Shields of the Vale

Conversation of import
When the God's talk

“The Mortals cannot survive this attack.”

“They must else Torog will rule all. He will not be a gentle master. He is not bound by the compact. The Material Plane will not survive such blatant misuse of our abilities.”

“What would we do. A miracle may not be enough”

“Not this time. I plan to be more … direct.”

“You cannot! You must not! The compact will” “The compact be damned! Torog cannot be allowed to triumph, that is not justice.”

Fight to the last Breath [weapon]
Our heroes fight through Vlaa'kith's defenders

Where we finished
As the Shields alighted in the entry room of the second floor, three Tla’ikith [undead warriors] descended down to them from the ceiling above.
[Room 31]
Shanna and Berradin were the only characters still in humanoid form, the others having been converted to spiders. As the Tla’ikith attacked Shanna ducked away and moved to a more advantageous position. Berradin was caught flat-footed and was in grave danger.
The Shields began transforming back to humanoids and engaging the enemy Shades. As they began their turns they were drawn close to the Tla’ikiths by their psychic auras. Nesh was struck by a silver sword and cast out of the astral plane into the bleed between dimensions. He struggled to return to his endangered companions.
Berradin was unable to cast any spells and begged for the return of Flameshadow, which had been blown out of reality with Nesh.
The Shields overcame the undead warriors as Nesh returned to their side.

Berradin begged to have Flameshadow back but Nesh would only offer a silver longsword + scabbard as an alternative. Berradin tried to sway the group fearing their danger without a mage’s power to assist them but the group wanted him to hold the wand of curing and be their healer instead.

Dinnan investigated the mist door at the end of the room as Shanna offered a gift to Berradin of an item that would prevent him rising as undead if slain inside the palace of whispers. Once Berradin placed the magical protection around his neck his necrotic right hand began to break down and melted off his wrist. Berradin now had his sword again but no sword-hand. Miraculously his right hand began to regenerate from his stump and he was once again whole.

The Shields gathered themselves after this mind-bending display just as Dinnan decided to try the mist door. As he jumped through he felt himself swept through time and space and relived many previous battles re-opening old wounds. He landed shaken on the other side of the door in front of six Duthka’Gith [1/2 Dragon/Gith] who were lying in wait for the Shields. One of them struck Dinnan psychically immobilising him and leaving him open for a large back-handed blow from the Duthka’Gith that smashed him back through the doorway [injuring him even more] slamming him against a wall across from the mist-door inside the entry room.

{Room 32}
The Shields were concerned with this ambush/choke-point and decided to smash their way through the adjoining wall to the mist door. Nesh, with his massive Maul, and Mal, with her multi-headed flail, beat at the walls industriously for a couple of minutes until the wall was almost breached. They had a plan and it had come together. As they smashed through the last inches of obsidian wall, Saran sighted the enemy ‘Giths and teleported herself, Nesh and Flea within the ranks of the Duthka’Gith. Mal immediately fey-stepped next to them. This blew the Giths readied actions and they attempted to regain the upper hand. Luckily for them they reacted quickly and let loose a barrage of flaming dragon-breath within the chamber that badly injured the Shields present but they persevered.

Dinnan tumbled through the hole as Shanna sent off a volley of arrows into the nearest ’Gith. Berradin waited outside the room ready to throw some spells.

The Duthka’Gith were harried and attempted to separate and attack the Shields artillery unit but were mowed down quickly. The Shields were bruised but not beaten.

Shanna attempted to navigate a mist door and found that she could do it without harm. She was sure that she could protect any companions in contact with her while passing through the grey mist portals.

[Room 33]
Shanna, Dinnan and Nesh stepped through the mist door without anyone suffering injury, although Dinnan and Nesh were a little bit disconcerted by the timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly reality they traversed.
The room they entered was decorated with a full wall hanging made of humanoid skins, with shiny baubles across the artwork which the Shields realised were glazed eyeballs. The room also had two other grey mist doors. The Shields decided to go left.

[corridor 35]
Shanna brought Dinnan and Nesh with her, depositing them in a 10’ foot high corridor which had walls that were rounded and more skin-like than obsidian. Shanna spotted a secret door into another chamber and Dinnan opened the chamber door. Shanna went back through the mist door to gather other party members.
Suddenly the corridor convulsed pulling Nesh 40’ down the corridoor in a single “swallow” towards another grey-mist door. Nesh clawed at the walls bringing him to a stop but he found it hard to fight the psychic allure of the corridor.

[Room 36]
Dinnan threw Nesh a rope and went into the secret chamber to find somewhere to tie it off. He was taken aback by how much treasure filled this chamber. Three black pillars had been set inside the room around a rune-covered binding circle, a circle which contained a demonic looking creature.
Dinnan beheld the treasure vault of Vlaa’kith.
Chests straining with gold, platinum, gems, jewellery and magical items lay before Dinnan. he was enthralled but he shook off the awe and focused on saving Nesh. Dinnan ran into the room seeking an anchor point, as Shanna came through the mist-door dropping off Saran and Flea then nipping back through for the rest of the Shields.
Dinnan started wrapping the rope around one of the pillars. His hands slipped into the black pillar as it lost it’s shape and sloughed around him. The other two pillars also lost their form and undulated towards the goop around Dinnan forming a large, black, shapeless monstrosity that to Dinnan’s horror he recognised as a Giant Black Pudding.

to be continued in one week

Which Lich is witch
The hunt for Vlaa'kith's phylactery begins

The Shields investigated the dragon hoards and after collecting the choicest loot moved back to the scrying room.
Berradin activated the screen by placing his mostly-dead hand upon the screen. He scryed the neighbouring rooms finding most of them empty. He scryed out farther checking on the duthka’gith training room and found that the half-gith/dragons were now equipping themselves for real battle. Adjacent to this hall were a room with a teleport circle and a room holding a manacled naked githyanki who was hanging from a hook by the handcuffs.
Berradin scryed in the chambers past Xam’kras’s rooms finding multiple rooms filled with 9 regeneration chambers each. Past those chambers was a temple consecrated to Tiamat filled with an obsidian dragon with five heads. Each head had a pair of jewelled eyes that matched the colour of a corresponding chromatic dragon.
Berradin went in for a closer look and the dragon heads turned to face him. They began to move towards the screen and Dinnan responded by throwing his dagger at the screen, causing it to explode. Berradin’s necrotic hand exploded leaving him with a cauterised necrotic-corrupted stump.
The Shields stealth team roamed ahead of the team, with Mal opening doors for them.
The Shields moved through each room but they did not encounter anyone. Shanna found their tracks leading towards the training hall/hanging dreadnought room. The training hall was also empty. The group investigated the teleport room and the naked prisoner.
The teleport circle lead to somewhere outside the fortress. The naked prisoner’s name was Ell’v, a member of the Sha’sal khou, and the mole that General Vetch’rr had sent ahead of the Shields.
He told the group that the Lich’s followers had most likely headed to the second floor, the entrance of which was further into the fortress in the direction which they were heading.
Ellv offered to take the tele-circle to see where it went. He then psi-messaged Shanna that he was at the Gith statue circle where they initially teleported from.
The Shields worked their way past the training hall and then entered a chamber filled with a sphere made out of Illithid skin. Inside the sphere was the animated bodies of all the githyanki who have had their souls absorbed by Vlaa’kith [all 666 of them]. The group squeezed past the sphere to the other end of the room where the door was made out of stitched skin and opened when within 5’ of Saran or Berradin.
The group continued through and were within another central chamber which had many doors and secret doors branching from it.
One door lead to a chamber filled with wall spikes that had githyanki and githzerai corpses skewered upon them, beyond that was a door leading to the personal treasure room of Vlaa’kith. Nesh and Berradin went that way.
Another corridor lead to a large cavernous room filled with over a 100 Githyanki female statues which all faced towards a central dais with a red crystal cffin in the shape of a dragon upon it.
The nearest statue was numbered with 156 and the coffin was empty. Mal and Flea worked out that each statue represented one of the previous Gith Queens and that the coffin was there to one day store the missing body of Gith, the original rebellion leader who freed their race from the Mindflayers and forged the alliance with Tiamat and her red dragons.
Shanna and Dinnan went opening the secret doors, finding an empty room which lead into another secret room which was free of the mind screams that had constantly filled their minds.
Saran had disappeared from the rest of the group.
Berradin and Nesh discovered a room full of horrors, Vlaa’kiths idea of valuable treasure was warped and horrific. Hanging from the ceiling were 3 cages. One was filled with the still living heads of Githzerai, one contained a demonic bird; a vrock that had been plucked of it’s feathers, the third contained a petite human female with blue hair.
Part 2.
Berradin began to question the female, who gave very vague answers to his queries. The rest of the group [sans Saran] had arrived and viewed Berradin levitating in front of the hanging cage. The Shields worked out that 3 burning braziers in the room were actually holding the essence of Greater Blackfire elementals, and that these elementals would be released if any of the cages were tampered with.
The female divulged that she was Aezenstar, the familiar of a dwarven wizard, whose armour and equipment had been found in the dragons’ hoards. She had been in the fortress for what felt like centuries.
Berradin saw that the arcane energies around the cage could be disrupted to not release the elementals but chose to use FlameShadow – a blackfire channelling device – to sever the connection and break open the cage.
The cage was engulfed in fire and darkness and once the darkness retreated the Shields could no longer see the female but Berradin once again had a right hand. It was as feminine as his own but slightly smaller and with painted nails. The bottom of the cage now held a 3-pawed pseudo-dragon – a cat-size version of dragonkind.
Aezenstar linked with Berradin and perched upon his shoulder while he came to his senses. Darkness now existed where once his pupils had been. Dark veins could be seen criss-crossing his flesh. The shields were concerned. Nesh took flameshadow to prevent any further corruption of their friend, under great protest from Berradin.
The Shields went through another secret door which lead to a spulchre containing a stone coffin with the image of a githyanki knight carved onto it’s lid. Dinnan detected a trap and disabled it and once the coffin was opened went to reach inside. Shanna spotted a second trap and reflexively snatched Dinnan’s hand back. Dinnan then went to diable the second trap. Thinking he was successful Dinnan reached in to move the golden plate inside and set off a necrotic wilting trap. Dinnan had his bag of holding in his hands which absorbed the damage meant for him but was destroyed in the exchange. The rest of the group were injured by the trap except for Aezenstar, who was consumed by the trap.
Berradin should have died from the trap but awoke refreshed and vital. Dark energy shifted over his skin and through his body. His own hand was now in place of the smaller, newer one. He radiated necrotic energy.
The group had to push on but they were worried for Berradin. Nesh refused to return Shadowflame to the wizard.
The Shields found a chamber through the mentally ‘quiet’ room which had a 10’ wide square shaft leading upwards. But Mal was knocked insensible by mind-shattering psionic energies within the chamber. Dinnan managed to remove her. The Shields pondered their next move.
In a secret room outside the ‘quiet’ room, Shanna attempted to communicate with the unquiet souls that rested within the fortress’s obsidian walls. They were, for the most part, full of pain and horror but there was a faint sense of hope now flowering as Vaa’kith’s end seemed possible. Shanna promised that the Shields would end Vlaa’kith and break the fortress, if the souls could just assist them.
Saran returned to the group cleaning her blade and covered in necrotic ichor. She seemed pleased with her ghastly work of culling the 666 animated dead. When she spotted Berradin her eyes narrowed and she purposefully moved towards him. She unbalanced him with a kick to the chest which knocked him on his back. She then drew her winter blade.
The other Shields grabbed her arms and pulled her away from Berradin while some of them helped Berradin to his feet. Saran heard the whole tale of what happened and stood down. She warned Berradin that he better not touch any of the Lich-Queen’s possessions or he would replace Vlaa’kith as the new lich of this place.
The Shields entered the mind-scream chamber and most of them proved susceptible to the psionic attack but those who were affected found that their minds were buffered by a layer of the trapped souls influence. They suffered images of past sufferings but they were not stunned.
Flea changed many of the Shields to spiders which climbed upon Shanna and then Shanna and Dinnan flew their ebony flys up the shaft to Susurrus’s second level. As they alighted in the entry room above three Tla’ikith [undead warriors] descended down to them from the ceiling above.
To be continued in one short week.

Time is on my side
The Shields face the Lich-Queen in her stronghold

The Shields continued their exploration of Susurrus, the Lich-Queen’s Palace of Whispers. They decided to head through an untried doorway with their stealth experts taking point. Dinnan and Shanna emerged into a 30’ long corridor which ended at another ectoplasmic door. Dinnan, Shanna, Saran and Flea were the first to rush through the doors and found themselves entering a large chamber over 80′ × 80′ with smaller chambers adjoining the room on both sides of the entryway.
The smaller rooms held large hoards of treasure and roosting upon these treasure piles were large wingless red dragons. In the center of the chamber was painted a large blood-red sigil. At the other side of the audience chamber was a large bone throne carved from the skulls of Illithids. Sitting upon the throne was the sceptre wielding, crown wearing Lich Queen of the Githyanki, Vlaakith. In front of her were a retinue of two undead shade-warriors [Tl’a’ikiths] and two undead wizards [Ky’y’izoths].

The group were not expected and so with surprise on their side moved further into the room and into a full scale engagement with the room’s inhabitants. Shanna and Mal attacked the red dragon on the left, Saran attacked the red dragon on the right, Flea and Dinnan harried the Lich-Queen’s minions, and Nesh charged the Queen. Berradin laid down covering fire upon the minions and the Queen.

Dinnan, suspecting the blood-sigil to be a trap, attacked and slid Vlaakith to the center of the bloody runes. It was an honest mistake. Dinnan also injures one of the wizards and moved him towards the company. Shanna unloaded a volley of arrows into Sarranaffel, the red-dragon on the left while Mal pressed it with her flail. Flea and Nesh’s astral bodies were discorporated by the silver swords of the warrior-shades and they were left to try and pull themselves back together. Berradin teleporte next to the Lich-Queen and attacked her with Flame-Shadow. Saran attacked Eskyndarl, the red dragon on the right.

Then the Lich-Queen was ready to act.

The Lich-Queen snarled out her name “Vlaakith” activating the death trap she was standing in. Berradin’s life force was immediately drained, and he was left clinging to life [0 hp], she then released her most dangerous spell “Time Stop”. All creatures in the room were frozen in time except for Vlaakith. She wasn’t finished yet. She pointed at Mal and cast “Disintegrate” causing massive damage to Mal and leaving her fighting for her life [50 hp damage and 50 ongoing damage – save ends], she then pointed at Shanna and cast “Power Word Blind” which stole away Shanna’s eyesight – perhaps permanently.
The Shields and the Queen’s allies attempted to resist the effects of the TimeStop but were frozen in stasis. Shanna failed her saving throw versus being permanently blind but the fates stepped in and saved her [she spent an action point]. Mal also saved from being disintegrated. The Lich-Queen placed her hands upon Berradin and applied her spell “Death Pulse” which while starting to kill Berradin also turned him into a psychic mine for all his companions [15 ongoing psychic damage aura close blast 2 vs. allies]. She notice that it was an astral form and full of furious anger at these interlopers decided to not let their souls have a chance of escape and uttered her most powerful spell “WISH”. Vlaakith wished the Shields mortal forms to the throne room. Unfortunately for her it also had the side-effect of unfreezing time and bringing back Nesh and Flea.
All the Shields then engaged Vlaakith while Dinnan dealt with her minions.
It was a brutal fight but with Vlaakith’s main spells exhausted and relying on her crippling rays to hurt multiple opponents she quickly began to falter against our heroes, especially with Mal boosting her companions’ damage and healing the whole group. Vlaakith’s minions and dragons were also being badly injured by the Shields, usually as collateral damage against their Queen.
Fittingly, Berradin struck the final blow against the unholy terror.
The last dragon quickly fell under the whole group’s attacks.

Quiet at last descended on the throne room.

The Dragons’ hoards contain
1x 100,000gp Astral Diamond, 8 × 10,000gp Astral Diamonds, 6 × 1,000gp gems, 29 × 500gp gems, 85 × 100 gp gems, 9,000 pp, 66,000gp, 154,600sp, 250,000cp, +5 Dragonscale, +2 Adamantine WarAxe, Wand of Cure Critical Wounds [as the potion], a piece of astral driftmetal with runes, a helm of teleportation.

Time for Holocaust
Burning in combat with a Red Dragon

The Shields managed to finish off the Beholder, Xam’kras – the legless Wizard and the remaining two Gish [warrior wizards].
Berradin studied the arcane instruments powering the willgrinder, the column of mind-sapping power in the center of the room, and deactivated it. The grey slaad trapped inside prostrated itself before Berradin and hugged, licked and kissed his boots. It then stayed very close to Berradin.
Dinnan and Mal decided to enter the ectoplasmic door below and across from their secret door. Inside was an 8’ tall oblong, silvery mirror whose frame was made from demon spines. Berradin recognised it as a scrying mirror but Flea convinced him to not use it to find the Lich-Queen as she would most likely detect it.
The group collected up the magic items from the dead which included:
+4 wand of frost
ring of protection
+4 robe of stars
vampiric gauntlets
iron key with githyanki script
10 x +2 Silver long swords

Berradin’s arcane glasses recognised the githyanki script on the key as nothing more than a maker’s mark.
The Shields returned through the secret door to the conference room and made their way through the adjacent secret door to the one entering the L-shaped corridor.
This room was 30′ × 30′ with a permanent floating obsidian disc in the middle of the room 20’ off the ground, which had a desk upon it which was cluttered with magical components, a couple of illithid skulls and other detritus.
There were 3 shelves on the other side of the room, one 10’ off the ground, one at 30’ and the last one at 40’from the ground.
The group found a sealed transparent jar containing a piece of red-dragon scale next to a scroll of the spell Clone.
On the shelf below were 6 adventurers’ spell-books and a set of red crystal book-ends worth 1800gp.
The bottom shelf had:
6 potions of cure light wounds
4 potions of cure moderate wounds
4 potions of cure critical wounds
Dinnan searched the work-desk and discovered a secret compartment which contained a piece of astral drift-metal with a Githyanki design – part of a Gith word – the letters AA.

The group then tried the ectoplasmic door out of the willgrinder room and found themselves back in the foyer.
Mal opened the eastern-southern door and Dinnan went through. The room he entered was hotter than a blast furnace and he instantly began taking damage. The room contained 2 silvery ovoid pods – the regeneration pods like in a previous room, they were opened and there was no one in the room.
Mal opened the southern-western door and Dinnan put his hand through which almost immediately was burnt. Berradin and Nesh went in as they were the most immune to fire and discovered a large chamber which had a hoard of treasure in the southern end, a regeneration pod, and a Duthka’Gith [1/2 dragon/1/2 Gith] warrior and a large red Dragon. They immediately were engaged by these enemies.
Berradin sent a whispering wind to warn the others but the spell would not pierce the ectoplasmic barrier.
However Shanna was sure she heard a cry for help and the rest of the Shields went into the blast furnace to fight the dragon and Duthka’Gith Captain. they were eventually triumphant.
Berradin finished the Dragon with a winter’s kiss which transformed it to ice.
Berradin and Nesh stayed in the room to collect any loot while the others went outside to get away from the blistering heat.
The hoard contained approx:
1 × 10,000 gp astral diamond
12 × 500gp gems
35 × 100gp gems
81 × 50gp gems
850 platinum pieces [8.5 lbs]
6200 gp [62 lbs]
42,500sp [425 lbs]
135,000cp [1350 lbs]
1 x potion of regeneration

The Captain had:
+4 breastplate
+4 staff of storms
level 17 Pearl of Power
level 18 Flame Wand
ring of the radiant storm

end of session

Enter the Palace of Whispers
The Shields begin their hunt for Vlaakith the Lich-Queen

General Vetch’r’ and his Wizard Rax’n’ault are recruiting the Shields to kill Vlaa’kith the Githyanki Lich-Queen.
Darkness begins to spread around the Shields and a dark shadow creeps across Saran and she goes deathly still – the animation of life is halted and the Shields see the true lifeless form of Saran. Her eyes are completely black and she surveys the party unemotionally.
The Shields bodies are immobilised and they feel themselves in the presence of divinity. Vetch’r’, Rax’n’ault and the world around them have faded into a dark mist.

“Saran” speaks. “Greetings mortals. You advance to engage the darkness of anti-life which exists within the Lich-Queen’s fortress. Know this, Vlaakith [almost spat out distastefully] can sense any life within her demesne.
[waves her hand across her chest]
This form I constructed is unlive enough to pass without notice in her lair. Your souls may undergo the process if you wish it” Saran waits before the Shields for their answer.
The Shields feel the god-awe lessen enough that they can once again move.
They discuss the option and Berradin counter-offers that the Raven Queen give them temporary necrosis as they are helping to kill her enemies.
The Raven Queen acquieses and the Shields feel a chill as mists of fog flow over each of them.
Mechanically – they are detectable as undead, they have -5 temporary hp [go unconscious at 5 hp], they have 5 Necrotic resistance.

The Shields seek maps for the fortress but the General does not have plans for the tower, none of his spies have ever returned.
The Shields cloak themselves in Gith travelling robes and make their way to the statue of Gith beneath Susurrus, the Palace of Whispers. They stand before Gith and utter her name and are teleported to an empty Foyer. The foyer is 30′×30′ with a ceiling at 50’. The foyer has 4 ectoplasmic doors leading out of the room, nothing can be seen beyond these portals until you pass through them. They are controlled psychically.
Shanna spots a secret door in the middle of one of the walls, twenty feet above the floor.
The Shields manage to glide up to the door and carefully open it. Beyond the doorway is a 70’ long x 10’ wide corridor which turns at the end to the right. There are 2 ectoplasmic doors along the right-face of the corridor. Shanna spots a secret door on the left-face 20’ up at the end of the corridoor. While the party open that door, Shanna heads down the L-shaped corridor which travels another 60’, with no side-doors, to open into a large chamber where the sound of steel ringing on steel can be heard.
The Shields open the secret door and make their way into a smaller chamber lined with bookshelves. Shanna notices that several guards are coming out of the large chamber ahead of her and has Berradin fly them both through the secret door before they can be spotted.
The smaller room seems to be a sort of conference room with a large table with 7 places and 6 seats around the table. Shanna spots a secret door to the left of the room [heading back in the direction of the foyer]. The Shields open it and Dinnan sneaks through.
He is in a small corridor, across from another ectoplasmic door, which leads 30’ to a larger chamber.
The larger chamber is 50′ × 60′ with an octagonal are at the center of the room formed by obsidian pillars that are 10’ apart. Within the area is a central column of blue light approximately 10’ diameter leading to the ceiling. Inside the light is a screaming grey 8’ tall, toad-like creature surrounded outside the light by a 2-eyed beholder wearing metal armour with 4 arms and 4 silver long-swords, a legless Githyanki in celestial patterned robes, and 6 other Gith wearing armour , carrying silver swords but also armed with wands.
The Shields engage the Githyanki, but the Beholder is generating an aura from its main eye which prevents the heroes from focussing fully and being able to use their more skillful attacks.
Shanna unleashes a very damaging attack on the legless Githyanki [Xam’kras] whose contingency spell of a Wall of Force activates, pushing his enemies away from him and giving him some respite while he attempts to clear his head.
Battle is joined and the Gish [Githyanki Fighter/Wizards] start taking grievous wounds from the Shields punishing attacks. Berradin draws the attention of the Beholder, making it turn away fromt he rest of the party, who can then use their more skillful attacks.
Xam’kras teleports out of his wall of force and attempts to turn Shanna to stone. She is hard-pressed but tries her best to resist the powerful magic. The battle gets bloody as Dinnan maneouvers one of the Gish into the light column and the Grey Slaad inside tears the soldier to bits.
Xam’kras returns to the protection offered by his wall of force while most of his troops fall to the Shields blades.
[to be continued]

Fly into the Danger Zone
The Shields' leave something behind

The Amulet of the Planes was activated. The Githyanki’s forms disappeared into astral sparks and the Shields’ bodies dropped like marionettes that had their strings cut.
Grik hastily moved forward checking their vital signs. Nesh was alive and so were the others. Oh how he hated this magic bullcrap!
Rezz’ine looked them over and then nodded his head knowingly.
“Well?” Grik’s tone did not invite a slow response.
“Their astral forms have left their bodies. They are now on the astral sea. Their souls will return if the link is not severed.”
“Severed? What the hell can cut a soul?” Grik growled out. The whites of his eyes stood out.
“Githyanki silver swords are the only thing I can think of offhand” Rezz’ine opined.
“Great! They won’t run into any where they’re going” Grik sarcastically noted.
Rezz’ine shrugged compassionately and patted Grik’s shoulder “Have faith Grik”
Rezz’ine’s worried expression faced away from Grik’s gaze.

Save the boy, kill the bed
Spending time in Fallcrest can be eventful.

The Shields returned to Hammerfast after a month of sailing the coast returning stolen villagers to their homes. Mal returned with the Shields to check the disposition of the Fell Court.
Victoria headed off home to the Palladine estate after being summoned by her father to attend the war council that was being convened there.
Nesh went back to the academy to catch up with Grik [ie. Drink] and Lord Xinto.
Hammerfast were now heading for a war footing; they were checking anyone entering the city including having a wizard on duty to detect shapechangers.
Saran wished to conduct a search for Razor [and Shadowhunter] and Shanna invited herself and Flea along to assist and speed up the search. They intended to use a ritual which would speed up their movement tenfold. They would meet the rest of the Shields in Fallcrest.
Berradin, Dinnan and Mal travelled to Fallcrest to collect the Gleaming Endeavour, their Githyanki skyship, and check on Imbolin [Berradin’s childhood friend] and the fate of the Fell Court.
The guards at the gates of Fallcrest were obviously upset and Dinnan managed to pry out of them the tragic story of the poisoning of the Lord warden’s 6 year old son. He had been sick for 3 weeks and was not expected to live much longer. The only piece of good fortune was that they had divined who his poisoner was and had him in custody. The poisoner was a bald, 30-ish human male named Gronchek, whom Dinnan realised was the person who had contracted him to kill the warden’s son.
The party settled in at Ellas, the pub frequented by Captain Nathan Farringray, and started to investigate the poisoning. Dinnan went out looking in the seedier sections of Fallcrest; the thieves’ quarter, while Mal and Berradin had many drinks with Farringray.
Meanwhile the hunting party, Saran in the lead, detected that Razor was inside Thunderspire Mountain, most probably within the domain of the Mages of Saruun.
The Shields were reunited at Ellas and discussed their next moves. Mal stayed behind to build a “closer relationship” between the Shields and Captain Farringray while the rest of the team headed to Shadowghast manor to investigate the disposition of Imbolin and the Fell Court.
The Shields were stopped near the mansion by some of Stasi Demonclaw’s clockwork soldiers, they were now set there to guard the place from intruders and also to prevent any evil escaping. They allowed the Shields into the mansion, who then went below and found that the hole to the underdark had been sealed by some sort of liquid stone that Stasi had created [concrete]. They found Imbolin exhausted and hungry by the site of the dimensional portal. He had expected them to come back here but had obviously been wrong.
The Shields took him back to Fallcrest with them and set him up for a month’s rest at the tavern.
Dinnan had found that Gronchek had been taken by the Fallcrest militia and rumour had it that he was tortured mercilessly every night and then healed. he would live and suffer until the boy passed, which apparently wasn’t long.
Dinnan charmed a lovely Dwarf lass and spent time with her. He then returned to Ellas.
At Ellas Shanna suspected that the party were being watched and surveyed the room. She could just make out 2 hooded figures in the corner of the room who no one else was aware of. Saran took her cue from Shanna and convinced everyone else in the common room to leave.
Shanna trained an arrow on the figures and asked them to identify themselves and state their business.
To the party’s surprise the 2 figures were a Githyanki female and a Githzerai female, two races with such an historical enmity that they should be killing each other on sight. They approached the party and invited them to meet with their patron, General Zetch’r’r, who was waiting to see them at his fortress in Tu’narath, the Githyanki city in the astral sea.
The General wished to hire the Shields and he offered them safe passage to his home and whilst under his roof. They would be returned home safely – those who survived the adventure.
The Shields wanted more info but the envoys were reticent. They did finally say that they were part of the Sha’sal Khou – a secret society determined to reforge the bonds between the Githyanki and Githzerai. The General was their leader but also a leader of the Githyanki military.
The envoys could not negotiate with any more than they had already given, it was now up to the Shields.
The Shields decided to think about the offer and meet with the envoys 24 hours from now to make their decision.
The Shields headed to the Lord Warden’s keep to see if they could help the boy while Dinnan snuck ahead to see Gronchek.
Dinnan found him in the dungeons manacled and hanging by the wrists from ceiling struts. There was just enough looseness in the chains that he could stand on his toes. The Lord Warden, Xander Corvassian, was in the cell with Gronchek wielding a flail with long thin leather strips that were covered in broken obsidian chunks. The Lord Warden proceeded to whip Gronchek while screaming incoherently at him. Eventally he tired and left with his guards, requesting they send a cleric to heal Gronchek’s injuries.
Dinnan entered Gronchek’s cell and found out that the human did the job because Dinnan had disappeared. He would not reveal the name of the Fell Court leader who had sent him on the job. The Fell Court had scattered but they had decided to settle scores before moving on.
Dinnan made a noose out of some of rope and set it over the ceiling struts. He left the neck hole where Gronchek could reach it and then left the cell.
The Shields were let into the mansion by Shelindrea, Corvassian’s tiefling betrothed, and taken to the room of Zeeyad Corvassian. He lay under his covers breathing shallowly and weakly. His skin was almost transparent and he resembled nothing more than a skeleton. He had very little time left.
Flea and Berradin inspected him and they found that he was under a curse. The cursed object was the bed or something part of it. They realised that it might be dangerous to move the boy in case the curse might transfer to someone else. Flea cast a ritual that delayed the active affliction and Zeeyad regained his colour and started to get out of bed.
Berradin could see the curse trailing from the bed to the boy and decide to sever the necrotic energy with Flameshadow, a necrotic channelling longsword, the energy jumped from Zeeyad to focus on Berradin. Berradin yelled at everyone to get out and he began to cast offensive spells at the bed while Flea assisted. The Curse ate the flesh off Berradin’s sword arm and began to kill him. Berradin struck the bed with his staff of winter and the bed exploded almost killing the spellcasters. The group rushed in and found Berradin barely conscious but missing his deskinned swordhand. Flea found it and used his skills to reattach the hand. Shanna used some healing she had learnt to help ease Berradin’s pain. They found the tip of a devil’s horn stuck within the bed’s headboard.
The boy was safe and the Lord Warden was extremely grateful.
Dinnan went back to the thieves’ quarter and managed to acquire the information that most of the fell court’s tieflings had headed to Bael-Turath, except for the necromancer captured by the Shields and Gronchek’s employer, named Tyrrannith who had a sister named Halva in Hammerfast.
The Shields returned to Ellas with the shellshocked Berradin and went to bed.
In the morning Berradin was healed by Mal’s powers, after she came down from Farringray’s room.
Shanna sensed that the Sha’sal Khou were present and they became visible. the Shields discussed and accepted the offer. Kel’i’lec and Sarrys then said the party would need to collect the Nesh.
The Shields skysailed with the envoys to the Academy to collect Nesh. When they arrived they were greeted by Nesh, Grik and Halva.
Dinnan told Halva that he was looking for her brother and she told Dinnan that she had not seen him but he was under her protection. They began to lose their temper and escalate their argument about who would kill whom until Halva calmed down and made the offer to Dinnan that she would punish her brother and make sure he would not cause harm to children anymore.
Nesh teamed up with the Shields and one of the envoys pulled out an amulet. The Amulet of the Planes was activated and the Shields faded into gossamer and reappeared on the rooftop of a tower in Tu’narath in the astral sea. The city was built atop a great stony humanoid husk.
Facts known by the Shields, provided by Berradin and Shanna:

  • Githyanki – see their queen as a god. They have no clerics. Divine Power is currently outside their abilities.
  • Tu’narath – city of the Githyanki. This floating city has been built upon the form of an ancient deceased stone god. Earthquakes are beginning to increase in frequency in the city.
  • Alliance with Tiamat and her red dragons made by Gith, the one who freed their race from the MindFlayers. Red Dragons still serve alongside the Githyanki – young red dragons as mounts to the Gith cavalry, Elder Red Dragons serve as guardians to Tu’narath.

The rooftop had Githyanki spearguards who escorted the Shields downstairs. In a courtyard at the base of the fortress, scores of Githyanki soldiers marched in perfect formation, barking vile epithets about their enemies.
The Shields were brought to a circular chamber with a vaulted ceiling and a tile mosaic on the floor depicting a massive, fearsome red dragon. A large circle marked with golden runes covered the dragon mosaic. Inside the circle stood two figures: A Githyanki warrior clad in black plate armour who has a black gem embedded in his right eye socket and a black raven perched on his right shoulder, and a githyanki wizard dressed in vermillion robes adorned with black symbols.

The warrior asked them to enter the anti-scrying field and introduced himself as General Vetch’r’r and the wizard was Rax’n’ault.
Vetch’r’r chose the Shields because they had proven themselves as formidable enemies of the githyanki and wished to hire them to kill the Lich-Queen of the Githyanki. In return he has promised to mark the material plane inviolate if the party can destroy the Lich-Queen and her phylactery [Horcrux – for you Harry Potter fans – Yes, Valdemoort was a Lich]. The Queen’s tower is full of treasure and the Shields are free to keep whatever they acquire. They will be returned safely to the material plane if they succeed in this mission. The party are known enemies of the Githyanki so their attempt against the Queen will not be seen as an internal plot.

Vlaa’kith CLVII – Lich-Queen of the Githyanki. Ruler of the Githyanki for many centuries. Has stolen the power of many powerful Githyanki. They become her undead servants; SHE is beginning a process of transforming Githyanki embryos into 1/2DragonGith. She seeks to drain the last remnants of power out of the god-husk below Tu’narath and attain full godhood. Vlaakith rules from the palace of whispers.

The Palace of Whispers – the floating fortress of Vlaa’kith. It hovers above the remains of the dead god’s face.It has the reputation of being an unsettling, horrific place. Two ancient dragons live there: Dessakrul – a two-headed red dragon and Holocaust. It is also filled with her undead servants: Tl’a’ikith – masters in martial combat reduced to unliving shades; Kr’y’izoth – once powerful wizards now arcane forces of undeath.

The Shields accepted the deal and were all given amulets of proof versus detection – they would keep the individual safe from passive detection but active detection would cut through the amulets’ shielding. The General’s envoys would get the Shields to the palace of whispers.

The little things
Shanna takes a long night's journey

Shanna slipped into the darkness, away from the celebration.

Large groups of boisterous people weren’t really her ‘thing’, besides it had been a while since she had been able to just be by herself. The others wouldn’t miss her, not with Jonas entertaining the crowds by singing that ballad or a blindfolded Dinnan throwing five… no, six knives into a thrown apple or Berradin pontificating drunkenly while Victoria murmurs a conversation with Nesh about the journey back and Flea sits nearby and hangs on every word between the two as Saran watches them all, smiling and scaring the brave who dared approach her distant beauty.

Shanna smiled too as she glided silently over the rocky terrain. She liked her friends, old and new. It felt good to belong. To have purpose and intent that was here, now and real rather than the vagaries of prophecy.

“Hello again, Shanna Wayfinder.”

Shanna spun, bow up and arrow flying, another already nocked and ready. The arrow fell harmlessly at the Treespeaker’s feet and he smiled.

“How did you…?” Shanna asked, surprised. It was a foreign feeling and she didn’t like it much. But she lowered her bow and shut her mouth all the same. The old elf (if that’s what he was) would answer the questions he wanted to answer, whether she asked them or not.

“You do not get to my age without learning a few tricks,” he said, bending down to pick up the arrow. Shanna swore she could hear him creaking like an old tree in the winter wind as he bent. As his brown and gnarled hand grasped the arrow small shoots of green appeared and he shoved it upright into the rocky ground at their feet. She could already see and hear it taking root and raised an eyebrow. The Treespeaker’s eyes twinkled and he smiled as he straightened, brushing his hand on his simple green robe.

“Sometimes it is the little things that matter. A tiny action can have a large effect. The smallest and least expected of us can do the biggest things.”

Flea? “I like the goblin,” Shanna muttered, feeling embarrassed. Elves weren’t meant to like goblins.

“So do I, so please look after him,” the Treespeaker grinned. “But enough ‘small’ talk… it is time to continue your training.”

Shanna barely noticed the crossing. But then she felt the song in her heart, in her being, in her soul. She heard the life all around and saw the Eladrin city glittering in the distance. She was in the Feywild again.

The Treespeaker gestured towards the city. “Your brothers and sisters are expecting you Wayfinder. You will learn what you need to learn from them. At least the beginnings of it.”

Shanna looked at him as he waited, unmoving. Finally she asked: “And my friends? Won’t they notice I’m not there?”

“You were not ‘there’ with them when we met tonight,” the Treespeaker chuckled. “I promise you will be back by the morning. I also promise someone else will watch over them and keep them safe tonight until you return. Now go.”

Shanna sighed. She knew he wasn’t going to take her back and she had no idea how to do it herself. She’d have to find the answer to that and other questions in the city. She adjusted her backpack, checked her bow and squinted at the path ahead. In her limited experience distances and time were weird in the Feywild…


Shanna sighed again. She always did what he asked anyway. She just wished his ‘asking’ gave her the option of refusing sometimes. But he was the Treespeaker and she was… she didn’t quite know what she was anymore.

“I could take you back if you would like…”

He sounded disappointed. And she felt twelve years old again.

“Ok, ok. I’m going. I’m just getting my bearings,” Shanna said, exasperated. She glanced at him quizzically: “Back by the morning?”

The Treespeaker nodded. Shanna thought he looked sad for some reason, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. She wasn’t that good at people.

“Right then,” she muttered and stepped towards destiny.

Shanna stepped wearily out of elsewhere as the first rays of sunlight lapped at the village below and paused. The Treespeaker waited silently. It had been a peaceful night.

“Five years!” Shanna spat, her voice cracking.

“And yet you have returned by the morning. As I promised you Wayfinder,” the Treespeaker murmured sadly. “But still… I am sorry.”

Shanna tried to look at his face, to see if he was really sorry, but it was blurry and watery and her eyes were stinging and she was suddenly tired, so tired. She slumped to the ground, letting the tears flow. After a time they stopped and she looked up to see that the Treespeaker had been weeping silently as well.

“Why are you crying? I was the one you sent away. You knew I was coming back now – you promised,” Shanna berated. Then in a small voice: “I nearly died. Many times. But you promised I would be back.”

The Treespeaker flinched and looked… ashamed? She’d been gone five long years and had been to planes and places and seen things she could barely believe. Wonderful and terrible things. But she never thought she’d see the Treespeaker look so… mortal.

“Wayfinder….. Shanna,” he pleaded, rubbing his hands together. “I knew that the crossing would be here in the morning. I knew that if you returned it would be by the morning. IF you returned.”

He looked directly at her then, through her, and she felt the weight of that small and simple word. IF. Sometimes it was the little things that mattered.

“You lied!” Shanna was shocked. Outraged. Angry.

“Yes. There are things even I cannot promise. Your safety and success was one such thing.”

“But you lied!”

“I had every confidence that you would return. I believe in you Shanna.”

“You! Lied! To! Me!” Shanna spat through gritted teeth. She wanted to kill something. To destroy something. Blood. Someone. Her hand instinctively moved towards her quiver.

“Enough,” the Treespeaker whispered angrily, waving his hand.

Shanna froze. She felt her fury gutter out, leaving a dark aching hole. She couldn’t move. She didn’t want to.

“Even after five years you have not really learned about people Shanna, so learn this: everyone and everything at some time lies. Last night you needed knowledge and skill you did not have for the dangerous journeys ahead, this morning you have that knowledge and skill. You have returned, despite my false promise BUT as I believed you would because you are what and who you are. I am truly sorry I lied to you and I feel shame that I did. That I had to. But now you have returned safely and I am relieved and thankful. As you should also be. Now it is time to stop this nonsense, to return to your friends and to keep them safe. Farewell.”

The Treespeaker dropped his hand slowly and a gentle breeze sprang up around them. His robe and then his being broke apart, floating like autumn leaves in the wind.

“Old man? We’re done,” Shanna muttered to the air.

No… you know we are not, the breeze whispered in her ear amongst the cries of gulls.

Shanna sat for a while, thinking. He was probably right. He usually was. And she couldn’t stay angry. She breathed in deeply, smelling the world. It was good to be home.

She stood up smoothly, hoisted her backpack, checked her bow and looked at the village below. Somewhere down there were her friends. She hoped she hadn’t changed too much. One night could seem like forever.

“Right then,” she muttered with a wry grin and began a new journey.

The calm before the storm
The Shields attack the Iron Circle muster point.

The Shields had acquired the Iron Circle ship Intrepid and had pulled out of the port of Bael-Turath. The ship sailed into deeper waters to catch the stronger North winds and head towards the Iron Circle muster point.
Berradin had commandeered the Captain’s quarters and was busily conducting a ritual to enable the ship to make better time on it’s journey. Shanna had climbed the crows nest with Dinnan, to be lookouts. Saran stood near the tiller, she had cowed the crew and her presence had them working feverishly to please their new masters. Victoria, Nesh and Flea also stood on the command deck watching the ship sail.
Then all the winds died, the ship had entered a circle of calm water. The sails hung limply and the boat slowly rocked in its becalmed waters.
Shanna noticed that the wind was still blowing beyond the ship, as gulls pushed against the wind to continue their flight path. Something was wrong.
Flea and Victoria went to see Berradin about the peculiarity, and when opening the captain’s door found Berradin sprawled on the floor in a growing pool of his own blood.
Flea and Vicki gave aid to him and found small stinger marks on him where he was bleeding out. The stingers’ poison prevented wound closure and had almost spelt the end for the wizard.
Flea cast a spell to see invisible creatures and spotted an imp hidden in one of the ceiling corners of the captain’s cabin.
He pointed out the creature to Victoria and was attacked by the imp for his trouble. The imp teleported and was again invisible somewhere in the room. Flea still could see the devil and guided the now-arrived Saran and Victoria at the beast. Saran blasted it with an eldritch bolt and Vicki speared it through the throat with Icicle.
The imp had apparently been the captain’s familiar/link to the iron circle, and had used an amulet which could remove the wind in close proximity to one ship. It had been used to catch other vessels and prevent their escape from the slightly heavier and slower Intrepid.
Berradin had slipped into a coma from the cocktail of poisons he had received and was unresponsive. They made him comfortable and left him to rest in the bed.
The Shields now questioned the crew about the muster point, it’s layout and garrison.
The muster point had a fixed garrison of 3 platoons of 50 men, their commanders, a garrison commander and a Prelate [iron circle wizard/priest of Asmodeus]. There was a stockade in place for holding the slaves which was built on the grounds of an ancient temple ruin (possibly to Pelor).
The Shields decided to land in a smugglers cove south of the muster point and make their way overland to the ruins, and then infiltrate from inland.
They found a good observation point outside the muster point, and Shanna took watch.
The garrison of troops tents were scattered around the temple ruins while the commanders had their billet within the ruins. The stockade was close to the temple with 5 foot high fences and one platoon on guard at all times. The temple grounds were about 5 minutes walk from the wharf, which currently held 2 iron circle ships.
Shanna spotted Mal, Jonas and Grik’s mom among the slaves.
Flea took watch with Shanna and noticed some arcane energy around the campsite. Flea sent down a feral cat to recon. the grounds but the cat was flash-fried when it set off some wards. Flea could now make out a dome of energy around the campsite.
The Prelate noticed an incursion into his protective zone but realised it was a cat and so was not alarmed. He was a tall, imposing humanoid with the touch of the devils upon him. Horns grew from his forehead and he had vestigial wings sprouting from his tunic. he spent a lot of time watching the slaves, seeming to feed off their misery and fear. His ward around the campsite would ensure that if any prisoners escaped the stockade, they would burn up when trying to cross the warded barrier. A secondary bonus was that he would be aware if anyone tried to enter their camp.
The Shields decide to make their way down to the barrier and then have Saran portal them across and within striking range of the Prelate [kill the wizard first!]
They snuck down without being spotted but when Saran tried to portal the group she was unprepared for the backlash of arcane energies and only Victoria, Dinnan and Flea made it past the barrier. They all struck at the Prelate and killed him as he gave warning tot he garrison [ruining my chance to show his cool powers :( ]. The wards were broken by the Prelates death and the rest of the Shields rushed in.
The platoons formed themselves into 3 units of 50 and prepared to engage the Shields, as the Shields opened the gates for the prisoners and had Mal, Jonas and Grik’s mom lead the villagers away from the battle. They took what weapons they could and rushed towards the wharf to take a ship.
The Shields faced off against the platoons, their commanders and the garrison commander. They used their area-affacting abilities and teamwork to take down most of the defending force. About 50 iron circle soldiers survived the battle.
The villagers helped take over the iron circle ships at port, and they all celebrated their good fortune.
The villagers collected their belongings from the garrisons storeroom which left a small amount of unclaimed treasure.


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