West Marches

The Riddle of the Sphinx's Ghost, Part I (910 xp)

We’re all chilling in the Ram when the baron’s steward storms in and demands everyone patrol for the growing orc threat. Amazingly, no one decides to wear the man’s entrails for garters given the terrible weather outside. Jasper points out that he’s technically a visiting noble, but then the steward reminds him that the baron has money. At that point, the steward asks the party to head down towards the Wasteland to surveil the coming orc horde.

We are offered our usual rate, plus pre-warmed clothes when we get back. We are also told that starting out in the morning after it stops raining is acceptable. Tranquility is using the hat of disguise to appear human. Ehlonna introduces herself to Jasper over the possibility of a game of whist.

The next morning, it’s still drizzly and miserable. We have a couple of days of soggy travelling. In the early hours of the third morning, Jasper and Ehlonna hear something/one (possibly large) heading towards the camp from three directions. Ehlonna’s excellent darkvision shows her an orc crashing through the underbrush, so she attempts to blast it, then draws her sword and hides. A second orc comes out and throws a javelin at Jasper. Ziya turns into a dire wolf and bites it. Then an ogre comes crashing through the woods from the third direction.

We kill all but one orc, who Jasper ties to a tree before breakfast. This orc is from the Short Tooth tribe, which has been driven towards the “better hunting” in the human lands due to a “dragon.” After we get our information, Ehlonna kills him.

A couple of days later, a sphinx ghost shows up and asks us a riddle.

What is half a dragon, but has not a wyrmling’s strength?
What is half a canine, but has not a mongrel’s length?
What is it that is of two halves, but has half to stand on?

The answer was kobold. The sphinx’s ghost, Ujasett, tells us where his lair is and says we can have all his treasure if we avenge his murder by the kobolds that have taken it over. It is a bit further in the wastelands.

On our way to the specified location, we happen upon a wyvern enjoying a meal. It takes exception to our presence and tries to eat us. The spellslingers drive it off, but Ehlonna decides to kill it instead.

Close to the sphinx’s cave, we decide to camp for the night. Kobolds decide to drop rocks on us. They almost kill Motte, and Jasper loses it. We drive them off, then set up a new camp a bit further away. We manage to get some rest in before heading to the cave, which turns out to be sentient-made.

In the entrance, we find a kobold hiding under some blankets. He had little nubby unformed wings, while the ones who attacked us before had actual wings. Jallask the kobold says that his Black Spear tribe are the fiercest kobolds in the land, and their Opal (a caster, we presume) took down the sphinx. We decide to keep him with us; we don’t want to leave him at our backs, but he’s too pathetic to kill. We start heading into the cave, which Jasper determines to be an old dwarven steading. He sees runes that say, “Fill the furrows of our gods and enter.”

We decided to enter after Ziya webbed up the kobold hole (he was a giant spider at the time). We continued on through the dwarven tunnels past illusory floors and locked door. After bashing the last door in (for an hour or so), we found the rest of the completely unsurprised kobolds and their dire weasel companions. The weasels did not help them.

Treasure

  • 2220 copper
  • 100 gold
  • Bag of holding
  • 2 healing potions
  • 5lbs of cloves
  • 10lbs of flour
  • 3lbs of cinnamon
  • mason’s tools
  • dice set
  • 2 shovels
  • crowbar
  • 3 hunting traps
  • breastplate
  • 2 water buckets
  • 2 pots

Party Roster

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Stuck in Avernus! The Riddle of the Sphinx's Ghost, Part II (1333 xp)

Lark and Kirk return to town to find that the rest of the party had been dispatched to the front. They set off to rejoin them. They find what they think is the party’s trail, headed in exactly the wrong direction to reach the palisade they were supposed to be heading to. They follow the trail and find Motte in a cave taking care of the horses and offering them Jaspar’s expensive tea.

While exploring the cave looking for the party, Lark falls into a hole where she and Kirk (who climbed down after her) start to deal with a gelatinous cube when it engulfs Kirk.

In the meantime, the rest of the party has caught their breath and searches for the source of a shriek they heard recently. Eventually, the two groups meet up (Kirk covered in slime).

Jaspar opens a secret door that Ziya managed to spot after the rest. A ruby light washes over the group, and when the spots clear, we are somewhere else entirely: specifically, a stone room we’ve never seen before filled with humanoid guards. Ziya recognizes their heraldry as belonging to Tiamat the Dragon Queen.

After the guards take us to a holding room to “wait for the Master,” Ehlonna gets antsy and starts attacking guards in the hallway. The group manages to take out the guards in the hallway and in a guard barracks, but it was a hard fight. We managed to eke out a rest in a dusty storage closet, then jumped an officer and one of his flunkies. We kept the veteran alive for questioning this time.

Our captive tells us we are in the compound of the Knights of the Five-Thorned Rose, in Avernus, the first level of hell.

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That Ghost was a Filthy Liar! The Riddle of the Sphinx's Ghost, Part III (958 xp)

The party decides that its first priority is finding a place to get a real rest, and its second priority is finding a portal back to the prime material. Jasper wants the group to then try and find magic loot and steal books from the library or something. We are looking for a place to rest in some slightly flooded rooms, when something tentacle-y attacks Quill. It turns out to be a large snake. Jasper convinces the snake to drop Quill (via rapier), and Ziya drags her through the water to the stairs to the next room. At long last, we get a long rest.

The next day, after some exploring, we find a well. The water weird within tries to drown Kirk, but he proves a hard dwarf to drown.

Eventually, we run into some of the priests who live in this complex. Ehlonna tries to convince them that we belong here, seeing as she mooched an officer’s armor earlier, but they fail to fall for the ruse. Fortunately, they do fall to our weapons.

Wandering around, we find ourselves in the library. The guard there figures out we’re not students and sounds the alarm. Fortunately, we manage to take the guards without too much damage to the books.

After looting the library, we find a concealed door that leads to a chimney going up. We make it up the chimney and into the next corridor. We find a pair of spine devils, but the group manages to take them down.

Treasure

  • (6) 50 gp gems
  • (3) carnelians
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We're Still in Avernus

We find a temple to Tiamat.

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Return to the Temple of Dellad
Traps, Traps, All the Traps!

With the aid of the text, Encyclopedia of the Hells, the group decides to head back to the temple to take on the Chain Devil. Some cultists have returned, but the entrance to the Netherese site is undisturbed. The party, Lagran, Lark, Kirk, Ehlonna, and Greyson, made their preparations and broke the seal which released the Chain Devil who is unnamed. An imp tries to assist the devil but is blasted by eldritch force, while Kirk, Greyson, and Lark devastate the Chain Devil. Lagran assists and aids the party leading to a quick defeat of the infernal foes included a summoned devil who failed to provide much assistance.

After Lagran dispelled the ward, the party treks into the Netherese structure without incident until Kirk finds a trap on staircase leading down. A rope secures the route for the rest of the party, but Kirk aches from the fall. While Kirk recovers, Lagran sets off a glyph of warding which gives almost everyone a shock.

The room holds a walkway toward a four armed oracle or goddess with a pearl in her forehead. Kirk licked the statue…and the statue responded. The party played around with some silver and the statue, but they were unable to solve the puzzle. On the upside, they know where a lot of silver is!

Ehlonna found a tight hallway to another part of the complex hidden by an illusion (and considering how long ago people seemed to be down here, that is some major mojo.) A lever opens some portcullis, and while Lark finds a pressure plate, the party gets by without incident. That is until the next trap, when a walkway leading down to a tower has an energy beam that fires at the party. Ehlonna abuses the trap in the course of finally disabling it after the party made it to the tower.

Where was this tower, you might ask. In a cave that goes at least a mile light by towers and part of the cavern closed off by a seventy foot high wall. It was gorgeous, with a crystal clear waterfall.

The party descended to the cavern floor and found some burial slabs and a barrow mound. Turns out the dead were restless and the party had to quickly dispatch some form of corporeal undead, perhaps a wight or ghoul or some such. The party also examined the statue of the beaked goddess and her altar.

XP: 1750 (Total to date: 10459)
Treasure:
250 GP Gems (x4) – fracture spelled crystals
Chain Devil chains and various weapons (6)
2000 SP at the burial slabs
Embalming and funeral goods 25 GP (x10)

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The Court of Masks (1000 xp)

The party finishes a rest as Riverthorn shows up in a puff of illogic.

The caverns are mostly natural, but have had torch sconces and the occasional carving added where they’d look nice. Eventually we spot a large fancy building decorated with blue-white mage lights. We go through the gate. Inside the fancy building, we see a couple of armed guys standing guard. We head towards those guys to talk, but a masked male figure in a faded linen toga appears in an archway. When we get close enough, we see that they are not, in fact, alive.

The masked man bows and speaks in a language we do not know. Lagran thinks, however, that he is greeting travellers. He beckons us to follow him and waves us towards a table of porcelain masks, saying that everyone in the Court of Masks must wear one. They’re non-magical, so we agree. Walking around, we see that someone has been painstakingly reassembling and painting the dead plants so that they still look like gardens.

We come across a ball. Courtly dances, that sort of thing. The court seems to be arranged around a woman with a really sparkly platinum necklace. She asks Lagran why we are here. Lagran says she seeks knowledge, and the woman says she seeks weapons.

Eventually, the Contessa offers us hospitality, and we are taken to a nice suite of rooms with a broken mirror. Kirk and Lark decide to sneak out and check out the rest of the palace. Lagran is supposed to meet a marquis at eight bells.

The marquis is not a fan of the Contessa. He’s also not a fan of Lagran once she starts asking him about their being dead. He eventually asks for a quantity of mushrooms from a mushroom forest. Apparently they fuck up undead?

While Lagran is griping about court politics and some sort of contagion, Riverthorn checks out a bunch of stuff that Ehlonna has been picking up here and there, identifying a couple of decent swords, a pretty figurine, and some pendants that appear to just glow with magic.

In the morning, Lagran wants to go to a shadowy place to get information. We’re allowed out of the Contessa’s compound with no problems. We end up in a town square-ish area. There’s a small shrine in an alcove. Lark sees a child hiding in there. There are raven motifs all over the place. We meet a large raven who shifts into a humanoid form with a raven’s head, Anzu. He is the guardian of the shrine.

There’s also another guy, Carsis formerly a priest of Dellab, who can speak Elven. Apparently memories fade over time. Lagran asks him to tell her his story so that she can bring it to the wider world. There was an artificer involved? The undead here cannot pass into true death, but they have to be “reforged” to come back, and they’re weaker afterwards. There’s a judge somewhere, who owns a soulforge.

It might be possible for us to be infected with undeath while we’re here?

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Shadow's Rest (1000 xp)

When last we left the group, we were underneath the temple of Dellad. We decide that breaking the curse on these people would be a good thing to do, and possibly lead to loot and/or blood for Ehlonna’s blade, so we decided to head to the monastery/monkery for more info.

Carsis agrees to show us to the monks. He takes us to a large circular chamber with a bunch of undead(ish) monks in worshipful contemplation of a statue. Tarsus greets Father Green and introduces us. Father Green appears to worship the Raven Queen. Lagran asks him about the soulforge; Green says that we should not ask of such things and not have any dealings with it. He does acknowledge that the corruption keeping them vertical is connected to the soulforge; using the objects created by the forge(s) cursed these people to their undeaths.

Carsus says that when the people here die (the conflict between the Warlord and the Overlord is violent), the soulforge makes them new bodies. The corruption stems from the forge. The original was destroyed, and the mad Artificer recreated it. The Arbiter seized it after learning of the new forge’s existence. The Warlord and the Overlord have both demanded it, but the Arbiter has not decided what to do with it yet.

The Father asks us to handle some predators that have been picking off villagers around the edges of Shadow’s Rest. He believes their nest is to the west. (So is the mushroom forest.) The “corpse takers” are ravenous humanoid beasts. We think they might be ghouls.

The west is somewhat soggy, but we find a fortress with three towers and a ziggurat surrounded by crypts. The water seems clear and full of minerals, with a slightly off taste. Ehlonna spots a giant crab (so far as she can see, not undead) in the distance.

Ehlonna disarms a trap and Kirk finds a distillery. Grayson lifts Riverthorn (who he’d been giving a piggy-back ride to) to a second floor balcony, where she’s immediately nabbed by a ghoul. A fight against ghouls and ghasts ensues. We think the ghast’s great sword is one of the soul-forged weapons, so we agree not to use it.

The ghouls were speaking a form of modern Common.

Treasure:

  • 1000 gp in jewelry (2 bracelets, bronze crown, silver pendant – 250 gp each)
  • Black 2-handed sword +1 that does extra d8 necrotic damage
  • Potion of serious healing
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Following the Wind
Temic's an Orc.

Temic has had visions. He also wants to stop being an orc. He has been granted a vision by his god (or at least Dave) that he thinks will enable him to destroy the Sphere of Gruumsh. He was granted a symbol in a dream. Aela half-recognizes the symbol as belonging to a temple far to the west that even the Netherese considered ancient.

During the middle watch, while Lark and Ehlonna were keeping an eye out, they see two orcs carrying a chest of some sort towards the camp. Ehlonna wakes everyone. One of the orcs pulls out a grubby white scrap and says “Parley.” The taller of the orcs is against Goremaul (who’s gathering the orcs under his banner). He wants to buy the sphere. Temic agrees with him about Goremaul, but refuses to sell the sphere. The orc tells Temic to use the sphere to defeat Goremaul. Temic tells him to get bent. A fight ensues. We win.

Weeks later, we find the ruins of a city carved into a cliff. The door has been battered down with a makeshift ram. Inside is a temple to the primordial gods. Once Ehlonna touched the inner doors, constructs just inside the outer doors spring to life. We dispatch the trio of constructs, then turn our attention back to the door. Experimentation tells us that touching the sphere to the inner doors will open them.

Dramatis Personae

Treasure

  • 2000 gp worth of stuff in a chest
  • +1 great axe
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Following the Wind, Part 2
Temic's still an orc. This annoys him.

So we’re about to open the doors into the rest of the temple. We head down a giant-sized hallway until we find a titan-sized chair to one side of a dais. The dais may have been where supplicants stood to talk to the guy in the chair. We think the orcs had gone through this room ahead of us. There is a large door behind the chair. On the altar, there is a map written in Primordial and translation written in a combination of common and Orcish. There’s an inner sanctum, an orrery, a library, a magic room, a life room, an unknown room, and a heart room.

An orc comes squeezing through one of the doors, sees us, yells Orcish profanity, starts yelling at us, then runs off. His yelling cuts off abruptly. Temic charged after the guy.

Temic finds the orcs. They are well-equipped. There’s Goremaul (a warleader with a fantasy cybernetic arm), two shamans (these three are mounted), a couple of automatons, an ogre, and more orcs. Goremaul appears to be controlling the automatons. He yells at his minions to grab “the god stone.”

Goremaul, the shamans, and most of the orcs got away, although we took out the ogre, some of the orcs, and all of the constructs. We rested for a bit, while Temic tries to figure out the door. Kirk says it does not taste like stone (it actually tastes like the astral plane). We set to using crowbars and other equipment to force the door.

We get another weird lurching feeling from passing through the door, and end up in another circular room. We’re on a clear platform in the middle of a bunch of rotating spheres. This must be the Orrery. It is actually an orrery showing how the various planes relate to the Prime Material. The walls are made of the same astral crystal as the door, but one side of the room is cracked and has a blacker-than-black abomination oozing through. Mending does not fix one of the cracks. The Black is not particularly attracted to Ehlonna.

We go through another door and end up in a room dominated by a massive tree covered in masses of vines and giant pods with creatures growing inside. Some of the blackness from the orrery has infected this room, too; some of the vines are dead and the creatures in some of the pods have been twisted. We see a bear-sized pod that has a dragon-like thing growing inside. That particular pod is still pure, but the rot is heading towards it.

Kaimi climbed the tree and tried to cut into one of the pure pods, but the tree (or the vines/shambling mound inhabiting it) attacked. Aela damages one with an insult, but it responds by hitting her twice and swallowing her. Temic also gets swallowed, but blows himself back out of it with a Thunderwave. Kirk gets eaten twice. Lark shish-kebabs the moving treevines. One of them tries climbing towards Kaimi’s pod, but Temic summons a gale that knocks it out of the tree. We eventually manage to kill all the mobile vine clumps.

Now that the baddies have been defeated, we continue to head towards the Heart, as the whole edifice shakes.

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Following the Wind, Part 3 (2800 xp)
Temic's still an orc for the Fight of the Week!

We heal as much as we are able, and head to the question mark room on the map. There’s a maelstrom of pure energy bound by chains of order in the middle of the room. We can see into the Heart Room, which contains a titan that is chained to the floor in a most agonizing fashion.

“Have you come to kill me?” it asks.

Temic asks the Storm Lord, and he says yes. Temic pulls his magic spear and hurls it at the titan’s heart. Some of the smaller chains whip around and block the blow. The major chains, which are large enough to walk on, are attached to four not-quite-stone pillars around the room.

While we’re heading to the titan, the orcs burst into the room. A massive fight ensues, but we slay Goremaul, his cleric & warlock, and a bunch of mooks. Temic uses the spear of Gruumsh (formerly referred to as a sphere) to slay the titan, to its appreciation.

We are all teleported back to the beginning room. Temic is no longer an orc. Everyone is blessed by the gods.

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