Three for the Twelve

Of Routes and Directions

Given your collective knowledge of Breland’s geography, and from information gleaned from COL Anwar at Shadowlock Keep, you know that Sharn is roughly 5000 miles away as the crow flies. There are a few routes to the city, each with seeming advantages and disadvantages. The direct land route would take you through part of the Skyraker Forest, a very dense and largely wild subtropical wood, then southeast through the Tilorn Expanse, a massive, untamed prairie long reputed to be haunted. After passing through the Expanse – about 100 miles of it – you’d arrive at Moonwatch, a medium town on the western edge of the hilt of the Dagger River. Moonwatch was partially destroyed by the wave, although not nearly as extensively as Sharn.

Another route would be to skirt the eastern slopes of the Graywall Mountains (the ones that separate Droaam from Breland) and go through part of the Skyraker Forest, heading directly east into Galethspyre, which is on the west bank of the Dagger River, almost opposite Wroat, Breland’s capitol. One would think that water transport could be found from there to Sharn. There are also extensive land routes, including the lightning rail line, from Wroat south to Sharn. Word is that the northern portion of the Dagger River – near Galethspyre and Wroat – was largely spared from damage from the wave; it seemed to dissipate quickly north of the City of Towers. Word is also that the eastern banks of the Dagger, north of Sharn, are clogged with refugees and stranded caravans.

There are no reliable ports along the southwestern Brelish coast from Shadowlock (which is actually miles inalnd) and the mouth of the Dagger River — the coast is too rough in most places to support any built-up port facilities. Pirates and smugglers probably have their coves throughout the area, but nothing formal.

Washed Away
and made new

After learning of the team’s war exploits – covered, of course, with fake names and different unit designations – the border fort’s commander, COL Anwar, invited the five to stay a night or two at the fort. During this time he and his intelligence officer sat for hours of interviews and conversation about the specifics of what they saw in Droaam, and shared what little they knew of what had happened in Sharn. The best they knew was that about a week ago a massive wave appeared at the mouth of the Dagger River, from the southwest, and slammed into the city, hitting the outer towers first around the docks. The wave was as high as the middle wards and washed between and around towers, quickly filling the basin between the five main sections of the city and swamping all the lower wards – all of them. Many towers filled completely or in part with water; a few of the older ones collapsed in part or full; and it took a day before the water started to recede from within the city. Then the next wave hit, and drove the water level up to the lower levels of them middle city, driving what refugees from the docks and lower city upward in a violent frenzy, spreading chaos.

The city is still draining, apparently, either out from between the towers, out of damaged or porous areas of the lower towers, or possibly through the Depths or Cogs. The death toll is not known at this point, although it must, by logic, be in the tens of thousands. The city is in a state of almost total upheaval right now – there is open fighting in and around some towers of the middle and upper wards, as people seek higher ground and seeming security. The city authorities have lost control over Sharn as a whole, and control only a few areas, where they’ve been able to concentrate personnel. Fragmented reports are coming out about who and what survived, how the Houses are fairing, the various churches, and other interests within the city. Morgrave University, it seems, survived intact, and is holding out against refugees who would flood its halls, museums, and gardens. Cannith Tower stands, and Baron Merix d’Cannith is reported to be putting his best people to work in the service of the city.

Travel in and out of Sharn has been completely disrupted. All the dock facilities – including the massive cranes – have apparently been destroyed. The lightning rail station, and some of the track immediately outside the city, are also apparently a total loss. Sky galleons are being used to rush in supplies and people, and bring the same out. The overland routes from the north and northeast are largely intact, or so it seems through the rumor mill. There are also, so it’s been said, ships in the Dagger River assisting, now that the river water level has gone down; however, the area around the Hilt of the Dagger was also laid waste, in some cases for many miles inland. The city took the brunt of the wave, but there is much more to the destruction than just Sharn – although it’s getting all the press.

King Boranel has set up a command center in Skyway, in order to personally oversee and coordinate the rescue and recovery efforts underway. Although his personality and abilities account for much, the efforts are highly disorganized and already there are accusations of inept handling of the crisis by the city and national authorities. Everyone seems to have an armchair expert perspective on why it happened, why it’s so bad, and who’s to blame.

COL Anwar, considering his duties, is only able to make space for the team for a day or two, and then they’ll have to move on…where?

The Room of Your Doom
Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

You’ve opened the double doors, which are about 6 feet wide each. The 1 foot wide channel of filthy water, running from the pond where the elemental was, bisects the room, running about 40 feet directly into a 10’ diameter pool, which itself is next to a raised throne (the pond is partially between you and the throne). The room is dimly lit. The pond is ringed by kneeling figures – you can’t tell if they’re statues, people, moving, or fixed in place. Shadows dance along the walls and ceiling, which is about 25’ high, and arched. The room is about 10 feet wide on each side of the channel, with the right side of the room slightly wider than the left.

On the left side of the room, near the pond, are two openings that lead…somewhere. They are each only about 3’ wide, and are both dark.

The throne is on the right side of the room, with the pond directly in front of it. The cyclops has to turn about 45 degrees to its left to look directly at you, if it’s sitting in the throne facing the water. It’s like this: if the pond is a clock face, the throne is off the 5. The doors through which you came are directly off the 9; and the openings on the left-side wall are off the 11 and 1. You’re about 50 feet from the cyclops, which is looking directly at you and waving its hands around in a somewhat spastic ‘wax on; wax off’ motion. It’s also, for lack of a better term to describe the sound, chortling at you. Its single red eye glows in the dim room, providing the most powerful source of light, in addition to a few flaming brassieres along the walls.

Disjointed Images in Time & Space the Prophecy unfolds...

A tempest roars at sea. Waves lash a series of islands, arranged around a central bay. One is utterly swamped, its surface washed clean by the water, leaving an alien landscape behind, dotted with the wreckage of what once was.

A red orb sits on a distant, cloud-heavy horizon. A sun? Setting? Rising? Uncertain.

A giant stands along a rocky shore, his massive feet mired in mud and filth. He reaches into the sky. His head is shrouded in the clouds…similar clouds to those on the horizon in another image, from another time and place.

The giant sways as his legs weaken. His feet shift as he tries to keep his knees from buckling.

The red orb winks in and out as clouds pass before it. The sea begins to churn as the horizon itself darkens, storm clouds concentrating.

From a great distance away, the islands, orb, and giant are visible, all distant from one another. The viewpoint shifts as its location comes into view itself: another land, this one made of vast mountain ranges and seemingly endless tracts of wildlands. A massive building looms, empty and deserted. A light glows from within.

Into Vordekai's Tomb
or, 'Meet the Big Dead Guy'

Clever tactics and seamless teamwork enabled the four to defeat the massive zombies, despite that fact that they proved to be more intelligent than one might assume from that sort of undead. Upon re-entering the banquet hall turned charnel house, they discovered that one of the victims was still alive, apparently spared by the luck of being at the end of the row, and by the fortuitous timing of the arrival of the four.

Fane, an elven wizard associated with Morgrave University, was on an archaeological expedition in Droaam, searching for artifacts of some sort, when he was caught up in the powerful magic that compelled all those present in Sharaat Kol to drop what they were doing and walk to the present location, underground, in order to act as meals – and possibly something else – for the undead here. Although his memory was fragmented by the physical and mental trauma, he did remember being relieved of his possessions and then being led into the hall, where the horrific feast began. Other villagers were taken elsewhere.

Deciding to recuperate before pressing deeper into the complex, the team retreated to the rough entry hall a level above, and spent a night…seemingly under the watchful eye of a powerful scrying spell from within the complex.

The next day saw them going deeper, finding a strange white crystalline room with a single eye mounted in the ceiling, and in the room beyond it an angry water elemental that attacked from within a stinking, sulfurous pond. Despite the elemental’s might, the team was able to defeat it, and on the tails of the always-impulsive Foen, pressed on through a pair of ornate bronze doors, into what seemed a central hall. At the end of the hall, sitting on a throne of ancient bones, sat the giant lich, Vordekai, the source of the scry, power behind the compulsion of the villagers to their doom, and leader of the many undead still lurking throughout the complex.

Upon coming face to face with the ancient monster, Fane’s memory returned in full: this was why he’d come to Droaam, in search of cyclopean ruins that might hold pieces of the Draconic Prophecy, carried away from Zen-Drik so many thousands of years ago when the giants fell. Legends abounded of a small population of cyclopes that made this area their home after they fled the shattered continent, likely taking with them information and artifacts that could unlock some of the secrets lost for millennia. Among this population one name stood out in the most esoteric histories, known to researchers who knew where to look, and how to decode the ancient scripts: Vordekai, possibly a wizard or sorcerer, and overlord of the cyclopes for many years until his overthrow by Dhakaani hobgoblins. The best histories indicated that he had been defeated, and along with some of his followers imprisoned in a secret location. Imprisoned, it was now clear; destroyed…not quite.

Arko!, although not privy to the ancient knowledge of which Fane was an expert, also reacted to the sight of the lich, feeling more than any other member of the party the waves of necromantic energy surrounding and flowing from the massive creature. This being had been a master of arcane power in life; and now in undeath, could well be almost invulnerable. This was going to be a fight like nothing any of the men had ever fought, one they could easily lose. All their skill, teamwork, and experience might mean nothing without healthy doses of luck and discretion.

Mysteries within Droaam
a village lost? something worse than the hags?

Flet returned, somehow, and not too much worse for the wear, aside from his inexplicable inability to transform himself. Making their way out of the sheltered canyon, the team proceeded quickly to the east, following the rough coastline as closely as possible along rolling, sometimes rough hills. By mid-day they had made maybe 10 miles of progress, when they encountered an undead cyclops, armed with a large battleax, and soaking wet. A short fight later and the horror was defeated, and it was decided that a short investigation en route was in order. What followed was the discovery of a secluded lake, in which there was a large island. The lake, it was clear, had recently been up to 15 feet deeper, and some rough changes in the land of late had opened stream that enabled a goodly amount of water to flow out. Possibly the tsunami’s work?

Footprints were found. Some large, individual, heading out of the water; and one large group of humanoid, both shod and bare, headed in. The team followed, wading across the 4’ deep lake, and explored the perimeter of the island, finding two entrances into the massive rocky heaps that made up its interior. Choosing the higher of the two, they entered and proceeded down inside a tunnel, roughly hewn from the rock.

Through a secret door was found…a tar pit? Guarded or at least occupied by some kind of undead spellcaster, who attacked the party with fire, acid, and other means. Defeated, the monster’s corpse was lost to the bubbling tar.

Through another door and passage, and up sets of stairs, the team proceeded into a large chamber – seemingly a banquet hall – that included a massive, long table, seats for 30 or more, a loft/gallery along the opposite wall, and carved pillars. And what was clear were the remains of many of the villagers, of all races, their brains devoured directly out of their skulls from where they sat in the over-sized chairs…devoured, it was obvious, by the four undead cyclops, rudely interrupted by the team, and eager for….more brains…

'Round the fire
...pouring one out for our homie

Pour one out

The trio sat in the courtyard of an abandoned temple in a secluded canyon under the stars. Together they quietly rested around a fire with a fine bottle of Brelish rum that was found in the cellar of the small keep, each brother taking a turn to throw back a drink as they relayed a story they remembered of Flet.

Foen remembered with a rueful laugh when Flet transformed himself into a waitress that Foen had fancied for some time, and had finally gotten up the gumption to ask out. The shy barbarian had waited around until she got off work, and approached her as she left for home – maybe not the best way to ask someone out, but for a guy from the Shadow Marches, it seemed pretty smooth. Flet/Bar Girl feigned interest and, in an uncharacteristically husky voice for the girl, invited Foen into a nearby alley for a ‘frolic.’ Needless to say, the barbarian was less than amused when the changeling appeared a moment before Foen revealed “…a real Shadow Marches python” to her. Foen had to admit now, however, that it was pretty funny.

Mishka had little to share aside from the one time he caught Flet alone in a room, looking into a full-length mirror, apparently practicing ‘speed shifting,’ as the changeling later called it when questioned. He was striking poses, changing his face & hair & clothes, and trying out new voices, none of which sounded very convincing. Mishka couldn’t decide whether it was a strange joke – some kind of screwy changeling humor – or for real. They all shared a laugh when he mimicked Flet repeatedly asking “…how much for the wagon?” in a variety of obviously fake voices.

It was Arko!, however, who had the hardest time sharing and reminiscing. For all his years of service with Flet during the war, he couldn’t remember any specific stories about the changeling and him together. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t help but drifting back to the same old storyline of crowds of adoring fans, always cheered on by some well-informed stranger. How could they have spent so many years together and shared so little? Arko! just couldn’t understand.

Dead is/n't Dead is not heresy, and I will not recant...

“Your four are likely to fall soon,” chortled the copper. He seemed to delight when things fell apart, so much a cynic was he. Within the orery were several dragons, all watching a massive shimmering sphere floating in the center of the vast chamber. Within the sphere, an image of a pitched battle between a group of spriggans and four friends. Although the four had done considerable damage, the numbers against them, and lack of immediate means of escape, were beginning to take their toll.

“Perhaps there were errors in interpretation or reading. Possibly in judgment,” muttered the copper, leaving the last word to linger in the air. A cynic, indeed.

Orsha’ra’ak could bear the copper’s taunts no longer. “Refer again to the 5th of the Morgal Tracts, lines 47 through 51 in particular. The wave, the destruction from the sea –‘the Devourer lashes at the clouds’ – it clearly fits what we have beheld. And consider the connection between these and the 72nd line of the 15th Tract,” the cloud dragon stated as she conjured another, smaller sphere near the one in which the srcy was visible. The cloud dragon let the last remark hang in the air, as if to be slowly digested by those present.

A seemingly disparate collection of images of carvings, terrain features, dragonmarks, and script appeared. When taken together, the lot shared a striking similarity: the lines, curves, and symbols of the most ancient draconic script, the language suggested by the marks, and in which was written the Prophecy.

“It is too clear to ignore. There is no more explicit line in all the Prophecy – none have discovered or deciphered anything more clear. It is almost blunt in what it states.” Orsha’ra’ak traced a foggy line in the air, connecting the pieces in his image together to highlight the 72nd line, and in so doing had backed the cantankerous copper into a corner.

It was the copper, years ago, who had first deciphered the stanza that included the shockingly explicit line. It was the copper whose reputation had, in part, grown significantly after he demonstrated the depth of his skill and knowledge in successfully deciphering this complex series of connections.

A pause, and a grunt from beneath was all the others needed to know the copper’s mind; he would not back away from his own accomplishment. The cloud dragon’s connection between what was happening before them and that single line was also impossible to dispute, as it was obviously a result of the copper’s reasoning and interpretation model – the protocol that had made him so revered.

A mighty silver’s eyes met those of Orsha’ra’ak and they shared a momentary glance. The silver disappeared in a muted flash.

Half a world away, the battle raged. Mishka held his own against the spriggans, and did his best to hold back the bleeding from his abdomen. If he was to fall, he would do so in the service of his brothers. Still, it seemed unreal that he was so close to death, here in Droaam. His vision blurred and mouth became dry as he swung again, and tried to think clearly enough to position himself so as to prevent the killing blow. So busy was he trying to survive that he did no notice the large horsefly that appeared suddenly next to him; nor did he notice as it landed on his neck. He stepped to his left, and immediately realized his mistake as the spriggan’s eyes widened with excitement: Mishka had stepped directly into the path of a wide, powerful swing of his halberd. Just as the jagged blade made contact with his armor, he felt a sudden jolt of energy; as it bit through his armor and into his side he felt pain; and as his vision blackened and he felt the sensation of collapsing, he also felt a familiar warmth spread throughout his body. His last thought was that it seemed odd that death felt so much like life.

The fly quickly buzzed away, leaving Mishka in a bloody heap in the dirt. A bloody heap, maybe, and a barely-living one. The words of the 72nd line were now manifest in full. It spiraled over the melee, and headed toward Flet as the leader of the spriggans aimed his powerful crossbow at the changeling. The fly’s eyes glinted silver as it made its way toward the rogue.

The spriggan chieftan moved with unnatural speed, twisting his back and arm with almost serpentine grace. In the trance of battle, he stared blankly as he swung his massive warclub – he would not miss, not this close. The club caught Flet on the right side of the head with a sickening crunch, caving in half his skull and spraying blood, brain, and bone chips in all directions. Without healing magic – significantly powerful healing magic, and now – this wound would be Flet’s last.

The fly buzzed about, ignored by the combatants. No one paid it any attention as it watched the half-orc collapse, and suddenly transform back into its true changeling form.

Fighting continued for a few moments longer, but the spriggan chieftan, fully aware of his surroundings it seemed, recognized that although he had killed one, and his men another, two were still standing. Despite his best efforts he was overcome, and the battle ended in a bitter victory for the team. They had captured the fort, intact. They had access to its sizable stores. The chieftan’s powerful bag of holding was full of the collected loot – magic and mundane – of the town. And Flet was dead, beyond the healing available to the team, stranded in Droaam.

It was Mishka’s idea, within minutes of regaining his consciousness, to use one of the potions of gentle repose on Flet – they had three! – and thus preserve his body. The bag of holding could serve as an easy means to transport him…to Sharn. Overland they would go, swiftly, avoiding all contact possible, to the Breland border, and on from there to Sharn, where virtually anything was available for the right price. Even under the noses of the many dragonmarked operatives there, they would find someone, or some way, to bring back Flet.

By nightfall, they had replaced some of the food from the town with hardier rations taken from the fort, and headed east. The town and its surroundings were still eerily quiet as they departed, as if in an awkward silence, watching them leave. It was important, they decided to start the journey immediately, and put some miles between themselves and the town – every mile, and every hour, counted now.

Some time after midnight, several miles along, they stopped in a defensible position, set out a watch, and collapsed for what rest they could find.

A Plan for Exploration?
...first the town, then the keep...

Here’s the town:

The water is mostly mud flat; the dock facilities and buildings immediately adjacent to them (at the level of the silver-ish ground color) are all destroyed; and the upper part of the town, with the green groundcover, is where you are. The inn that you explored is a reddish color and made up of what looks like three overlapping buildings that roughly form a block “C” almost exactly in the middle of town. I marked it with a red number 1. The house with the writing on the door is immediately south of the red circular thingy, and is marked with a red number 2. The fort, not pictured on the map, is up the road a bit from the red number 3, in the upper left corner.

No ship, no people, Nomen
Droaam is a fine place in spring

The voyage aboard ’Freedom’s Boast’ was largely uneventful during the first days, as they made their way out of Varash Sound. After rounding the Sorrow the ship encountered a massive swell, miles wide, and running generally from the southwest to north east. The Boast rose and fell, shaking some and with a few items falling off shelves and rolling around – unusual, yet nothing dangerous.

The crew was cordial and efficient, and dealt with the scene found at Vralkek well, skirting the shore to ascertain what happened, avoiding wrecked ships, and deciding- food and water supplies be damned – not to land, given the level of destruction and the probably chaos to be found among the survivors. It was a disaster, to be sure – and one among mostly monstrous races. It was a place better to be avoided.

Heading at full sail to the east, doing its best to outrun dwindling food and freshwater stores, the Boast made its way toward the other available – if much less desirable – port of Sharaat Kol, on the southwestern tip of the Graywalls. The town, alongside an inlet and slightly away from the sea, was what passed for a border outpost on the frontier between Breland and Droaam, and reportedly a lawless town by even Droaam’s standards. The frontier, 60 miles of foothills squeezed between dangerous sea cliffs and the southern tip of the massive Graywall Mountains, was disputed by Breland, Droaam, and apparently others who claimed it as home and owed no allegiance to either nation.

The attempt to provision the ship did not go well. The team and some crew members were attacked by some sort of mud men – 12 of them – while making their way across a mudflat toward the cliffs that led up to the town from the ruined docks. Sharaat Kol had clearly been savaged by a massive wave, as well. And it was savaged by another wall of water that almost took the team – only Mishka’s quick thinking and teleportation ability saved them, moving them instantly from the mudflat into the town, where they still ran to the second story of an empty inn to avoid the foot or two of water that again flooded the town.

The empty town. With signs of recent habitation by humanoids, but no humanoid life apparent. Only the world ‘Nomen,’ carved in the high goblin tongue on a house door, offered a clue.


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