Tears of Destruction

Crucible of the Gods

Moments later the curtain billowed into the room as a Halfling pushed his way through it carrying a tray of drinks. The Halfling kept his head bowed ridiculously low and his eyes cast at the floor as he entered the room. He approached the nearest pair of feet that his eyes could see and said “Ambrosia my lord”, holding forth the tray offering a drink.

The drink looked to be a transparent, golden liquid served in exquisite crystal goblets. The halflings gaze travelled cautiously upwards and came to rest upon Blackjacks face….shock, confusion and fear became apparent on the Halflings face. He checked the faces of the rest of you, dropped the tray of drinks and turned to flee from the room but not before Ragnar had chance to grab him. The tray and drinks both vanished just before they hit the ground.

“Where in Kords name are we?” Ragnar demanded angrily, with the Halfling held firmly by the collar. The Halflings eyes rolled back in their sockets for a moment and his body convulsed before appearing to regain it’s composure and calm.

“My most sincere apologies to you esteemed guests. You were not whom I was expecting and I had not been…informed of the situation. Please be seated, take a drink and some food and I will answer all your questions.” Glancing in the direction that the Halfling gestured you see that the table is now covered in a banquet of divine looking dishes and the crystal goblets with drinks in are now stood on their tray on the table.

A very confused, very difficult, very deep conversation followed with the Halfling answering your questions and eventually establishing the following information.

You were standing in a place called ‘ The Crucible of the Gods’. It is the location where the gods come to play their games, pit mortals against each other and force their divine influence upon the mortal world.

The gods have a ‘meeting’ or ‘game’ there every ten years but it has been 7010 years since the last meeting, however a meeting was happening now because the gods Lolth, Gruumsh, Bane, Vecna and Asmodeus had arrived and are demanding one.

The Halfling had no name, he was simply known as “The Host”. He acts as host during the gods meetings and generally ceases to exist in between them.

You had been summoned there in order to act as opponents to the gods demanding a meeting. For each meeting the balance of good and evil must be maintained and the real gods present all represented for the evil side, so “significant mortals” had been summoned to act on behalf of the good gods that were absent.

Each of you were required to don the mantle of a good god and represent their interests at the meeting, making decisions on their behalf and furthering their beliefs, ethos and cause as best you could.

Once the games were complete, you would all be returned to the mortal realm unharmed and with all your possessions returned. Also your mortal identities would be obscured from your opponents, so you should fear no reprisals for their actions. You were however advised to watch what you say as your opponents will remember everything that is said and mentioning your home town or something similar may spell your eternal doom. This of course also means that upon returning to the mortal realm it would be crazy and suicidal to reveal to people the real reason that you have been missing for ten years.

Jingle also discovered that the ambrosia when drunk healed all wounds, restored all abilities and even cures aches and pains that you had assumed they would live out their days bearing….for example,the constant dull ache between Blackjacks shoulder blades from all the hours at the forge…he had gotten so used to it he wasn’t even aware of it….its now gone, Jingles permanent hang-over…..gone, Rileys pock scared face from the plague….now unblemished…..permanently!

The location of the absent gods is not something that the Host was able to discuss.

When you had finished asking questions you were asked to choose which deity you wished to represent. The Host produced tokens representing each choice and asked you to pick one. The available ones were: Avandra, Corellon, Erathis, Ioun, Kord, Melora, Moradin, Pelor, The Raven Queen & Sehanine.

Some of you found the choosing far easier than others. Choices were however made with the following combinations. Ragnar acting on behalf of Kord, Riley for the Raven Queen, Blackjack for Avandra, Jingle for Moradin and Mathas for Ioun.

When you chose, you literally felt like someone had draped a cloak across your shoulders. As the cloak settled you gained awareness of hundreds of voices all speaking at the same time, each in different locations. Each one was invoking the name of the god they have chosen and performing a prayer to him or her. You were aware of every prayer and utterance directed in the direction of their mantle.

After a few moments to adjust and gather your bearings, you were led through the red curtain to another white marble room, an amphitheatre some sixty foot across. Tiers of white marble benches rose around the outside of the room, and in the middle of the room is an 8 foot hole in the floor, through which can be seen a mass of land many miles below. You easily recognised it to be the continent of Flanaess.

Standing in the room opposite you were five beings of very mixed appearance, but easily recognisable from folk lore, tales, songs and murals; the gods!

The Halfling lead you down a short staircase into the room and left you on the opposite side of the hole in the floor. He moved to stand at the side of the hole with the gods to one side of him and you to the other.

The gods all displayed a look of true disdain at the presence of their opponents. With wisps of fire curling around his tongue Asmodeus issued the demand that the five evil gods were all thinking. “What is the meaning of this insult? The presence of…..mortals is not permitted in the Crucible!”

The host replied that it was the overlords will, and that someone needs to represent those that are absent. There was some mocking laughter from the gods but they were quite dismissive of the point in the end.

Lolth stepped forward and gestured at the hole in the floor, the world grew larger or came closer….she gestured again and it moved to the point where it is looking down on a large swamp area from above. In the middle of the swamp a swirling black column of energy could be seen.

“What is this?” Lolth asks, raising an eyebrow and looking to her deity rivals questioningly.

“Ha! Don’t you know? Call yourself gods? We know what it is.” replied Ragnar, recognising the Mistmarsh near Greyhawk from above.

Refusing to rise to the taunt from a mere mortal the gods ignored the reply. Vecna smiled wryly and spoke.

“I do not know what it is but I likes the look of it…..a lot.” He gestured and the world shrunk or grew more distant….he gestures again and areas of the world fade slightly whilst small black dots grow in prominence. “Whatever it is, there is more than one, look.” Everyone watches as the necrotic tears of destruction are highlighted in the world view as small black orbs.

Gruumsh snarls and replies “I like it not, it has the smell of an old adversary about it”. He turned to the host and asked “Are any artifacts still unaccounted for from previous meetings?” The host nodded and confirms that two are still in place. The gods nod silently at the reply. Daring to test the boundaries of what is permitted, Riley asks “And what are those items?”

The host replies ‘Nightbringer’ and the ‘Sword of Kas’. At the mention of Nightbringer, Grumsh roared with anger and slammed his fist into his hand. Lolth smirked behind hers. Vecna turned away from the hole in the floor, making a dismissive gesture and the view returned to the original view of the whole continent.

The Host announced that the 5864th crucible of the gods shall now commence. He asked you all to roll dice to determine who goes first. The results were recorded and used to decide alternating turns from each side.

The first round was for the gods to select their Divine Champions. The Host explained that the mortals that each god chose as champion would receive divine inspiration and live with an absolute certainty that the gods existed and that they were a chosen one. They would strive to further the gods causes and in return they would receive divine boons of increased strength of body, mind and spirit.

Asmodeus chose first, he stepped forward and described the type of person that he was looking for in a champion. As he spoke various pin-pricks of red light appeared on the map and as his criteria was refined he was left with fewer and fewer red lights. When he was down to only a few he examined them each in turn.

All the gods were a little perplexed when they saw a Dragonborn for the first time, demonstrating that wherever they had appeared from fifty years ago was not something they knew about. In the end Asmodeus chose a Dragonborn resident in the city of Krackenheim. A supremely cruel individual that was both ambitious, strong and completely lacking in morals.

Mr Jingle stepped up next and chose a champion for Moradin. He stated criteria as a Clan-based individual, someone who was potentially a powerful warrior, but a good-hearted one with honour and an understanding of the importance of honour, family and balance. He found and selected such an individual in the Yatil Mountain range.

Bane, the god of war went next. To the surprise of his colleagues, he decided to look for someone young…..with the world so ripe for war, corruption and plunder he wanted to maximise his investment in his champion. To choose someone young that would eventually grow to remember nothing of his life before Bane. He said that he was looking for someone who had lost everything and was thus looking for something to seize onto. Before long you all found Bane staring at a young boy that you all recognised….it was Pete Dowd, the son of the Tringlee Marshal that you found dead. To your horror, Bane chose him and stepped back.

Blackjack stepped up to represent Avandra. Someone adventurous, outgoing, good at heart, single, young, were the criteria that he stated. He eventually continued refining the criteria until he too ended up looking at a familiar face; namely that of his apprentice from Tringlee, Tom the Cat. Grumsh laughed at the choice and suggested that Blackjack didn’t even realise he had the whole world to choose from. Jack said nothing in reply.

Lolth was fast by seeking a drow priestess and eventually selecting one that lived in the underdark below the Vesve forest.

Mathas selected a female, middle-aged scholarly elf, that lived in the “Valley of the Mage”.

Grumsh was quickest yet by selecting a powerful Orc leader from the Griffin Mountains. His criteria were simple and straight-forward.

Riley chose a similar tactic to Blackjack and used criteria of a person that he knew from his past and chose her. A wise woman, a healer, from the Kingdom of Keoland. None of his allies recognised the woman but Riley did and chose her as the Raven Queens champion.

At this point, the swirling black column of necrotic energy, seen on the map earlier, seemed to lose it’s integrity and spread outwards, corrupting and killing all living creatures nearby. From the viewpoint of the crucible you were all safe but knew that those nearby it were dying.

Vecna stepped forward and focused the world view on the area around the black necrotic cloud. His skeletal eyes lit up with delight at the scene and he almost purred with delight at the display. “Truly entertaining!” he declared, before focussing the view on the dying body of Prince Arvan. Surrounded in necrotic energy, choking and dying, his last gasps of life leaving his mortal body as you all watched, helpless to intervene.

“Splendid! Such vigour, such fortitude, he hung on well didn’t he? Few mortals could have lived as long as he did in that state.” He declared admirably, before snapping his fingers, choosing the prince and reanimating him as a death knight. “The first Death Knight the world has seen for millennia!” he stated proudly.

Last but not least, Ragnar stepped forward to represent Kord. He described a proud honourable warrior individual. He was left with many options and narrowed it down to a female captain of a ship, one that wielded a scimitar and with a slightly unruly reputation and was known to oppose the strong and support the weak.

With the champions chosen, the second round required a vote to be cast. The Host asked the question ‘Should the immortal armies be released?’ Riley queried exactly what that meant and was informed that the immortal armies were the collective name for angels and demons. Releasing them would mean that mortals could once again summon them, communicate with them and allow them to influence the mortal realm.

All votes were cast silently by the mind. The outcome was a decision to release the armies, with six in favour and four opposed. You all cast accusing eyes at Jingle, whom just shrugged.

Next it was time to bestow relics and artifacts on the mortal realm. Items that would allow true heroes and villains to wield incredible power and have a real impact on the destiny of nations. A hole in the air, named the Well of Artifacts appeared in front of Mr Jingle….he reached inside and brought forth The Seal of the Law Bringer. The Host nodded towards the hole in the floor and Mr Jingle released the seal to fall to the mortal realm and await someone to find it.

Asmodeus went next and was supremely delighted to bring forth the Book of Vile Darkness. Blackjack produced the Wand of Orcus and Bane frustratedly withdrew his hand with nothing in it. Each item in turn was cast downwards, spiralling out of view to be lost among the clouds and land in a location unknown even to the gods.

Mathas drew a blank, Lolth disdainfully produced the Hammer of Thunderbolts, Riley withdrew empty handed, as did Grumsh, Ragnar cast forth the Amulet of Passage.

Vecna went last and withdrew his hand also empty. Just as all were turning away though he threw back his head and cackled like a manic. At which point his hand dropped off at the wrist and fell through the hole in the floor. Grumsh also roared with laughter at this event and slapped Vecna on the back as a gesture of amusement. In doing so Vecna’s eye popped out and also fell downwards. Vecna and Grumsh turned to face their audience and bathe in the applause they expected. Only Lolth spoke.

“Pitiful fools, even the morals are not entertained. You’re embarrassing us all, stop it”.

“Enough!” declared the host, showing more emotion than he had done until now. “Do not anger the overlord with your mockery.”

The fourth round was another round of voting, with the outcome to decide with the sleeping dragons were to be permitted to awaken and return to the mortal realm. The outcome was a convincing yes, with only two saying no.

The final round was to allow the gods to place titans. Creatures to act as either a challenge, a danger, a tool, a guide, a teacher or some other powerful role that mortals would not be able to perform.

All five of the gods chose to abstain from placing a titan, meaning that at the next crucible of the gods there was the potential for them to place a much more powerful titan. On the other hand, you all chose to place titans with the following choices being made.

Mr Jingle placed an Earth Elemental guided by Moradin in the depths of a lake south of Amundfor. Jack placed a Sphinx in the Bright Desert. Mathas a Baelnorn deep in the Valley of the Mage. Riley a Sorrowsworn Doomguard close to then nearest Tear to Krakenheim. Ragnar a Minotaur high in the Corusk Mountains.

The Host announced the end of the turns and stated that it was time for you all to withdraw back to the preparation chambers. Once there the Host congratulated you on a game well played and he hoped that the decisions you had made would work out well for the individuals involved.

Without any sensation of moving you suddenly found yourselves no longer in the white marble preparation room, but instead stood on a wet, windy hillside on a dull evening. The Host was there with you and you were again dressed in your own clothing and your possessions had been returned.

After a few moments you recognised the surroundings as a hillside overlooking Tringlee. The town had changed though, what was a spread out haphazard collection of wooden farm houses was now a compact collection of stone buildings, with a stone wall surrounding three quarters of it and a wooden palisade on the other side, and burnt out ruins outside the wall.

The Host informed you at this point that in order for you not to take advantage of the choices you had made in the crucible of the gods, a certain amount of time has passed since you were last here. Ten years. You complained and argued that that was not fair and had not been agreed but in the end there was nothing that could be done and….it was quite an intriguing and exciting prospect for you to explore.

As as result of the decade passing you will find that the world has adjusted and is a different place, no small part of which is down to your actions. The Host then wished you luck and vanished.

Moments later, a voice calls down from a tree twenty feet away. “Where in the seven hells did you lot come from?” It was Stanley Prand, the hunter trapper that first brought news to Tringlee of the attack on the Heathstone brothers farm. “One minute the place was empty, the next moment you’re stood there plain as day. That doesn’t speak much for me considering I’m keeping watch up here.”

Before you had much chance to respond, a flaming arrow was fired high into the air from higher up the hillside above you. A fifteen foot high wooden beacon also bursts aflame on the opposite hillside about two miles away, illuminating a newly built mansion next to it.

“It looks like the lady will be helping us defend tonight”. Stanley commented before adding that “Unless you are part of a raiding party come to pillage and loot the town then you had best get to town and get behind the defences before the attack starts. Come on, no time to lose if you like your heads attached to your shoulders.”

END OF CHAPTER.

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Well, I wasn't expecting that!

You continued to battle on bravely, blasting Corruption Corpses with bolts of radiant energy, cleaving Dread Wights with great arcing sword swings and creating a pile of assorted undead body parts that would have even the most dedicated “Mr Potato Head” fan at a loss as to which bits go where. Ragnar was momentarily toppled by an overwhelming number of draining blows from the Dread Wights, but he was soon helped back to his feet and fought back furiously.

Eventually you emerged victorious and realising that it had been your most challenging encounter so far, you were all in need of a brief rest to regain your composure. During this time you managed to (in a non-strenuous manner) collect up all the treasure from the three chests around the room and scoop it into Mathas’s bag of holding.

With Ragnar retrieving the preserved body of the beautiful human woman, you then opened the one door available to you and proceeded onwards. With a T-junction presenting choices of left or right, you chose left, opened another door and were greeted by a passageway lined with three stone statues. Each statue had a metal chain in it’s hand and look ominously threatening. But not-moving. But still threatening. Somehow.

Jack, correctly assessing that the statues would animate and attack, moved forward cautiously and engaged. With the narrow corridor restricting movement and the statues attacking anything that moved near it, and a pair of Corruption Corpses at the end of the corridor hurling necrotic bolts at you, the fight was frustrating but again you won.

In the dying moments of the battle, Riley manoeuvred passed the final statue and opened the door at the end of the corridor. He was greeted by the sounds of dozens of undead moaning from the next room and shuffling in your direction.

Just when it seemed like this could be the end, something unexpected happened. You were all blinded by a bright glow that forced you to close your eyes. The glow lasted a short moment and when you looked again your surroundings had changed. You were no longer in an underground swamp temple of undead hell. Instead you were all standing in a gleaming white room with walls and floor made from pristine clean marble.

Looking around yourselves you seem to all be in a 20 foot by 40 foot room, furnished with a long gilded table, several reclining chairs covered in dark red cushions. The room had no ceiling, instead the walls ended 20 foot from the floor and open blue sky can be seen above you. A red velvet curtain hangs to the floor at one end of the room, suggesting a doorway or something beyond it.

Much to everyone’s horror you all also soon came to realise that all your clothing and possessions had been removed and you now had nothing, except for a simple brown robe that each of you were wearing. Five pairs of eye-brows furrowed deeply and eyes scanned the room for someone to blame, accuse or vent upon.

At that point a single pair of fast, light footsteps can be heard quickly approaching from the direction of the curtain. A voice called out “Coming my lords, sorry for my tardiness your arrival was most unexpected, but even more welcome!”.

Unsure what to expect, all eyes turned to the curtain and waited.

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Unnecessary risks

With the necrotic energy emanating from the nearby tear slowly seeping into your bodies and gradually killing you all, you wasted no time in looking at the four sets of symbols at the end of the room. You quickly swapped ideas, brain-stormed and took the nearby inscription of “Only the faithful shall pass” to mean that you should choose one symbol from each of the four sets, the one that most closely represented one of the ideals of Avandra. You chose them, pushed each one in turn and were rewarded with the stone wall at the end of the room slowly rising into the ceiling revealing a way forward.

With only six minutes taken to solve the puzzle you turned your attention to the beautiful female body laid on the stone plinth and covered in a crystal dome. You examined it carefully, and Mathas checked for magical auras. He detected two, one where the crystal joined the stone and another on the amulet around the neck of the woman. A little further investigation revealed that it was an amulet of life shroud that had preventing the body from decaying and presumably also stopped it from rising as undead.

Feeling the urgency of the situation Blackjack hefted the crystal cover aside to reveal the corpse more clearly. As he did so a bright flash of light burst outwards and the observant folks spotted that the corpses eye flashed open briefly. Nothing else seemed to happen though so Ragnar hefted the woman’s body onto his shoulder and you moved onwards.

Along the newly revealed corridor you soon reached a dead end, with only a single brick in the wall to press but no obvious door to open. Uncertain of the wisdom of pressing the button, but trusting in that “only the faithful” should reach this far you pressed the button and the floor of the 15 foot square room you were all standing in began to descend.

Moans and groans of the dead could soon be heard and the floor descended into a room with four foul zombies in it. You began to battle them but the floor you were standing on kept descending and the floor of the new room also began descending as a single 25 foot square platform. It revealed another wider room with eight more undead in it and some open chests covered in gold and gems.

Just when it seemed matters could not get any worse, the floor merged with the new one creating a 35 foot square platform and descended into a new room that contained twelve more undead creatures.

You were beating them back to some degree but with the weight of numbers being on their side instead of yours and the remaining town guards being killed and dismembered, things were looking a little bleak. A door can be spotted at one end of the room, but reaching it would be tricky and would probably mean leaving behind the treasure, woman’s body and undead that were still a threat. Plus there is no guarantee that opening another door would make things any safer.

At that moment Riley hears the Princes voice in his mind via the ring of co-ordinated assault. He said, “We’re made good progress. I’ve lost half of my men and faced some tough opposition but we are nearly at the tear, the energy level is intense. Hopefully we can reach it and neutralise it. Don’t take any unnecessary risks until you hear back from me. With any luck you’ll all be able to fall back to safety shortly.”

The thought of “unnecessary risks” and “falling back” was not entirely comforting whilst being outnumbered four to one and your way out being forty foot up in the ceiling.

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An Altar, a body and a puzzle

After defeating the undead Aboleth you decided to take a short rest and gather your wits. You also began to feel the effects of the nearby Tears’ necrotic energy causing damage to your bodies….most of you resisted the effects well enough but did not relish the thought of staying within the zone of effect any longer than was necessary.

You proceeded on to the next room and found an altar to Avandra that was guarded by a undead skeletal clerical lichical type creature. The creature was a powerful adversary but Riley managed to hold the creature in-check with a barrage of divine commands, he even managed to look distant and distracted at times.

Whilst Riley held the creature back the rest of you landed many telling blows and managed to pound it into dust before it could do too much damage. You claimed a magical robe and mace from the remains.

One of the other parties that you are working with sent a message over the rings of coordinated assault. It was one of the mages, whispering into the ring. “All of my colleagues are dead….we encountered no opposition until we got close to the tear. Then a thirty foot tall undead creature killed them all. It was terrifying, like a piece of walking-darkness. It hunts me now even as a talk and hide. Oh no it’s found me! It’s coming! Pelor save me! Gnu! Arghhh!!!! squelch thud”. Silence followed.

With time being of such importance you decided to press on without spending any more time in the room. You opened the next door, followed the passageway and went into the next room.

This room contained three Marshals Bane Skeletons and a perfectly preserved beautiful female human body laid on a stone plinth and covered in a clear crystal structure.

You entered the room and destroyed the Marshals Bane skeletons but not before one managed to beat Jack to the floor and kill off one of the guards that were accompanying you.

You were left in the room with a crystal-covered body to ponder over and no exits but four sets of four symbols on the wall at the end of the room.

Ragnar suggested investigating the crystal that the female body is in. As it seems to be stopping the effects of the tear, that seemed your best option and could be useful to investigate to help find ways of combating the other 71 tears that have been located.

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Entering the Zone of Corruption

Once the underwater maze had been navigated you hurriedly moved on, aware of the constantly damaging effects of the tears aura that you were experiencing. In the new room you discovered only one discernible feature, a door with a single stone button to press to open it.

You open the door which falls into a slot beneath the doorway. The door is solid stone, one foot think and the opening mechanism suggests that once opened there is no easy way of raising the door and closing it again.

With the door opened you immediately became aware that the necrotic energy level had risen and that you were now entering the Zone of Corruption, where Riley had concluded that the energy levels would be higher and that you would be much more likely to encounter undead and corrupted creatures.

You moved forward into the next room and were confronted with two more doors, one to your left and one to your left. You opened the right one with a noisy slam as the door dropped permanently downwards. You moved into the tunnel beyond, opened a second door and found a new room.

The room contained several pillars crackling with electrical energy and some ghouls and tomb motes within. With the backup of the guards you managed to dispatch them without too much trouble.

Moving into the room beyond you descend some steps and discovered a flooded room three foot deep in water. Blackjack entered the room and crossed it to the door on the opposite side. Once there he was suddenly attacked by an undead Aboleth.

A more substantial combat followed with Ragnar striking a telling blow that turned the tide (77 damage in a single blow at level 4!!!!).

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All Hell breaks loose

One moment you were standing on the raft, watching through gaps in the mist as the scenery slowly floated by.  The next moment the world seemed to lurch and it felt like you’d been smacked around the head by something, but without an actual impact point.

Everyone simultaneously staggered, all in slightly different directions, causing the raft to rock dangerously and some of the guards fell into the swamp water.

You regained your balance, took a moment to help the guards find their feet and get back on the raft then took a look around you and found that the world has changed…you had changed….something indescribable had changed.

Suddenly new thoughts and ideas began to occur to you.  You realised new ways of dealing with problems and challenges.  A dozen old memories flashed through your minds and you found it ludicrous that you acted in the way you did at the time….

Jack, you remembered the time there was a merchant who needed his horse re-shoeing and he overpaid you….why didn’t it occur to you that you could have not said anything and instead simply kept the money?

Mr Jingle, all the Scrumpy you’d been selling for Granny Smith over the years, you had hundreds of opportunities to skim some money off the sales and keep it for yourself, why didn’t you consider doing that at the time?

You all have similar thoughts over many old memories. You are pretty confident that you probably would still have acted the same as you did, but you’re left wondering why didn’t it even occur to you to be dishonest at the time….to exploit the weak…to hurt others….to put your own needs first.

All these new thoughts and ideas…..they felt like a part of you….they felt natural….not exactly nice but natural.  It was like you’d been seeing in black and white and suddenly things are now in colour.

One of the guards turned to another guard and said “You know, I think I’ve always hated you.  It’s nothing personal, it’s just the way you look.”  He then slamed a dagger into the other guards throat, leaped from the raft and swams for the shore.  He got about twenty metres before something drags him under the water never to be seen again.

Moments later the Prince spoke using the magical ring.

“Something just happened to us.  We’re not sure what it was but I’m guessing you guys felt it too.  It doesn’t change anything, we still have a mission to complete.  If anything, it makes our mission more important.  I’ve lost three men, one went crazy and attacked the others.  We had to kill him before he killed us.  We’re shaken but still here.”

Everyone nodded in grim agreement and determination. The guards steered the raft closer to your designated entrance to the temple. When you closed to within fifty feet the mist parted and revealed a number of undead wandering around it.

You took them on and defeated them convincingly. Zombie Halfling stone throwers and Humanoid Skinwalker Skeletons both fell under your precise blows. Two more guards were dealt mortal wounds but six guard and you guys all survived.

With the threat neutralised you approached the temple entrance. One guard insisted he didn’t have the nerve or stomach to continue and asked permission to stay behind and watch the rear / guard the raft. Everyone took pity on him and agreed.

Inside the temple entrance some steps descended into a small stone room and then further down into a flooded area. Jingle bravely headed into the water, being forced to be completely submerged and swim through an underwater maze of passageways.

He triggered a scything blade trap at one point and almost took a lung full of water when the wind was knocked out of him. With help from Blackjack though he just got to the surface before any damage was done.

Riley then had a turn and soon managed to navigate a way through the maze and discovered more stone steps leading up out of the water and into another small stone room at the other end. A single stone door was the only discerning feature but low moaning noises from undead could be heard not far away.

Riley was also aware that he was now closer to the tear of destruction. It’s aura was palpably stronger although he was sure that he was not yet in the zone of corruption.

Riley returned through the underwater passageway to his companions and begun to guide them through it to the other side.

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Into the Mistmarsh

Just as you are about to enter the celebration feast, a messenger arrives and presents Jack with a letter. He is asked to sign a piece of paper acknowledging receipt of the letter and then spends a few moments with a very confused look on his face whilst he reads the letter. His companions look at him quizzically but he suggests that it is something they can talk about later on….when he might have recalled more details from the previous evenings gambling adventures.

You were then escorted into a feasting hall where many well-dressed people were gathered eating and drinking. There were minstrels playing background music (lute, harp, drums and flute), servants wandering around the room offering drinks and food from trays, and an exotic dancer at one end of the room with several noble men stood watching and politely applauding occasionally.

The afternoon progresses with a pleasant atmosphere and plenty of food and drink. You talk with the King and various other nobles and royals, all of whom seem a little uncertain as to whom you are or why you are there. Most of the general folk seem oblivious to the current situation, the occasional person gives you a knowing nod of acknowledgement though or offers guarded words of thanks for your service.

Towards the end of the afternoon the King stands on a chair and makes a small speech introducing a bard. The bard then spent half an hour spinning a tale about the “brave adventurers of Tringlee”. From the various descriptions he provided of the tales heroes it soon became apparent that he was singing about yourselves and before long everyone in the room was tipping their hats and raising their glasses in your general direction.

The king then performed an official award ceremony with you all being presented with ‘ The Key to the City’ and given a scroll of paper to represent it. Much applause was given, with cheering and toasting of drinks. Almost everyone wanted to talk to you after the ceremony and you were easily the most popular people at the function.

Afternoon eventually became evening, with more food and drink being served. Jingle offered round some Jingle Juice and managed to render some nobles unconscious with just a single draft each. He then proceeded to amaze those still standing by drinking bottle after bottle of the stuff himself.

Ragnar was bored stupid by posturing-noble men talking of their manly deeds such as shooting a rabbit with a bow and personally ordering a servant to skin the creature. The ladies fluttered around Mathas, charmed by his divine countenance. Some scholars nattered with Riley, interested in his studies of the tear, and Blackjack managed to engage a number of nobles in games of chance keeping the stakes low though.

Eventually the evening drew to an end with everyone collapsing into the rooms that Meridun the butler had shown you earlier.

The next day you all woke up with a sore heard and groaning stomachs from too much excessive food and drink. While you were still getting dressed an escort arrived from the King, summoning you to the war council chambers.

You were escorted there and presented to the king. He informed you that he has met with the representatives of nine neighbouring leaders and after lengthy discussions and contributions from elders, scholars and advisor’s, a plan has been agreed upon. Has then asks them if you would be willing to serve the kingdom and help execute the plan?

Before the King could even give details of what the plan was Ragnar quickly agreed that everyone would help and only cowards would turn down the opportunity.

The King went on to explain that the plan involved travelling to the Mistmarsh, a swamp 150 miles south-east from Greyhawk. There there is a half-sunken, long-abandoned temple of Avandra within the swamp. Reports suggest that a tear appears to be located within it. The fact that the tear is sufficiently far away from anything vital (in a swamp) but sufficiently close for a swift plan to be executed makes it an ideal target.

A caravan of fifty capable people will travel to the Mistmarsh and between them attempt to safely and cleanly destroy the tear. The arch mage has developed a technique that he is confident will work.

The aim is to have a solution to the tear problem in place before the “gods return” in a months time, and before the Tieflings Shadow Demon pays them a monthly visit. More details of the plan will be provided when they arrive at the site. But you needed to leave in two hours time!

Riley asked whom would be leading the expedition and was told that the Kings son, Prince Arvan would be. Concerns were raised (rather bluntly) about if he was capable of doing so….or even finding his own arse with two hands, and also if he was likely to be a target to any bad guys lurking nearby. The King had full confidence in his son though and was accepting no arguments on the matter.

Because you agreed to undertake the mission, the King insisted that you head down to the royal armoury and choose two enchanted items to take with you on your quest.

You then got to choose any one item up to level 5 and any one item up to level 3.
You were are also given some potions each: 2 x cure light wounds, 1 x holy water, 1 x resistance to necrotic energy, 1 alchemical potion of your choice (up to level 5).

You were then asked to report to the north-west city gate and from there the caravan will leave and the mission will begin.

Upon arriving at the gate you found the caravan easy enough, it comprised of three horse-pulled covered-wagons, forty capable looking city guards (on foot), the arch mage, two other mages, and the Kings eldest son; Prince Arvan.

The Prince greeted you, informed you that he has been made aware of your service to the kingdom, is very grateful for it and would appreciate your advice as it arises.

You then set off travelling south-west along the River Road, then south-east along the high-trail, through the Cairn Hills and eventually turning south towards Blackwall Keep.

As the days pass, it begins to rain with un-summer-like regularity. There is also a growing feeling of pressure in the air, like before a thunder storm. The rain makes the road muddy and slows your progress somewhat. Those on foot press onwards but struggle find a balance between making fast travel progress and exhausting themselves before they reach their destination.

You chat with the city guards along the way and find them nice, straight-forward folk. They don’t have any details of the mission, but were told that it would undoubtedly be the most dangerous thing they’ve ever done. Many of them seem willing to take the risk but none of them appear to have done anything like this before. They give the impression that they understand it is a serious threat though, with many of them checking the condition of their armour and weapons regularly. They also practised a little swordplay before the going got too tough, and they did generally look competent.

You reach Blackwall Keep after two and a half weeks, about three days later than initially hoped but still with time in hand. Once there the Prince displayed command competence by ensuring everything is organised and that he was armed with the latest reports from the area and also recruited a couple of local path finders. He also allowed the guards three quarters of a day to rest, relax, bathe, eat and even have a final evening of drink before they being their journey into the Mistmarsh the next morning.

The journey through the Mistmarsh was painfully slow, with rafts being needed to be constructed, taken apart, carried and re-constructed three or four times as you progressed from solid ground to swamp; all the recent rain having made the journey all the more difficult.

After four days of painful travel, with leeches, sores, insect bites and Stirge attacks, you manage to strike out on a raised bank of solid land that overlooks the sunken temple from a distance of about one mile.

Through the occasional gaps in the fog you could see fleeting glimpses of the distance temple, but more obvious was the circle of decay that surrounded it and began not far from the mound that you camped upon. You also caught the occasional glimpse of movement out in the swamp, but the distance and fog made it too difficult to discern much about what’s out there.

You camped for the night and had a restless night with bad dreams, a foul taste / smell in the air and were awoken occasionally from the sounds of distant wailing and moaning.

DM note: “If a arcane ritual is used to help rest etc then allow them an extra action point on waking.” Riley did happen to use a ritual of expelling vermin, so everyone began the day on two action points to represent the better nights sleep and their eagerness to get the task begun after such a long slog to get there.

The next day the rain finally stopped and you feel slightly more optimistic. The feeling of a thunderstorm long overdue persists though.

The Prince calls you guys, and the mages to his tent for a final mission briefing. He revealed his plan of action. His map of the local area, complimented with knowledge from the local rangers revealed a number of small islands around the sunken temple. It also showed four stone entrance ways to the temple, all just above the waterline and all with now submerged tunnels leading to a central area where the tear is assumed to be located.

The Prince stated that the group is to split up into four teams. Each one comprising of ten guards and one spell caster. The prince will also accompany the group with the arch mage.

He then produced four magical rings and explained that were “Rings of Coordinated Assault” and that they allow the wearers to have brief conversations over remote distances. They will be used to exchange progress reports, knowledge and co-ordinate progress. Riley gleefully grabbed a ring and put it on his finger, thus nominating himself as the person responsible for anything going wrong.

(Rings allow a 30 second conversation with other ring bearers over a distance of 2 miles. A short rest is needed to have another conversation)

The Prince continued, explaining that rafts will be used to transport each team to one of the islands near the stone entrances to the temple. When all are in place, a co-ordinated delve will be performed. Due to the harmful effects of the tear, he expressed the aim of minimise exposure time and thus he wanted all teams to start at the same time (again, Ring coordinated)

Each team will work to find a path to the tear and once there they are to perform the ritual that the arch mage has designed, to destroy the tear without harm becoming to the surrounding area. Communication will be vital and whilst success is vital, suicide benefits no-one. Riley and Mathas both learnt the ritual of destroying the tear safely.

Riley took some careful measurements on the night before camping and the next morning and confidently concluded that the zone of decay created by the tear had not grown overnight. He was unclear though if this meant that the tear had run out of power, reached it’s maximum extent or something else.

It was however clear that the tear at the Crypt of the Crimson Shield near Tringlee had a radius of around 500 foot and the radius of this tear was more like 4,500 foot.

Once everyone was ready multiple rafts were pushed out and everyone shipped into place. You guys were targeting the entrance way nearest to the island that you camped on overnight and this had half an hour to wait in the damp. Nervous tension built as the time ticked away, adrenaline making you all jittery and dry in you their mouths, also giving you shivers up and down your backs.

Eventually the final group reports ready and all teams board their rafts and launch into the zone of decay to approach their respective temple entrances. The guards freaked out a little and some look like they might jump overboard and swim for it…in chain mail. Ragnar stood tall though and gave a rousing speech and restored some back bone to the slouching masses (Successfully Diplomacy check of total 22 ensured that no-one bolted, nice!).

Half-way to the entrance……all hell breaks loose….

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Brought into the circle of trust

So you were escorted back to the palace for another audience with the King, Advisor Sodor and the head mage. They listened to your revelations. On hearing that they found the Dwarven stone masons the King proclaimed that you have now earned their key to the city and the feast tomorrow night will be a success. On hearing about the “new” portal, the head mage called you “mistaken fools”. He stated that what you claimed is not possible. The knowledge of creating portals has been lost for thousands of years and no-one is powerful enough now even if they knew how. On hearing about the Tieflings letter to all rulers, the King declares the Tiefling to be a “cheeky scamp” and claims that he’ll put him in his place should their paths ever cross.

Towards the end the King falls silent for a few moments and then drops the jolly fool façade that he has been presenting and decides to confide in the heroes. First he asks them to swear an oath that they are not enemies of the Kingdom of Greyhawk and have not been working with the Tiefling and that everything they have revealed is the truth. He asks them to swear this oath on their life, their family name, their honour and their chosen god. Each hero chooses something dear to them and swears upon it….except Riley who swears on his dead parents lives and the gods that he doesn’t believe in or respect.

Once the oath has been sworn he led you all to another area of the castle, on the same floor but the whole corridor has guards along it. You were led into a room that has a single massive table in the middle, chairs around the outside and some food / drinks tables around the outside. On the table is a number of sheets of paper, each one was a map of a different kingdom of the Flanaess continent. The maps were all of different ages, designs, authors, scales, colours. But all laid out in a specific order to give an over-all impression of what the entire continent might look like.

On top of the maps were a lot (72) small polished black pebbles. There is also a jar of extra/spare pebbles on top of the food/drink tables. The King asked if you can guess the purpose of the map and what the stones represent. After a few moments he explained that each pebble represented a place where they have had a report of strange goings-on that they now realise is almost certainly attributed to one of the ‘ tears’ that the heroes had found and destroyed.

He said that the first word of the tears turned up twelve weeks ago. Since then more and more reports have flooded in by the day. The reports vary but always include a circle of land (of various sizes) being tainted or corrupted, sometimes the dead rising, sometimes living creatures going mad, disease and poison are common effects too.

The Tringlee tear is the first real report that they’ve had of someone getting close enough to a tear to see what they are dealing with. So that means you guys are also the first to destroy a tear and the first to encounter the Tiefling too.

He also explained that the feast tomorrow night is not truly in their honour, that was just a convenient lie for which he is grateful for their unknowing compliance. The feast is really because various other rulers and representatives of kingdoms are visiting to meet in this very room and discuss plans and exchange knowledge…..with a feast afterwards that they are all invited to. He then answered most of your questions to clarify details.

Advisor Sodor informed you that sages have been saying for years that change was coming, so they have begun precautions but were not prepared for something on this scale. The Greyhawk Sentinels were set up nearly thirty years ago as part of the precautions. They are the ones that have mainly brought in the reports of the tears found so far.

The head mage informed you that he has researched the name Barbatos Malphas and has discovered that a Tiefling going by that name did study in the Greyhawk school of magic many decades ago. He was an average student from the Iuz region, with seemingly no more potential than any of his peers. He was competent at magical theory but struggled with the casting side and after six years or mediocre progress he left of his own accord. No records say where he went to. He has also researched the stone circle you described and extended his already expansive knowledge on the subject. He confessed that they do not have a list of circle locations but believe that thousands of years ago there was an extensive network of them that was used by arch mages for quick travel between cities. There is at least one inside the city, in the grounds of the Greyhawk School of Magic. It has been inactive (assumed broken) for thousands of years though and now has a guard watching it.

The king then informs them that a war council will meet tomorrow but before it does he asks them what their advice would be given the situation. What plan would they enact and how would they go about countering the threat?

You responded with a number of general thoughts and point out a number of key factors to consider. You considered what the Tieflings next move might be and how to counter it and if anyone was even powerful enough to stop him….or his sword….or whoever is really in control. You discussed who the “She” might be that he mentioned with the Raven Queen and Lolth being considered as possibilities. Jack (?) suggested taking eight good men and sending a force to strike out at the enemy but you weren’t sure where to go. In the end it was agreed that it would be left to the War Council to decide but the King acknowledged that you had given him some good points to raise with them.

The king offered you rooms inside Greyhawk Keep to stay in if they prefer that to their inn rooms, you all accepted and agreed to present yourselves to Meirdun, one of the castle butlers shortly after midday. Ragnar, Jingle and Jack hit the town, drinking ale and touring the inns of the city, getting completely wasted before collapsing into their royal quarters in the keep in the small hours of the morning. Mathas spends some time studying in the library at the Mages Guild, before retiring at a decent hour. Riley spends all night in the library and only returns to his room when sleep is about to conquer him anyway.

At around 9am the next morning Jack is rudely awoken by the sound of the door to his room and half of the wall being smashed apart by a rampaging gravel golem. You all stumble wearily from your beds, with sore heads feeling like you’ve already been in a heavy combat and dispatch the creature without too much trouble. You then head back to your beds, complaining to the castle guards about your “sleep being disturbed”. The guards are not quite sure what to make of it.

Mathas studies the area outside Jacks room and finds trace signatures of arcane energy suggesting that the creature had been teleported in, much like the hell hounds had been by the Tiefling back at the Crypt of the Crimson Shield.

A couple of hours late, with slightly less-sore heads you all find Meridun checking in on you, offering you facilities to bath and eat, get a drink, shave, banquet worth clothes and anything else you might need. You accept your own preferences of each and are soon gathered together ready for your heroes feast.

On waking up from your “big night out on the town”, Jack discovered that even though he took 20 gold out with him and spent loads on ale and spirits, he appears to have woken up with a money pouch containing over 200 gold pieces in it. He’s not sure where this money came from…everyones memory is a little hazy for the second half of the nights activities, but he is pretty sure that some gambling was involved.

Also Ragnar and Jingle don’t appear to have spent much money either, having pretty much the same money that you went out with (a free night on the tiles). Presumably Jack was buying for everyone.

Session ends

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Meeting the annointed

Having finished watching the Unseen Servant copying the proclamations, Jingle grabbed the quill and modifies the original text so that at the end it includes something along the lines of ‘And the Tringlee crew are going to sort Barbatos out’.  The unseen servant then mindlessly includes this new text onto the remaining copies it produces.

Feeling proud of himself Jingle then heads out of the room to explore the dark passageway and what sounds like an audience beyond it.  He proceeds cautiously and manages to travel the 100 foot of winding passageway and reach the next room without being detected.

The passageway opens up on a ledge about 60 foot high in the side of a natural cavern.  The cavern is 200 foot wide and 300 foot long and dimly lit by six flaming braziers, three along either side, equally spaced.  At the right hand end of the cavern is a raised area, almost like a natural stage and upon the stage stands a vertical stone circle….like the teleportation circle you found near the Crypt of the Crimson Shield.  This one however is clearly brand new, not thousands of years old.  A path slopes away to Jingles left, curving around the cavern edge and circling to eventually meet the floor.

The cavern also contains some beings.

On the main floor area are 80 to 90 shadowy winged creatures, looking exactly like this.

Each one of them holds a rolled up sheet of paper that looks likely to be a copy of the proclamation that the unseen servant was reproducing.  They also stand facing the stage area where two more figures stand.

The Tiefling, Barbatos Malphas stands with his back to his audience.  He is busy chanting and making arcane gestures at the teleportation circle.  Between him and the shadowy hoard stands a ferocious looking Dragonborn, wearing full plate and with a great axe strapped to his back.  Jingle overhears some of his words addressed to the crowd:

“…have your copies of the terms of surrender, and you all know your assigned targets.  You should not expect compliance when you first hand the terms over.  However you will return to your targets every turn of the moon and offer the same terms again.  Return once surrender has been offered, it will happen sooner or later.  cruel laugh  Inform them that surrendering sooner will be more favourable for their citizens, but brook no negotiations, offer no concessions….”

Jingle then creeps back along the tunnel before he is discovered.  He reports back in Jingle-fashion to his colleagues and Riley and Mathas stumble and stagger along the corridor to let their more educated minds take a look at the creatures on the cavern floor.  They make it to the cavern and view the creatures…..deciding they are demonic (not undead) in nature, at which point an Imp appears next to them and shrieks “Intruders!!!!!!” at the top of it’s whiney voice.

Several things happen quickly….the Tiefling completes his ritual and the teleportation circle is activated.  He gestures to the host of shadowy demons and orders them through the portal.  They stream forward, merging into almost a single black cloud, overlapping and mingling, making as fast as the wind.

The Dragonborn turns to the Tiefling and insists on being granted permission to deal with the intruders himself.  He mentions “given the tight schedule we are on and the importance of his mission”.  The Tiefling replies with “You are one of her ”/campaign/tears-of-destruction/wikis/the-annointed" class=“wiki-page-link”> anointed, you have seen her and know the truth, so you know what is at stake and what fate will await you if you fail."  The Dragonborn replies “I will not fail master”.  The Tiefling replies “Good, this location is of strategic importance, and its location should remain a secret”

The Dragonborn then starts running towards the path leading up to the ledge that Riley and Mathas are stood on….whom naturally make a hasty retreat to their colleagues and issue a battle cry of “Incoming!!!”

The heroes take tactical positions in the room with the unseen servant and prepare for the Dragonborn.  They don’t have to wait long, although he does not come alone.  A bloody battle ensues with six Bladelings and the Dragonborn all being slain.  Ragnar removed the Dragonborns head uttering the lines: “Tell whoever you work for that they are next, Ragnar champion of Kord will have his vengeance”.

The bloody remains of the corpse is soon stripped of it’s magic armour and weapon, which Mathas and Riley quickly identify between them.

With the threat neutralised, you head down and explore the cavern.  There is nothing new to see that couldn’t be seen from the ledge.  Jingle puts the severed Dragonborn skull by on the floor by the portal though and then spends half an hour banging away…..at the portal, and eventually causes enough damage to cause it to collapse and be rendered useless.

With nothing else left to do you head back up on the lift and out of the house on Long Latch Lane.  You emerge and are greeted by about twenty very nervous guards pointing crossbows in your direction.  Your gnomish guide emerges from behind a plant pot and assures the guards that you are the good guys.

You inform him of what you’ve found and between passing-out spells he eventually gathers his wits and insists that you report all of this to the king at once.  You head to the Keep and await his presence in the same meeting room as before.  Again he joins you after a few minutes wait, accompanied by Advisor Sodor and the head mage.

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Beneath the city

In your quest to discover what had happened to the missing Dwarven Stonemasons, you had followed leads to an old house adjoining the city wall at the end of Long Latch Lane.  You had entered and defeated an undead gate keeper.

You searched the robes that the Gatekeeper Wight had been wearing and found an iron key and two ritual scrolls of Unseen Servant.  The key opened an iron door embedded in the city wall that the DM had forgotten to mention the previous week.  You unlocked it and ventured inside.

Illuminating the pitch black with your magical lantern, you discovered a 10 foot by 10 foot room hollowed out in the heart of the city wall.  In the room was only one feature, an iron platform with a lever attached to it that went in two directions.  You all boarded the platform and moved the lever from one side to the next.  Experimenting a little you discovered that the two lever positions were “up” and “down”.

When set to “down” the platform descended in perfect silence at a speed of 1/2 foot per second.  When set to “up” the platform came up in perfect silence at a speed of around 1 foot per 20 seconds.  With the shaft appearing to be about 100 foot deep, this meant that the ride to the bottom would take a couple of minutes but the ride back up would take half an hour!

You descended on the platform until it came to a stop in another 10 foot by 10 foot room.  In that room were the inner workings of the lift.  It became clear that the lift was powered by an underground water supply.  The water filled a tank and the lever controlled when it was emptied over a fly-wheel, causing the platform to go up down.  Given the half hour wait to head back up, you thought it best to explore a little first.

You took the only exit from the room, a passageway that wound around for 50 foot, descending slightly and ending at a door.  A smell of animals and rotting flesh came from the other side.  You opened the door and manoeuvred into the room to be confronted by a grey-skinned humanoid that had many spiked protruding from its flesh all over it’s body.  The spiked humanoid was feeding a severed dwarf leg to a creature in a cage.  In total there were five cages with four of them having occupants.  An imp was also seen sitting on the shoulder of the humanoid.

A messy combat followed against foul creatures not seen for thousands of years.  Demons from the abyss!  From old tomes and fire-side stories you guessed them to be Dretch’s and Abyssal Scavengers, not to mention the imp.

You eventually triumphed and silence descended allowing you a few minutes to catch your breath.  During the rest you found a couple of healing potions and some gold & silver coins in the possessions of the Bladeling.  A quick scan of the pile of Dwarven body parts in the corner also suggested that you may have found some or all of the missing Dwarven stone masons.

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