shadows of the village.
Humanoid in shape, but with rubbery skin and fish-like faces the creatures attack the group, raking with claws and teeth. They prove cagey opponents, and deal some terrible damage when they are able to catch their foes off-guard. The three heroes are able to fend them off until the rest of the group arrives to turn the battle against the fish-men, but more of the creatures erupt from an old well in the center of town, covered over with a wooden platform. The creatures are killed, but so is the strange man, and the party prepares to storm the temple on the rocky hill.

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Session 27

With three Schema now in their control, and substantial resources at their disposal to upgrade their gear, the group decides to return to Karrlakton, where they can rest in the safety of the Or’Krinon estate and reunite with Tamsin. Resting at a coaching inn on their return to Karrlakton (while Quill and Trilla wait outside to protest the owner’s anti-warforged policies), the Lome and Osborn discover that they are being watched by a strange man. Lome confronts him, but he is evasive, and the inn discourages violence. They decide to keep an eye on him, but in the morning he is found murdered in his room –with evidence of torture at the hands of a tall, beautiful woman. The dead man is clearly a follower of the Dragon Below, but the party knows very little about the strange woman. Now convinced that two separate groups are at their heels the group is more cautious as they finish their journey back to Karrlakton.
Returning to Karrlakton, the party learns that Syl’Mayeth has locked himself in his room, and is refusing anyone entry. Worried for him, the party rushes to his room, only to find that his half-dragon blood has fully manifested itself in him; he now sports obvious scales and large red wings. Unable to blend into common society, the draconic elf plans to go to the Lhazaar Principalities ahead of the rest of the group, meeting them in Regalport, the largest city there.
The party rests in Karrlakton for a time, and Trilla uses the time to enchant Lome’s and Osborn’s armor, as well as to craft more potions and scrolls for the party’s use. Nathaniel finds a strange tome in his belongings, and forms a bond with a spirit calling itself Infyrian, who claims to be the soul of a wizard bound into the book after a fatal battle with a malevolent demon.
On the fifth day of rest, the mage and halfling are accosted on the street by a strange, matronly woman, who calls Osborn by name and fusses over him busily. They are swept along to an inn where the woman, Osborn’s adopted mother Ida, and her husband Norman provide them with a great deal of food and beer. Losing track of time, Osbourne makes awkward small talk with his adopted parents while Nathaniel gets very, very drunk. As they finally get ready to leave, Norman presents his son with a letter, and a strange silk mask, found with the boy all those years ago. The letter is from his mother, and mentions a family among the clans of the Talenta Plains. Realizing that they have spent too long reminiscing, the besotted mage and larcenous halfling hurry back towards the Or’Krinon estate.
Meanwhile Trilla, Tamsin, and Lome start to worry that a simple errand has taken far too long, set out with Quill to find their wayward companions. They meet up in the street and return light-heartedly to Malthus’s home, only to find it eerily quiet. Someone has breached the home’s formidable defenses, and killed several servants and guards. Discovering the library in disarray, the party finds Syl’Mayeth wounded, poisoned, and unconscious under an overturned bookshelf, and a message slashed into a large portrait of the merchant and his daughter: “Half-Elf, we have the old man and girl. We await you under the Great Library.” Once awake, Syl’Mayeth reveals that he found Malthus under attack by a tall, beautiful woman with a rapier. When the elf attacked her he was jumped from behind by a large group of orcs and left for dead.
The party sets off to rescue their benefactor Malthus, and is ambushed along the way by a band of orcs and their skilled half-orc leader. The group easily over-powers the orcs, and continues on their way. In the sewers below the library, they are met by a medusa, Kathar StoneEye, and her lizardman bodyguards. She demands that Lome surrenders “the Orb” to her. Since the party doesn’t know what she is talking about she says that she will instead just take the dragon shaman herself. Battle is joined and while Quill, Lome, and Osborn battle Kathar and her guards, the medusa’s assassin ally strikes at Nathaniel, nearly killing the mage, Trilla, and Tamsin single-handedly. The party is gravely wounded, but they manage to slay the medusa and her guards and injure the strange, snake-like assassin, who flees into the sewers. Bruised but not beaten, the party finds Jennica and her injured father and takes them to the surface.
Just as the last of the group climbs up from the sewers, a shadowy figure steps in to view, hissing to his unseen comrades “Looks like they’re wounded boys. This’ll be easy.”

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Session 29

The bishop is as surprised as the party to learn of Soriel’s fate, explaining that the trap was supposed to visit “the Flame’s justice” on the vampire. He promises to perform a more powerful ritual to find the captured artificer, and the party is left to wait while the clerics of the temple prepare.
Quill, meanwhile, has a crisis of purpose. He sees the effect of Trilla’s emotional bond to Soriel, and realizes that he has never felt that kind of connection. While he ponders his place in the world, the party discusses where they should head next, given their new information, but they ultimately decide to continue on to the Principalities as they had planned. They are soon summoned to the ritual at the cathedral, which goes terribly wrong.
Somehow the spell is turned back on itself, and the bishop is consumed within a living Blasphemy spell and several undead shadows are unleashed on the initiates helping with the spell. The living spell is a terrible opponent, but it is ultimately destroyed by the party. The bishop is freed; but only two of the initiates survive the shadow attack. The weakened bishop explains that the ritual could only have been stopped by the power of a god, but he did get a clear image of “a black tower, stabbing out of frozen seas like a blade”. Trilla clings to the hope that the black rock of the tower might be the volcanic obsidian common to the northern islands of the Principalities, and that their travels might take the party closer to the captured Soriel.
The two initiates regain consciousness, but it is clear that both were driven mad by the ordeal –one of them is killed when he attacks his paladin guards, and the other has to be restrained when he starts carving a strange design into his own skin –the pattern resembles a dragonmark, but does not match any of the twelve marks.
The party rests a few more days and books passage on an airship to Regalport, the largest settlement of the Lhazaar Principalities, hoping to reunite with their duskblade ally.

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Session 28

The party is ambushed by Hussarl’s minions as they emerge from the sewers with Jennica and Malthus. Their attackers include several cultists, a few dolgaunts, and a strange dwarf with a vestigial twin and psionic abilities. It is a tough fight, but the party is able to overcome their aberrant foes and keep Malthus and Jennica safe. They return to Malthus’s estate and keep a more careful watch.
Syl’mayeth sets off for the Principalities as soon as he recovers from his poisoned wounds, and Nathanial performs a scrying to locate Soriel’s body, recalling that it was recovered from the battlefield in the Mournlands by a large, draconic shape. The party is shocked to see that the Artificer is alive, human, and trapped in some kind of prison. It quickly becomes apparent that Soriel was actually human after touching the trapped schema, and when Osborne stabbed him through the heart. Trilla barely resists the urge to kill the halfling and seeks to lose herself in her work. The party remains at Malthus’s estate for a few more days and then Nathanial teleports the group to Thaliost, hoping to gain more information from the bishop regarding the spells he helped Trilla work into the schema.

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Session 26

Finding the catacombs a war zone between the Emerald Claw and the Cult of Vol, the party makes their own way through, fending of members of both factions before confronting the temple’s strongest guardian: a Cadaver Collector –a gruesome spiked golem that harvests bodies (living or dead) for the temple. The presiding cleric of the temple is grateful to the party for clearing out the Emerald Claw aggressors, and offers the party the Schema they seek, if they can defeat the golem. In a close call, the party defeats the golem and claims the schema, learning that in addition to the design for Lady Sylvia’s twisted machine, each Schema also holds a different pattern, revealed by the full light of the moon Barrakus. With the cleric’s blessing, the party leaves the temple and finds a relatively safe inn, within the ongoing carnivale of Atur.

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Session 25

Tamsin is still unconscious from her ordeal, but with reports of Emerald Claw activity in Atur, the party is unable to rest for long. Syl’Mayeth stays with the injured ranger, and the rest set out, determined to find the reason for the unrest in Atur, and suspecting it to be linked to another Schema. In the City of Night, the party investigates the Crimson Monastery, and is intrigued to learn that although the Emerald Claw has attacked the catacombs of the temple and the monastery has been locked down, no real effort is being made to recover it. The senior clergy was coincidentally out of the temple when the attack occurred, and they are seemingly disinterested in the events there. Aided again by the Night Swords, the party meets up with a small contingent of their operatives who are observing the monastery, and learn that the main force of the Emerald Claw has been locked in the temple’s catacombs, along with the remainder of the priesthood, leaving the cultists above in disarray.
The party is attacked and it is revealed the unit of Night Swords has been infiltrated by the Emerald Claw, when one of the Claw’s assassins kills the commanding officer of the Swords, and more Claw soldiers attack their hideout. The party defeats the ambush, although one of the soldiers escapes into the night. Fearing that he might bring reinforcements, the party opts to move quickly into the monastery, and finds a map in the commander’s papers, showing the easiest way into the temple compound. The party climbs the wall and fights their way through the cultists and temple guardians to the catacombs entrance.

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Session 24

Fort Kaius was built near Karrlakton on the Cyran border, so it now looms dangerously close to the dead grey mists of the Mournlands. When the party travels there, they find that Soriel has laid many traps for them, and left minions to weaken them before they can confront him under the fort. In each of three towers of the fortress the party is forced to pay a terrible price to gain a portion of the key to the lower chamber: in the first, Trilla gives of her blood, leaving her pale and weak; in the next Syl’Mayeth sacrifices his magic, leaving him drained of power. The last tower promises to demand the highest toll: your life itself. Without a thought, Quill steps forward to sacrifice himself, but the group will not allow him to. As Osbourne and Trilla bar his approach to the sacrificial throne, Lomé bolts past him and settles it for herself. In a display of fell magic, Lome’s soul is wrenched from her body, leaving a lifeless husk behind. Quill stays to protect Lome’s remains, while the rest of the party heads on to confront Soriel.
The vampire’s trail stretches under the border into the Mournlands, and the party is forced to follow it to an old battlefield where the dead still rest as though newly fallen. Surrounded by the gloom of death and magic, the party springs their trap on Soriel: eager to claim Mordain’s Schema he seizes the enchanted duplicate and is engulfed in a tower of silver fire. His lurking minions –several vampire spawn and a massive Carcass Crab –once free of his mental control go berserk and attack the party, while they grab the unconscious Tamsin and beat a fighting retreat back into the fort. Osbourne, lagging behind the rest of the party, sees Soriel fall free of the silver fire and hit the ground, mortal again, and dying once more. Recognizing that his enemy still stirs, but not that he is no longer an undead creature, the halfling finishes him off. With his dying breath, a repentant Soriel pushes his own Schema into Osbourne’s hand and begs Trilla’s forgiveness. The oblivious but triumphant Halfling runs to catch up with his allies, and Trilla herds him back into the tunnel to Fort Kaius. Looking over her shoulder, Trilla sees a huge, winged figure swoop in and land on the battlefield, unsure what this means, but unable to linger any longer, the young woman flees with her allies.
Lome, freed from Soriel’s magical trap by his death, awakens to find a concerned and agitated Quill standing guard over her. The hulking warforged is relieved to see that she lives and the two hurry to rejoin their comrades. Lome is haunted however, by a vision she experienced from within the void: three women, one young and fair, one wizened and matronly, and the last ancient and twisted, towering over her, discussing a “gift” which they were placing in her care. Unsure what her dream means, Lome is left to ponder the mystery as the party returns to Malthus’s estate to recover.

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Session 23

With the Archbishop’s continuing help and a gift of Flame-Touched Iron, Trilla crafts a replica of the schema, and the bishop enchants it with powerful divine magic. The rest of the iron is used to create a new, more powerful Battlefist for Quill. The party continues into Karrnath and travels to Karrlakton, where they reunite with Malthus Or’Krinon and his daughter Jennica, who offer them sanctuary: Malthus is exceedingly wealthy and an old enemy of the Emerald Claw, so his estate is very well protected and the party should be safe from both physical and magical threats there. As they start their search for Soriel they are contacted by a member of the Night Swords, Karrnath’s intelligence network, who tells them that the Claw has indeed been active in the area –both in Karrlakton and in Atur to the north, where the Crimson Monastery, center of the Cult of Vol, has mysteriously shut its gates. Before long however, they are found by Soriel’s messenger, a dominated slave who provides a cryptic message: “Soriel waits for you at Fort Kaius”.

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Session 22

Trilla blames herself for Tamsin’s capture and begins to take more of the emotion-dulling Sannish, but she also hatches a plan to fight Soriel: since the route to Karrnath travels through Thrane, she hopes to obtain help from the Church of the Silver Flame to craft a false Schema that will cause severe damage to Soriel when he claims it. The party books travel to Karrnath via the Lightning Rail, and sets out, traveling for almost a week, which Trilla spends in a drugged stupor. They are forced to stop in Thaliost, a major city in Thrane, across Scion’s Sound from the Karrnathi fortress-city of Rekkenmark –the White Arch Bridge, a monumental achievement of the Galifar Empire, was destroyed in the Great War, and with it the Lightning Rail line across the Sound.
Since they are forced to stop in the Thranish city, they head to the Silver Cathedral of Thaliost and try to gain the Silver Flame’s help against Soriel. To Osse’s surprise, he is recognized by the Archbishop of Thaliost, a young man of great power and compassion. The bishop recalls Osse’s capture by the church, and offers him a chance to make amends: the Demon that held Osse’s soul and body was bound within a diamond prison, but its evil began to pollute even that place. The bishop asks for their help in exchange for his, and they go to cleanse the diamond, now held in a deserted village to the north that was razed in the war. The signs of the demon’s blight are apparent as the draw near the diamond, now clouded and black, and a ritual from the Church’s paladins allows the party to enter the prison. There they do battle with Osse’s tormentor- a powerful Shadow Demon named Grizzailir. The demon is defeated, and the party finds themselves standing in the ruined temple with a massive, crystal-clear diamond and Osse in a comatose state.
With the Bishop’s help back in Thaliost, they are able to revive Osse, and now free from the demon’s power, but also cut off from the source of his warlock magic, he is able to regain the wizard’s powers he held before the demon claimed him, and the Bishop offers him a choice: he can forget the pain and anguish of the demon’s hold on him –the murder of his family, the centuries imprisoned in the demon’s clutches, and the pain of his guilt –but he would also forget his current life –his friends and his quest for the schema- or he can remember it all vividly, as if he were living it again. Choosing to remember, he is wracked by the guilt of what he’s done, and spends some time coming to grips with himself. Trilla also chooses to remember, and with the help of the Flame, breaks her addiction to Sannish.

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Session 21

The idyllic scene at the Tower’s Gate is shattered when the inn is attacked by thuggish brutes –apparently under the influence of a psychosis inducing drug called Devilweed. As the party defeats the thugs, it slowly dawns on them that one of their number is not present: Tamsin never left her room. Moving in to investigate the party is thrown back by a fiery explosion when her room is engulfed in mystic fire. Following clues found on the now-dead thugs, the party is able to find the ones who sent them: operatives of the Emerald Claw operating from a small estate near Morgrave University.
They storm the estate and kill the Emerald Claw agents inside, only to find Soriel waiting for them at the top of the tower, with an unconscious, but living, Tamsin. Protected by a powerful magic barrier, the vampire taunts the party and demands Mordain’s schema. When they do not produce it he says he will be waiting for them in Karrlakton, and warns them to hurry. He then assumes gaseous form and flies off into the night with Tamsin. Defeated, the party returns to the Tower’s Gate to lick their wounds and plan their next move.

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