Shadows Rising

Journey to the Wild Wood
What a quaint little village...

Before leaving Santa Cora, the group paid a visit to the Priestess, although they were disappointed to discover that she was unavailable. Emlia, the Priestess’ half-sister, greeted them at the main altar, and told the group that she would pass along their greetings to her. She also asked them to keep an eye out for a group of adventurers traveling through the Wild Wood—they had recently spent some time in Santa Cora, and had stirred up a bit of trouble while they had been in town.

Convinced that it was time to head out, the group set out for Springmoor, a village just inside the interior of the Wild Wood. After spending the night near the Wild River, they crossed over and soon became entangled with a Treant, one of the mighty trees of the Wild Wood. The Treant was disturbed by Serine, and after Branan was unable to calm it down, a battle ensued where the Treant was destroyed. Before it died, however, it warned them of a great evil consuming the forest, and wondered who they were really there to help.

Eventually the group came to the village of Springmoor, although they received a less than warm welcome from the local guardsman. After bribing their way in, Branan headed to the main building in the center of the village, where the town Yarl lived. They knocked on the door several times, but receiving no answer, decided to walk in unannounced. Across the room sat Heflin Glowcloud, the Yarl of Springmoor, and friend to Branan.

At first, Heflin completely ignored their arrival. She was intently writing in a book, in a language that no one recognized. Nerryn quietly disappeared and began to inspect the room, while the rest of them peppered Heflin with questions. Eventually, Marduke and Serine recognized that she was under some enchantment, and began to break her free of the spell. Once free, she told the group that a great evil had crept from the ruins of Proudfort, and had begun to infect the Wild Wood.

Quite suddenly, Heflin’s head turned up, as if responding to an invisible voice. Quietly getting up, she went in a room behind her and closed the door. After repeated failed attempts to open the door, Heflin came out, sat at the desk, and began to write on a new parchment in the same strange language (she had to begin writing on a new parchment because Serine had taken the one that she had been working on when they came into the room).

Sensing that it was no longer safe to remain in Springmoor, the group decided to take their chances and make for The Clearing as quickly as possible. After putting some distance between themselves and the town, they decided to camp on the road for the evening.

Marduke and Serine took the first watch, and spent most of their time working on translating the symbols in the book they had taken from Heflin in Springmoor. As Alatir and Branan took the second watch, they heard a low level growling coming from beyond the path. Suddenly, they saw that Nibil was being dragged into the forest, and before they could even respond, he reappeared in the mouth of a dire wolf.

A fierce battle ensued, with many more dire wolf appearing and a few playful pixies who were attracted to the commotion. Eventually the battle came to an end, and the group settled down in order to focus on the journey ahead.

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An Act of Penance
Teenagers are so annoying...

Quickly, the group began to make their way up to the top floor of the catacombs. Just before they reached the main floor, Xylia convinced them that it would be a good idea to remove the arm bands that they had received from the paladins prior to descending into the deeper levels of the catacombs—perhaps, she thought, they might come in handy later.

They quickly came to regret their decision to remove their armbands. Upon entering the main entrance hall of the catacombs, they were immediately placed under arrest, their wrists bound by a powerful magic. Allela, a powerful priestess, accused them of grave desecration and for being the cause of the unholy disruptions in the catacombs. Immediately they blamed Grunt, although Allela told them that they were all responsible for each other. Remulus attempted to cast a spell, but the magical bonds around his wrists prevented him from casting it, and its effects immediately rebounded upon him.

They were led to a small dungeon area located in the main barracks just outside the entrance to the catacombs. Remulus, Grunt, and Alleon were placed into one cell together, and Ennet and Xylia were placed in an adjacent one. Grunt attempted to pick the lock, but a powerful spell prevented him from doing so (it also administered a slight shock, no doubt a magical deterrent built into the locking mechanism.) Alleon tried to teleport out of the cell, although he too was unable to leave the cell, and he was punished in the same way that Grunt was.

Realizing that there was no way to break out of the cell, Remulus and Grunt decided to lay down and take naps. From the neighboring cell, Xylia implored Remulus to use his connection with Emlia to get them out of prison. Out of frustration, Alleon attempted to throw Remulus across the room, although he was also magically prevented from doing this (and punished accordingly.)

Growing even more agitated, Alleon attempted to bribe the guard, but bolts of electricity shot out from the walls and shocked him. Eventually the guards came to fetch them, and they were escorted into a large room where Allela was waiting for them.

Allela told the group that the act of grave robbing cannot go unpunished, even if they helped to restore order in the catacombs. She also expressed her suspicion at Remulus, because of his apparent friendship with Crulamin prior to his arrival at Santa Cora. Alleon attempted to threaten Allela with the specter of war, given his position in the Elf Queen’s government. However, Allela informed Alleon that she had already spoken with ministers of the Elf Queen’s government, and that they approved of any action that she was planning on taking against him.

After a brief explanation of the events that initially brought the group together, Allela told them of their fate. They were to accompany a young minor named Norman Carter and to make sure that he arrived there safe and sound. To make sure that they completed their task, and didn’t corrupt the child, she sent one of her most trusted paladins, Exeter, along with them. As she told them this, they could hear the approaching sound of screaming coming down the hallway…

In preparation for their trip, all of their items were returned to them and they were given rations for the journey to Myrken. As they approached the gate of Santa Cora, Norman began to wail uncontrollably—Remulus attempted to calm him down, but Norman kicked him in the knee. Somehow they all knew that this was going to be an incredibly long and painful journey.

After walking for some hours, the group found a clearing in order to spend the night. Norman complained bitterly about being hungry, and Remulus offered him some of his rations—Norman, however, spit the rations back into Remulus’ face. Grunt and Ennet slipped away in order to find firewood and set traps for food.

After getting the fire started, Norman began to demand a soft bed to sleep on. Ennet and Grunt began to fashion a makeshift bed for him, and Remulus successfully performed a ritual of calming and peace, which had the effect of reducing some of Norman’s complaining.

After everyone had eaten dinner, Norman demanded a bed time story. Each of them took turns telling a part of the story, and when they got to the end, just as Norman was falling asleep, Remulus told such a terrifying conclusion that Norman became terrified. It took Remulus, Alleon, and Grunt two more hours to calm Norman down again—eventually, though, he fell asleep.

Eventually the morning came, and after having eaten breakfast, the group began to pack up in order to continue on the journey to Myrken. Suddenly, Xylia heard a noise off in the bushes—when she went to inspect it, she drew the attention of several dire bears, which began to menacingly approach the group.

They all drew their weapons, and probably a couple of them hoped that Norman would mysteriously disappear during the fight…

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An Old Friend
Why does that name sound so familiar?

As the group entered the deepest level of the catacombs, an intense darkness bore down upon them. Xylia was able to provide the faintest flicker of light, but it hardly reached beyond her outstretched hand. The central path, like the floors above, had numerous other branches to the left and the right, but it eventually ended in a large, rectangular room. As they approached the threshold of the large room ahead, the group caught a glimpse of a specter hovering in silence, dressed in a black, flowing robe.

As Ennet moved into the room, the specter greeted them, saying, “You should not have come here.” Suddenly, completely out of the blue, Remulus began to accuse the specter of being the entity that corrupted the town of Badger. The specter responded to Remulus, implying that he was definitely aware of what transpired there. Xylia demanded to know if the specter had a role in the corruption of the catacombs, and he said, “I’ve played my part.”

As the conversation progressed, Xylia noticed the urn that Crulamin had been carrying sitting on a small table behind the specter. She shot ray of frost at the urn, but her spell ran up against an invisible barrier, dissipating into the air around the urn. In a stroke of genius, Ennet began to speak with the specter in dark elvish, and to her surprise, the specter became much more talkative. Ennet asked the specter who it served, and the specter responded by telling her that it was a servant of Zelil. She also asked for the urn back (as their friend Crulamin had been carrying it before he disappeared on their way to the catacombs), but the specter told her that the urn was his.

At this point, Xylia began to see through the deception—she cried out in anger, realizing that the specter was Crulamin himself! Sensing that Crulamin’s power was beyond their ability to defeat him, they began to back out of the main room and into the central path. As they turned to head up the stairway, back to the upper levels of the catacombs, Crulamin moved to block their path. He told them that he would allow them to leave, but that he would go along with them, and that it would most certainly not be a pleasant experience.

They raised their weapons to fight him, but he vanished, along with the urns. Suddenly, the torches in the central path were relit, and the oppressive evil they had felt when they first came down to this level vanished. Not sure what to do next, they decided to make their way back to the main entrance of the catacombs.

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The Flesh Golem, Part II
When we said we wanted a piece of him...

The flesh golem seemed unbeatable—no matter how hard they hit him, he always managed to swing back harder, and somehow found ways to mend his mangled flesh throughout the fight. As the battle progressed, Xylia was knocked out cold—with her comrades unable to take time away from the fight to heal her, she began to drift into darkness.

But before breathing her last, she was thrust back into the midst of battle, although she noticed that her skin had turned green and scaly, and that she was completely unable to move. The not being able to move wasn’t so bad—as a sorcerer, she wasn’t one for close, personal combat. The green scales, though, that was strange.

As Xylia began to survey the field of battle, she noticed that Grunt was lying on the floor, barely breathing. As she looked at him, it seemed to her that he was having a vivid dream. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw a shadow emerge from one of the nearby graves and fly into Grunt, but in the heat of the battle, she couldn’t be too sure. Grunt woke up startled, and slowly climbed to his feet.

Eventually the flesh golem was defeated, and in the immediate silence following the battle, the group debated about how to move forward. Grunt, all the sudden, was terrified to remain in the catacombs, and wanted to head back to the surface. Realizing, though, that they couldn’t solve the mystery of this dark infestation if they left, they decided to head down to the deepest depths of the catacombs, unsure of what was waiting for them…

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Journey to the High Druid
Damn spiders!

As the group discussed its next course of action, Nibil revealed that he had peaked inside the crate before handing it over to the Superior’s assistant and saw that it contained the Shield of the Watchful Eye, a mysterious relic often associated with the Crusader.

Concerned at why the Superior Quartus would be interested in such an object, the group headed back to the Great Library to talk with Vance. Vance reassured the group that they could trust Superior Quartus, and told them that he trusted Superior Quartus’ motives as they related to the High Druid.

Before leaving, Branan told Vance about his dream, and Vance responded by saying that there must always be balance. Perplexed, the group headed to Dockside to book passage for the Wild Wood (via Santa Cora).

After booking passage on the Pegasus (Branan secured a lower rate by promising to sing each night), the group encountered a small problem with a few spiders below deck. The spiders had apparently taken offense to Branan’s newly minted armor.

After subduing the spiders, they eventually arrived in Santa Cora, and seeing that it was too late to head to the Wild Wood, decided, at Branan’s urging, to visit the Priestess.

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The Superior's Mission, Part III
Somebody grab Branan!

Standing in front of the entrance to the Tower of Highrock, Serine leaned over and asked possessed Branan how he was doing.

“Other than being a little hot under the collar,” Branan replied, “I seem to have some control over the elemental, but not for long.”

Realizing that they were beginning to attract a crowd, Serine led the group to a private, shielded room at the Imperial Academy of Wizardry, where she had once been a student.

Once safely inside, Marduke suggested that they find a way to contain the elemental as quickly as possible, although Branan argued that he was already an effective container for it. Sensing that Branan was beginning to lose control, Alatir, Nibil, and Nerryn stepped out of the room, while Marduke and Serine furiously worked to properly contain the elemental.

Branan, on the verge of losing control of himself and the elemental, began to try and communicate with it. He asked it what it wanted — it replied with one word: vengeance. Next, Branan asked who it wanted vengeance on, but the elemental merely responded that it would have its vengeance, regardless of whether or not Branan was a willing participant.

Just as Branan lost control, the elemental demanded to be taken to dockside. At the same moment, Marduke and Serine pushed Branan into a containment circle that they had just finished creating. With Branan and the elemental contained, Serine pulled out the tracking amulet she had used back in Forge, and drew the elemental into it. With the elemental momentarily under control, the group headed down to the Heavy Seas in order to receive the package from Rem that the Superior Quartus had originally quested them to do.

Knowing that the amulet could not contain the elemental for very long, Marduke placed it in an enchanted jar. After arriving at the Heavy Seas, Branan wondered aloud as to whether or not it was wise to give the elemental to Rem, as it was clear that the elemental wanted revenge on someone, and Rem seemed a likely candidate.

Once on board the Heavy Seas, the group handed the jarred amulet to Rem, who at first seemed suspicious that it was indeed a fire elemental. Convinced that the amulet was genuine, Rem handed a crate over to the group, and they quickly headed down the gangplank in order to meet up with the Superior Quartus’ assistant at The Whirlpool.

As they stepped onto the dock, though, there was suddenly a minor explosion on the Heavy Seas, and the group could hear Rem shouting orders to the crew to, “take it down — you know what to do!”

Realizing that they couldn’t let the elemental be harmed, the group ran back up the gangplank and engaged Rem and his crew in combat. During the fight, Nibil recognized one of the members of Rem’s crew, Gortek, a goblin mercenary who would do almost anything for the right price. Towards the end of the battle the fire elemental let out a great flash of fire, destroying much of the Heavy Seas and killing many of its crew, including (presumably) Rem and Gortek.

Fleeing the ship, the group picked up the package they had left on the dock and headed to The Whirlpool. Once inside, they met with the Superior’s assistant who quickly took the package and left, without compensating them anything. Alatir voiced his frustration at not having been paid for securing the package, although Serine noted that having done a great deed for Superior Quartus could come in handy later on. Nibil wondered aloud as to whether or not Gortek had died in the explosion, as Nibil knew that Gortek was very crafty and tough to kill.

Ultimately, the group decided to head back to the Black Brick and Hammer to have dinner and spend the night. Upon entering, the innkeeper looked warily up at them, as he was still cleaning up the mess from the gnoll fight that had occurred earlier in the day. Feeling bad, Serine conjured up a cleaning spell to help the process go a bit more quickly. Realizing they all needed a good night sleep, they headed upstairs to bed, although Serine went back to her own apartment for the evening.

The next morning they all gathered downstairs for breakfast, and Branan told them of the disturbing dream he had during the night. He told them that in his dream he saw the High Druid having a conversation with the Superior Quartus, and that in his dream he sensed a growing threat around the High Druid. Being convinced that they should follow up on this dream, they stopped by the various craftsmen who had completed their orders, and made their way to Dockside to book passage to Santa Cora.

Serine quietly wondered to herself whether this vision could be trusted…

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The Flesh Golem, Part I
Seriously, where's that gurgling noise coming from?

The group seemed to be caught a little off guard by the strength of the skeleton warriors—Xylia was quickly surrounded, and both Alleon and Grunt took early damage. Xylia tried over and over again to disengage, and was eventually able to do it, but not before taking several hits. Just as the skeletal warriors seemed overwhelming, they heard the sound of footsteps rushing down the stairs—Ennet suddenly appeared! Surveying the scene, she immediately jumped into help, taking on the powerful skeleton archer that had been harassing the entire group.

Remulus, for most of the battle, had a significant amount of success healing the group, although he did find himself in a sticky situation when he attempted to use his mace to attack one of the skeletal warriors. His feeble attempt missed badly, and the warrior, undaunted, picked him up and threw across the hallway into Alleon! But soon the tide of battle turned in the group’s favor, and Grunt managed to kill the last enemy by having Xylia pick him up and throw him, dagger first, into the skeleton’s chest, pulverizing him on the spot.

After the dust had settled, the group healed what wounds they could (although, strangely enough, Alleon decided to press forward without seeking any medical aid) and headed down the stairs to the sixth level of the catacombs.

The sixth level of the catacombs held tombs from a long ago age—the air was stale and musty, and the path underneath them was made out of compacted dirt. The beams holding the walls and ceiling up were simply cut wooden beams, nothing like the elaborate stone work of the floors above. Xylia activated her dancing lights and led the group down the dimly lit path. As they approached the first intersection, they could hear a low gurgling noise ahead. Curious, Grunt attempted to light an arrow and shoot it out in front of them, although he only managed to lose the bolt and singe his fingers in the process.

As they approached the second intersection, they noticed that the pathway opened up into a larger room. Standing in front of them was a monstrous flesh golem—silent for a moment, Xylia began to quiz the golem about where it was from and who it served. Others in the group asked other questions as well, although the golem only answered in cryptic, vague generalities. Xylia asked the golem if it would be interested in heading up to the light, and it responded by telling her that it was his job to “bring the darkness to the light.”

With that, the golem lashed out at the group, striking Xylia and Alleon with great ferocity. Xylia sustained a significant amount of damage, and Alleon was knocked out completely. Grunt attempted to shoot an arrow at the golem, but he missed badly and struck Xylia, knocking her unconscious as well. Ennet attempted to stabilize Alleon, but all she ended up doing was restoring the life of the flesh golem.

Surveying the scene, those who were still conscious realized the battle was going poorly. Even though Alleon and Xylia were eventually brought back to consciousness, and they finally began to land some hits on the golem, he didn’t see close to being taken down…only time would tell if the group would overcome this powerful foe…

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The Superior's Mission, Part II
The Tower of Highrock

Serine knew this was a bad idea, but before she could prepare the group, Branan walked through the main entrance of the tower, and immediately triggered a trap.

The group was pulled inside the tower and after shaking off a bit of dizziness, they saw that they were in a square room with no windows or doors (strange since they had just come through a door). The walls were lined with furniture, and there were two staircases — one going up, and one going down. After a brief discussion, they decided to head up.

As they entered the next floor up, they found themselves in a room that somehow appeared wider than the floor below. Like the floor below, there were no doors and no windows, and only two staircases — the one they had just come from and a second one heading up to the next floor. They headed up.

The next floor up was a circular room, with four doors heading in different directions. The group noticed that there were no markings on any of the doors, and although the room was lit up, a thick darkness prevented them from seeing anything through the doorways.

Not sure how to proceed, they picked a doorway and walked through it. Nerryn and Serine took the lead, looking for traps and lighting their path. After a little while, they walked through a doorway and realized they were back in the room that they had started in. Marking those two entrances as explored, they picked one of the two remaining doors and walked through.

They walked through darkness for some time, but eventually reached a well lit room of mirrors. Beyond the mirrors was a door — Nerryn suggested checking for traps, but failed in her attempt, causing each of them to gaze into a mirror. Horror after horror began to be revealed to each of them, except for Branan, who found a way to escape the enchantment. Eventually each of them was freed, although Nerryn felt the affects of the mirror for the rest of their time in the tower.

They quickly moved through the door at the end of the room, and found themselves standing in a circular chamber. Along the side of the wall was a staircase heading up — leading the way, Branan walked up the stairs to the next level. Along the walls of this room were many enchantments and spells in ancient languages — there were also numerous, large crystals that seemed to be placed in strategic and intentional places. At the center of the room was a crystal tube, which appeared to contain a fire elemental.

Branan approached the crystal tube and called out to the elemental, but there was no response. Serine, having more experience with elementals than Branan, moved him aside and asked if it had a name — the elemental began to pulsate. They began to ask it yes or no questions, one flash yes, two flashes no.

They asked:

Are you trapped here? – Yes -

Did you choose to be here in this tower? – No -

Do you wish to return to your own plane? – No answer -

If we set you free, will you aid us? – Unclear answer -

Would you offer your services to the High Druid? – Yes -

Are the crystals on the wall key to your captivity? – Yes -

Would breaking the crystals harm you? – No response -

Noticing that the stairs along the wall continued up, they decided to explore the tower a bit more. For two more levels each floor contained ancient writings and crystals on the walls, and the crystal tube remained in the center of the room. Walking up the stairs again, they finally reached the top floor. Here they discovered a magnificent telescope like mechanism that Serine surmised was the way that the Superior’s kept eyes on the vast cities of the Dragon Empire. The mechanisms in this room, though, were quiet, as the Tower of Highrock had long ago faded from the view of the Archmage. As Serine peered out the window, it seemed to her that they weren’t that far off the ground, although she was certain this was the magic of the tower creating that affect.

Peering at the spells on the wall, Serine discerned that they all had three themes in common — focus, control, and containment. At this point, a disagreement formed as to how to move forward. Marduke wondered aloud as to whether or not they could contain the elemental (assuming they could even free it), which annoyed Alatir on account that they had entered this tower with no real ability to contain an elemental in the first place. Growing even more agitated was Nibil, who pointed out that they didn’t even know how to free themselves from this tower.

As Marduke expressed his concern that the building might collapse if they found a way to remove the elemental, Nibil, his rage rising, headed down the stairs, with Nerryn in tow. In a rare moment of anger, Alatir punched one of the crystals on the wall, which caused it to emit vein like electrical sparks up the wall and to the ceiling.

Branan, his curiosity piqued, placed his burning hands on two of the crystals, which exploded in a blaze of vein like electrical sparks throughout the room. Branan looked over at the elemental in the tube and saw that it was pulsating brighter than at any other point since their encounter with it.

Nibil, now on the first floor of the tower, was cursing violently at Branan, which prompted Alatir to say aloud that he missed sad Nibil.

Serine, aware that guards had been alerted to their presence, told the group that they had to leave. Branan, inspired by his burning hands, began to light crystal after crystal on fire. As runes around the room continued to explode, he told the elemental that he would be willing to carry it in his burning hands should they find a way to free it from the crystal tube. As Branan continued to destroy crystals, the crystal tube began to melt, and suddenly the elemental was free. Seizing its opportunity, the elemental entered into Branan’s burning hands, but wasn’t content to stop there. Now in full possession of Branan’s body, the elemental made its way down the stairs towards NIbil and Nerryn.

Frantically, the group ran into the hall of mirrors, but as possessed Branan entered, the mirrors shattered, injuring Nibil, whose swearing had now reached a fevered pitch.

They made their way all the way to their initial start point, and took the set of stairs that headed down. The sounds of guards were approaching from every direction. The room at the bottom of the stairs had eight doors, but possessed Branan blew the seven false doors away — they ran through the remaining door, down a long hallway, and reached a room with several windows looking out over Horizon.

Serine looked over the ledge of the windows and noticed that they only appeared one or two floors up from the ground — she realized it appeared exactly the same as when they were in the furthest reaches of the tower. She had no idea how high they actually were.

Suddenly, possessed Branan jumped onto the ledge of the window — the elemental was attempting to leave his body, but he was fighting to keep it contained within him. With the sounds of the guards approaching, the group began to discuss what to do with Branan.

As they argued, Serine looked over at Branan and saw what was coming next. He looked at her, then out the window, then back at her, and suddenly, without any control of his body, jumped. Serine ran to the window and, to her amazement, saw that it had been a short fall, and that he had survived it. She jumped out the window next, followed by the rest of the group.

Marduke landed badly, but suffered only minor injuries. Everyone else seemed fine, except of course for the fact that Branan was on fire and Serine was sparking lightning all around her on account of the magical spell she had used to land safely.

Serine thought to herself…I wonder if anyone will notice.

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The Superior's Mission, Part I
This should be easy!

As the group stood victorious over the shattered bodies of their gnollish attackers, Branan suggested renaming the Black Brick and Hammer the Bloody Gnoll — groaning at the suggestion, the group left a quick apology note for the innkeeper, and, after a quick stop at Dockside, made their way to the De Arcem to confer with the Superior Quartus one last time.

At the De Arcem, Serine slipped a note to the guard relaying their acceptance of Superior Quartus’ job offer — after a brief wait, the guard returned and slipped a piece of paper to Serine who read it and informed the group that they were to head to Dockside and find a ship named the Heavy Seas.

In a strange moment, as they were making their way to Dockside, Serine became lost, and they soon found themselves in a different part of District 4 standing in front of the Tower of Highrock, the only Tower in Horizon that was not operational. Noticing that the tower was completely unguarded, the group debated going in, although they ultimately decided to continue on their way to Dockside and to come back and explore the tower at a later time.

Once at Dockside, Serine approached the dockmaster who told her the time the Heavy Seas would be arriving and also the slip it would pull in to. The dockmaster then asked her why her group was down there, and so she told him. The dockmaster seemed surprised that the Superior Quartus would have anything to do with the comings and goings of Dockside, and Serine’s fellow adventurers were even more concerned that she would simply tell the dockmaster what they were doing in Dockside in the first place. After the dockmaster walked away, the group agreed that Serine would no longer be the person to negotiate deals on the groups behalf.

Having kept the nature of their quest a secret, Serine tells the group that they are to meet up with a man named Rem, receive a package from him, and then take that package to The Whirlpool. After the Heavy Seas had docked, Serine and Alatir made their way up the gangplank, followed by the rest of the group.

A sailor took the group into Rem’s quarters, who immediately requested payment for the package that they had been sent to collect. Confused that Superior Quartus had given them nothing with which to pay, Rem told them that he was sure that he could find another buyer for the item — not wanting to return to Superior Quartus empty handed, they learned from Rem that what he was seeking in payment was a fire elemental. After a brief discussion, Nerryn proposed that they should seek out Superior Quartus first, and then decide how to proceed from there. As they left the Heavy Seas, Rem reminded them that he would only be in Dockside for one day.

The group headed back to the De Arcem but were unable to meet with either Superior Quartus or his assistant. Thinking the assistant may be at the Whirlpool, they made their back to Dockside only to discover that the assistant wasn’t there either.

Leaving the The Whirlpool, and not sure where to head next, the group decided to check in on the new equipment that was being made for them. As they chatted with the armorer, they asked him what he knew about fire elementals. He told them that they are summoned from a higher plane of existence, although it is unclear as to whether they are being summon by a wizard or whether they are merely letting wizards think they have the power to summon them. He then told them that there were places in Horizon where one could find such creatures, but that containing such a powerful entity would require a sophisticated kind of magic.

After leaving the armorer, a fierce debate started up in the group. Alatir, Branan, and Nibil all protested the idea of enslaving a fire elemental, while Marduke and Serine weren’t particularly worried about it. Nerryn wondered aloud as to whether or not her locket (which had been confiscated by Superior Quartus) contained a fire elemental, and whether or not Superior Quartus intended all along to use the locket to trade with Rem.

As the argument intensified, Marduke suggested creating a type of holographic elemental, while Branan floated the idea of capturing an elemental, trading it, and then fighting Rem in order to secure its freedom.

Realizing that all of this was a moot point until they had a fire elemental in hand, the group decided to head to the one place where it was rumored that they might find an elemental — the Tower of Highrock.

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Foolish Gnolls!
It's like taking candy from a baby!

Not sure what to do next, the group headed over to the Steer and Rooster (which is outside the city walls) in order to organize their thoughts and map out their next actions. After ordering and consuming several drinks, Nibil opened up about why they found him in the abandoned city of Thog Tahrir. He told them how he had been born with no magical abilities, and how the shame of this caused him to run off and live in the barbarian lands. Becoming a sword for hire, he was eventually hired to spy on the gnomish headmaster of their great magical academy—and how, when the headmaster was assassinated, he was wrongly implicated as the culprit. Forced to flee even from the barbarian lands, he escaped to Thog Tahrir, where he was surprised to run into any other living human beings.

With the implication from Superior Quartus that the gnomish headmaster may still be alive, Nibil expressed his desire to clear his good name—Branan swore his undying loyalty to helping to clear Nibil’s name, and additional drinks were ordered for the table.

As they discussed what to do next, Marduke suggested speaking to Carmo in order to discuss the status of Nerryn’s locket, although Nerryn was hesitant to do this for fear of losing her locket forever. Nibil argued that they should take up the job offer from Superior Quartus to pick up a package for him at Dockside, and Alatir thought this would be a good idea to do (might as well curry favor with a Superior of Horizon!). Branan argued that they should pick up the package, but then hold it ransom in order to demand the return of Nerryn’s locket—Serine pointed out that there would be no way to know if the package from Dockside was of the same value as the locket, and that even if it was, it was probably a bad idea to be on the bad side of Superior Quartus. After some additional conversation, the group decided to take up the job offer from Superior Quartus.

Wrapping up their conversation, they began to head back to Horizon. On the way to the Whirlpool, they were intercepted by a group of gnolls, demanding that they turn over Nibil to them. After some back and forth conversation, Branan convinced them to hand over all their gold to him and to leave them in peace. Stunned at their good fortune, the group continued on their way to Horizon.

At the Whirlpool, they checked in briefly with the armorer who had finally finished crafting Branan’s new breastplate. Serine asked him for his general thoughts on the Superior’s of Horizon, and he told them that he thought Superior Quartus was on the up and up, but that Superior Primum was becoming too involved in the politics of Axis. He explained to the group how the Towers of Horizon worked, and just before leaving, in response to Branan’s question about whether or not his new armor had a name, told him that it would earn its name in battle. (It was at this point that Marduke, not missing a beat, suggested that Branan name his new breastplate “spiderbait”, since it was crafted from the carcass of the drider they defeated in Thog Tahrir.)

Concerned that others might be looking for Nibil, Serine asked him if he had any thoughts as to how he might disguise himself any better (Marduke suggested smiling more often.) Realizing that they were most likely going to be dealing with the fallout of the false accusations against Nibil for some time, they decided to rest for the night—Serine headed back to her place, while the rest paid for rooms at the Whirlpool.

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