A History of Ashes

Harse and Beyond

Arriving in Harse a couple of days later, Vencarlo led them to his friend Jasan Adrial at Blackbird Ranch, where they were also reacquainted with Trinia Sabor who was still staying there. After a hearty meal with the family it was arranged the Jasan would send one of his trusted servants to the city to dispose of the loot the Party had obtained and to procure a scroll of Raise Dead from the Temple of Abadar. Garrid tended to Neolandus for the next couple of days and when the servant returned from Korvosa, used the scroll to return Behzad to the land of the livingKaer Maga.

Neolandus was finally well enough to tell them his tale, that he had discovered that Illeosa had fallen under the sway of an ancient Shoanti artifact - Midnight's Teeth, that according to one legend, contained the essence of an ancient blue dragon, Kazavon. He suggested the Shoanti have very strong oral traditions, and if anyone knows the truth behind Midnight’s Teeth, that truth is doubtless hidden among their historians up in the Cinderlands. Jasan provided a map of the region from which they determined the nearest route to the Cinderlands was via the notorious city of Kaer Maga to the north. That night as they slept the Party all had a strange dream in which the spirit of Zellara appeared and performed a Harrowing warning them that what they were about to face would be a severe test of their strength.

Next morning, after purchasing some mounts, they set off towards their distant destination, arriving without incident several days later at the bottom of the great cataracts that came pouring down from the Storval Rise, a thousand-foot-tall cliff face that sliced Varisia nearly in half, separating the fertile lowlands from the rough and craggy Storval Plateau. Asking around the small settlement, they were told that the quickest route up to Kaer Maga was via the Halflight Path and told to contact the Duskwardens. They quickly found their way to where a huge set of rune-carved bronze double doors stood embedded in the rock face. A merchant with a heavily laden wagon was waiting nearby and watched anxiously as Behzad negotiated their passage with Abra, one of the Duskwardens.

Having agreed a price they finally set off, the merchant, his two sons and their wagon to the rear, following a long ascending path through a seeming never-ending series of tunnels, some seeming natural, other obviously not. Suddenly As they passed a bricked-up archway, Abra stopped and muttered "That isn't right!" Just as he spoke the un-mortared brickwork exploded outwards as a trio of slithering horrors came barreling through.

The Cinderlands

The three seugathis launched their attack, most members of the Party reeling from the effects of the confusion aura they generated.  Abra, directly in front of them, was driven to the ground and crushed beneath one's bulk. Those Tordale and Dellosia, unaffected by the confusion aura attacked with spell and sword, but the seugathis charged forward, biting and wielding scimitars and wands incongruously grasped  in long tendrils at the end of their rear. Fortunately the other members of the Party managed to shake off the effects of the confusion aura, rallied and  with this extra assistance the three horrors were slain. Garrid immediately rushed forward and cast healing spells  on Abra. The Duskwarden, although shaken, began urging them forward advising strongly  against exploring the bricked-up tunnel the seugathis had broken out of, much to Gawedd's disappointment.

BonestormThey emerged about an hour later in a stone bunker just outside the city walls. Abra immediately informed the other Duskwardens of the encounter with the seugathis, thanking the Party for their aid and for saving his life. Grumm and his sons were less enthusiastic, departing with their wagon towards the city at a run, shouting insults over their shoulder questioning the Duskwarden's competence.  Taking leave of Abra, the Party followed the merchants towards the strange looking city at some distance, eventually finding lodgings in The Sorry Excuse , which despite being recommended by everyone they spoke to was mildly disappointing.

Next day Tordale, Behzad and Garrid went shopping after which they all went to see Abra to see if he could give some guidance about The Cinderlands and where they might find the Shoanti. He advised them that the Shoanti tribes were largely migratory, and could be anywhere in the vast volcanic desert of The Cinderlands, but he recommended to try their only fixed settlement at the Kallow Mounds, and there they might be able to locate their only contact in the tribes, Thousand Bones. They bought supplies for the trip and realising their horses would probably not be of much use, sold them to defray the costs. After this they spend another mildly disappointing  night in The Sorry Excuse, before heading out of the city, heading  eastwards.

Over the next three days, The Cinderlands  lived up to its promise as the most inhospitable location in all of Varisia, a wasteland of ash and sand which they slowly traversed, occasionally running into hazards and monsters. On the first day, some ankhegs were easily dealt with and the second day's travel was fairly quiet. That night however a hungry basilisk that attacked their camp proved more problematic, turning Tordale to stone. This presented the Party with a considerable dilemma until Garrid remembered an obscure piece of lore that blood form the slain basilisk could sometimes reverse the petrification effect. 

On the third day, after an initial quiet start, they ran into a bonestorm, which almost killed several members of the Party before Garrid and Dellosia were able to destroy it with their spells.

The Kallow Mounds

The final day's travel across the treacherous Cinderlands was beset by attacks by a band of chimeras and an ambush by stone giants, but eventually the party were met by a group of four Skoan-Quah boneslayers who eventually agreed to take them to the Kallow Mounds. Arriving at the settlement set squarely amidst the graves of fallen warriors. They were introduced to the chief of the tribe a quiet and gaunt man named One-Life, who sent one of the boneslayers to fetch Thousand Bones. Thousand Bones arrived shortly as he greeted the Party warmly, One-Life ordered refreshments brought. Krojun-Eats-What-He-Kills

While they were talking there was a disturbance outside, Behzad could hear that someone was objecting loudly to the presence of "tshamek trespassers”. Thousand Bones led the Party out, warning them that the voice belonged to Krojun, a hero to the Sklar-Quah, and that blood spilled here would undermine the already shaky relations between the tribes. Krojun spent a few moments sizing up the PCs with a sneer, and as then turned to the chief objecting the Party's presence in these sacred grounds. After receiving the assurances of the chief and Thousand Bones that the Party had shown nothing but respect, his smile broadened and he pulled a thin leather loop from one of his packs. “Certainly, though, guests of the Skoan-Quah must be brave to come this far. You wouldn’t mind if I tested the courage and strength of your guests, would you?”

Behazad recognised the loop as a prop for a Shoanti game known as sredna, and as Garrid stepped forward to accept the challenge, Behzad quickly gave him a run down of the rules - a test of intimidation and strength. Almost inevitably Garrid lost the competition against the huge Shoanti hero, however the Shoanti seemed impressed by his efforts and only slightly patronisingly, clapped him on the back commending the "little man's" efforts to the watching crowd, gaining the Party a modicum of respect.

That night at the Bone Council Fire Dellosia explained about their fears that the queen had fallen under the malign influence of an artifact known as “Midnight’s Teeth” linked to an ancient dragon called Kazavon. The shoanti elders said they had never heard of Midnight's Teeth, but recognised the name Kazavon as an ancient evil that  the Shoanti had confronted  in ancient days. Thousand Bones suggested that they needed to speak to a  a Sun Shaman of the Sklar-Quah. However the Slar-Quah were very unlikely to be well-disposed to "tshamek", as Krojun had already shown. he suggested that in order to gain access to a Sun Shaman, they Party needed to build a level of respect among the tribes, especially those other than the Skoan-Quah. There is no one way to earn respect, Thousand Bones advised, but he suspected it would be for the best if the Party earn that respect quickly. Defeating enemies of the Shoanti and spending time among them learning their ways would eventually work, but not swiftly enough. Instead, Thousand Bones offered suggestions for less time-intensive tasks the Party should attempt in order to earn the respect and fame. The first of these challenges he suggested, other than perhaps getting Krojun to endorse them,  was to seek the Thrallkeeper's Mark

The Acropolis of the Thrallkeepers

Next morning the Party set out early for the 150 mile trip to the Acropolis of the Thrallkeepers. Thousand Bones had supplied a guide, a you Skoan-Quah called Runs-Like-a-Deer, who somewhat energetically led them across the blasted wastelands with a confidence that belied his age.  Fortunately their trip across The Cinderlands was without incident this time, although a couple of times the felt that they were being followed.

All that remained of the acropolis was a partially collapsed tower bearing the mark of the seven-pointed star—the Sihedron. Just to the side of the mark, a pair of 20-foot-wide stone doors stood ajar, leading down to a dusty flight of stairs that descend to darkness. Runs-like-a-Deer told them the doors had always stood open and sinisterly inviting in this manner. Even attempts to seal them shut by the Shoanti over the ages have failed. As they went to enter through the doors, they spotted the small group, led by Krojun-Eats-What-He-Kills, stop several hundred yards away, though Runs-Like-a-Deer seemed unperturbed by this visitation.

Gawedd and Behzad led the way cautiously into the entrance finding a wide set of stairs, Behzad noted that the ash and sand blown into the entranceway appeared to have been disturbed recently, but lacking the skills in tracking was unable to determine more than that. The stone stairs ended at a twenty-foot-wide and twenty foot tall hallway that led to the east, opening into a large chamber. The floor was cluttered with dust and tiny mounds of ash that also looked to have been recently disturbed in places, but signs of the trail vanish to the east once the stones become clear of debris. The air in this massive, cathedral-like space seemed strangely cool. The walls were carved with vertical ridges that rise to
support the arch above, where the ceiling vaults into the shadows to a height of nearly sixty feet. A five-foot-wide balcony ringed the room, the floor of which dropped fifteen feet into a pool of dark water. Halfway between the east and west ends of the room, a bridge crossed the pool. Two large stone doors stood in the walls to the south and east. Smaller doors sat in the walls to the north-west and south-west—all four doors bore depictions of seven-pointed-stars. The Party moved forward ultra cautiously, Gawedd  latterly followed by Dellosia headed through one of the small doors to the north, Behzad and Tordale chose one to the south while Halleth prowled the massive the central room, eyeing the pool of black water cautiously. As they explored Gawedd seeming forgot abut the unspoken agreement to silence and shouted out a progress report. As his voice echoed in the silence, the entire ruin shook slightly, and the waters of the pool in area sloshed and churned as if something large just shifted below the surface.

In thLissalae northern part of the complex Gawedd and Dellosia found what appeared to be a shrine, the curved northern alcove of the chamber displayed a brilliantly coloured bas-relief carving of a woman with six wings and a serpentine lower body. The coils of her lower body wound in and out and around a large seven-pointed star. Tiny shards of gemstones embedded in her tail made her scales glisten as though with moisture, but in more places, chunks of the carving had cracked or crumbled away, giving the depiction of the serpentine woman a strange but undeniable look of age and decay.

In the southern section, Gawedd and Tordale made their way to an otherwise empty chamber that contained a five foot diameter hole in the centre. It was surrounded by a ring of tangled runes. and inside the hole, a shaft filled with brilliant emerald light dropped into the depths. Examining the shaft with his magic, suggested to Tordale this shaft was enchanted to allow access to a lower level via some kind of transmutation magic.

Halleth, still in the central area, regarded the pool nervously and then spotted Krojun standing impassively across the way watching her silently. As she moved towards him a large tentacle emerged from the pool and began waving in the air swaying back and forth as if seeking something blindly.

Dellosia and Gawedd continued their exploration finding a passageway that passed-by a room with huge double doors and was blocked by rubble at both ends. Tordale and Behzad meanwhile, had found what also appeared to be a shrine, dominated by a huge bronze statue standing in the centre of the room. The statue depicted a half-snake, half-human creature with the lower body of a serpent coiled about a stand and the upper torso of a slender human woman. Her hands were crossed over her chest to clutch two objects at her shoulders - the right hand held a large quill, while the left held a jade-handled whip. Six birdlike wings emerged from the torso’s shoulders, and instead of a head, it had a disk bearing a seven-pointed star. Jade runes ran down the statue’s belly and along the length of its snaky lower body. Tordale spent some time examining the whip which detected magic, but ultimately decided to leave well enough alone. Eventually the Party came together and decided to check out the set of double doors, Halleth noting as she left an impassive Krojun and joined them that a second huge tentacle had joined the first probing the air above the pool.

The walls of this chamber were decorated with six life-sized bas-relief carvings that depicted a diverse collection of priests, each adorned in billowing robes covered in strange runes. An intricate scripture wound around the carvings, coiling across them and along the walls like an immensely long tangle of ribbons. Several ancient skeletons, some clad in hide armour or clutching Shoanti weapons, lay scattered around the statue’s base. Gawedd initially felt a strange compulsion to read the strange script knowing somehow it held vitally important information, but quickly gave up realising he could not understand Ancient Thassalonian!

Finally the Party decided their only option was the mysterious route below. Tordale was first to brave the emerald shaft, discovering it was enchanted with a feather fall effect. Unfortunately, as he landed below, he came under immediate attack by four red mantis assassins, getting badly wounded before the rest of the Party arrived to help deal with them!

The Golarion Globe

As the last of the assassins were swiftly dealt with, Tordale noted that the wall he was standing next to was not in fact a wall but appeared to be a passageway blocked by a huge stone block, he could see a narrow crack on each side, but it was too dark and long to see anything through it. As Halleth used a wand to cure the wounded, Dellosia checked the bodies of the slain for any usable loot.

Gawedd meanwhile strode off up the corridor which led to a large chamber the walls, ceiling, and floor of which had been painted to resemble a starry sky, giving the illusion of walking through space. A ten-foot-diameter stone sphere floated five feet above the floor near the room’s southern wall. Three short metal rods protruded from the lower hemisphere, radiating outward like a tripod, only the rods rested on empty air rather than a solid surface. The sphere appeared to have been carefully carved with tiny rivers, mountains, oceans, and forests.  As the others arrived Tordale and Dellosia cast detect magic, the sphere generating a powerful aura of conjuration magic.

Haleth went up and searched for traps finding none, however when she touched the globe she vanished, appearing somewhere else her mind assaulted by a chaotic series of strange visions  that near overwhelmed her mind. Consciously dragging her thoughts away she reappeared in the room! With a start,she noticed that the siehedron mark had appeared on her palm. One by one the rest of the Party followed suit, although  Gawedd had trouble pulling his attention away.

Have achieved the Thrallkeeper's Mark the Party returned upstairs, noting that there were now for tentacles probing out of the pool. Halleth tried sneaking past but the tentacles lashed out , grabbing her! As the rest of the Party rallied round, Halleth managed to extract herself from the tentacled grip and tried to flee for the entrance, only to be attacked by more Red Mantis assassins hiding there!

As her friends rallied to her support, the battle with the assassins was complicated by the giant tentacles lashing out blindly and indiscriminately. Haleth and Behzad went down badly wounded, but fortunately Gawedd danced his way through the assassins his blade weaving death as he went. Tordale and Dellosia's magic cut a swathe through them as well, Dellosia noting Krojun watching the combat impassively from atop the stairs. As the last of the assassins crumpled dead, Dellosia dragged out Halleth and Tordale dragged Behzad from the fray. This unfortunately left Gawedd as the malign entity behind the blindly seeking tentacles focused some some potion of it's slumbering attention upon them. Gawedd felt the brief touch of something utterly alien and inimical to life before his mind shut down almost completely in an attempt to preserve itself!

Leaving the acropolis Gawedd instinctively made his way towards his friends complaining bitterly about "wounds" until Halleth healed him with the wand. Krojun seemed  impressed at their achievement and, taking his leave, informed them he would discuss this with the elders of his tribe.

The House of the Moon

That night as they rested, Runs-Like-a-Deer told them that Thousand Bones had suggested their next stop should be to visit the Lyrune-Quah Truthseeker he had spoken about. AT this time of the year the Lyrune-Quah should be found at the House of the Moon a religious site to the north. Next morning, after Behzad had narrowly escaped been eaten by a passing purple worm, Runs-Like-a-Deer leaped to his feet and exclaimed as a party of wounded Lyrune-Quah Moon Maidens approached the camp seeking help. As Garrid healed the wounded, the Moon Maidens  told that party that they were the survivors of an advance party sent by the tribe to set up camp at the House of the Moon, but when they arrived they found it occupied by a great beast who  had slain their leader and several of their Sisters. Realising this could be their "in" with the Tribe, the Party quickly volunteered their help. Truthspeaker Akram

On the way to the House of the Moon, which turned out to be a shrine to Desna, the Party discussed just how much of their magic to display and how much they should attempt to impress the Lyrune-Quah by facing the "beast" with their martial prowess. Gawedd eventually cut short the debate by marching in boldly, only to be immediately attacked by the red reaver lairing within. As his comrades rallied to his help, Gawedd staggered under an horrific series of blows as the creature concentrated its attacks , even Garrid channelling twice, before succumbing to the creature's fearsome roar,  was not enough to keep the brave warrior been rent asunder. As Tordale and Behzad moved to finish the great beast off, Halleth darted in and dragged Gawedd's body out, but he was beyond help.

The beast slain,its foul corpse dragged away by Behzad, the shrine was reclaimed for the Lyrune-Quah. the Moon Maidens thanked the Party profusely for their help impressed by the great sacrifice that Gawedd had made to help the tribe. That night as they slept in an upper room Halleth's sleep was disturbed by strange, though not unpleasant, dreams in which she was visited by an emissary of her goddess.

Next morning Garrid cast speak with dead to ascertain whether Gawedd wished to be raised from the dead. receiving a fairly ambiguous answer Garrid decided that it was close enough to a "yes" and, there being a distinct lack of diamond dust in their supplies, Tordale was dispatched to Kaer Maga via ghost steed

While Tordale was away on his supply mission, the rest of the Lyrune-Quah arrived and they were introduced to Akram the Truthspeaker who, hearing of their mission agreed to accompany them to testify on their behalf before the Sun Shaman. When Tordale  returned three days later Garrid cast raise dead, and Gawedd was returned to the Company.

The Cindermaw

As the Party sat discussing what to do next, knowing that the Sklar-Quah, would be the toughest of the tribes to gain respect from  given Krojun's reaction to them. Their best way would be to undergo the tribe's Trial of the Totem, but as they would normally be barred by being tshamek, first  Akram suggested that they get the attention of the tribe by emulating the feat of one of their greatest heroes, Skurak, and being "reborn in honour". Unfortunately this involved being swallowed by a great worm known as "The Cindermaw" and them emerging "reborn" from within it's belly. Given his recent experience, Behzad was quickly volunteered by the others to face this trial!

CindermawNext morning the party set out after securing trail rations and headed south and west to what Runs-Like-a-Deer describes as the cindermaw's "killing ground". After four days travel, for at least some of which Gawedd was convinced they were being followed, they arrived in an area that was heavily volcanically active judging the the plumes of acrid smoke, sulphurous smell and constant ground tremors. Their rest that night was disturbed as one of the volcanoes nearby erupted, showering them with semi-molten exploding rocks! This started a huge brushfire which triggered off an emberstorm, which given the lack of any suitable shelter, the Party did their best to ride out using what shelter the rocks gave and partially burying themselves.

Next morning as they surveyed an even more devastated landscape, Dellosia saw what could only be the cindermaw breaching the surface several miles away to the west, observing that if the creature could be seen at this distance it must be considerably larger than the purple worm Behzad had escaped before. Undeterred the Party set off in pursuit, Akram and Runs-like-a-Deer, accompanied by Halleth, settled down to observe from a nearby butte.  

Locating the cindermaw was not difficult especially once Dellosia took up a spotter position a hundred feet up in the air, confronting it though was a different matter. Buffed to the nines by Garrid, and bearing a magical beast bane dagger loaned by Halleth, Behzad tried to draw the creature's attention, but frustratingly the creature continually surfaced in the distance and then dived below, as if it were an immense whale swimming through the ground. The worm erupted in front of the various members of the Party then behind them, and then to the side, occasionally unleashing it's fiery breath weapon. Eventually however Behzad, with Garrid and Gawedd in support managed to get close enough and long enough for them to provoke the worm into standing against them! Behzad allowed himself to be grasped by the creature, and swallowed and, while Gawedd desperately tried to keep the creature's attention on him so it did not dive,  cut his way out though it's thick hide. As he emerged triumphant, the cindermaw, badly wounded, dove to find the healing fires beneath the earth.  Their mission accomplished, the Party set out for the Sklar-Quah lands.

On arrival in the Sklar-Quah lands they were intercepted by a patrolling war party of six Shoanti "burn riders". The Sklar-Quah were not impressed at all by the presence of tshamek in their lands but seemed impressed that they were accompanied by Akram, and Runs-Like-a-Deer. Akram requested an audience with the chief and said the tshamek had come to face the Trial! At this pronouncement the burn riders grew serious and agreed to escort the Party to Flameford at the very heart of Sklar-Quah lands.

The camp of Flameford was in a highly defensible spot, nestled in the middle of a field of permanent spike stones at the edge of an 80-foot-high cliff. As the Party was led through the spike stones into Flameford’s heart, the entire camp, chieftain and Sun Shaman included, came to see. The Party's burn rider escorts led them to the War Council Fire and bid them to be seated. As they sat, Gawedd spotted that Krojun was in attendance as well and favoured him with a hard stare, which the warrior returned in kind.
The Sun Shaman remained quiet for this meeting, letting Ready-Klar, the Chief speak. The chieftain is loud and was obviously someone easily angered, and not one to suffer arrogance. He demanded to know why the Party had dared enter Sklar-Quah lands. Behzad stepped forward and spoke for the Party, telling their tale, which Akram affirmed, adding that the tshamek wished to petition to take the Trial of the Totem.

As soon as Akram mentions their request to take the trial, the gathered Shoanti fell remarkably silent. The Sun Shaman finally breaks this silence, not by speaking but by placing a hand on the chieftain’s shoulder and indicating wordlessly that they should retreat to the Sun Shaman’s tent to speak in private. Some time later, after a spirited discussion,  they emerged. The shaman asked each of the Party to stand before him and speak their names. As they did so the Sun Shaman repeats the names in sequence, and then tersely announces that the Party are permitted the opportunity to prove themselves to the Sklar-Quah by enduring the Trial of the Totem. The proclamation obviously  startled the gathered Shoanti, Krojun in particular, but while some obviously struggled to contain their fury, only Krojun lashed out. He shouted in protest but immediately realized the disrespect he has displayed to the Sun Shaman and stopped his tirade before it goes too far. Instead, he stormed off with several burn riders to take a long ride through the Cinderlands to cool off, much to the Sun Shaman’s apparent amusement and the chieftain’s shock and anger.

Once Krojun has gone, the Sun Shaman announced that the Trial of the Totem shall begin the next morning just after dawn, and then motioned for everyone to disperse from the council fire.

The Trial of the Totems

Early the following morning, about an hour before dawn, the Party was awakened by the Sun Shaman, who asked them to follow him. He, along with a trio of thundercallers, escorted them out through the spike stones in silence and took them east across the Cinderlands on a 20-minute walk to a site known as Bolt Rock, a small mesa of spiritual significance to the Sun Clan. A single ledge wound up to the westernmost flat-topped area of Bolt Rock, a plateau that sat about 30 feet above the surrounding plain. A second ledge led up higher to a second miniature mesa, this one 40 feet above the ground.

The Sun Shaman explained that for the Trial of the Totems, would-be Sklar-Quah must erect fired-clay pylons called sun totems atop Bolt Rock. Each totem is 10 feet tall, and the sides are decorated with numerous sigils sacred to the Sklar-Quah. The lower portion of each totem is rounded. The Sun Shaman directed them to each select a totem as their own and then explained that as a group, they will have 1 hour to carry these totems up to the lower tier of Bolt Rock and erect them in circular depressions in the ground there. They must then keep the totems upright for a day. At the next sunrise, the Part must move all of their totems up to the highest mesa (again, within 1 hour) and must keep them upright in another set of depressions found there for an additional day. When the sun rises on the third day, any totem still standing grants  whoever kept it upright Sklar- Quah citizenship. The Sun Shaman goes on to explain that while no food or water will be brought to the PCs for the 2 days they must remain atop Bolt Rock, they are welcome to provide their own.

Gawedd was first to try to lift a totem, finding that they were extremely heavy. The Party spent some time discussing how to get the totems up to the first tier and eventually they lifted hauled and ragged the totems into place just making it before the sun rose over edge of the mesa. Once the totems were upright, the shallow concavity and rounded base of the totem help stabilize it, but they quickly realised that without someone on hand at all times to keep the totems balanced, a totem will eventually topple. As the sun beat down on them and the wind blew the dust in their eyes the soon became exhausted form the strain of the constant attention the totems required to keep upright, and the long day became an even longer night, the totems started glowing with magical energy. The temperatures  plummeted but fatigued as they were the Party was unable to get any rest. Garrid probably coped the best due to an endure elements spell but even he was feeling the strain in the hour before dawn when it was time to move the totems.

Tired and exhausted, they somehow managed to transfer to the upper tier without incident, save a fleeting visit form Krojun who stared at them silently for a while before nodding approvingly and striding off. As the Sklar-Quah left, the Party grimly began to endure the second day, some of them experiencing strange visions driven by the heat and fatigue. As the late afternoon sun beat down on them things got immeasurably worse as they were attacked by bulettes. Before the last of the bulettes had been killed or driven off, only one totem, Gawedd's was still standing, it's magic preserved, and Garrid and Behzad had nearly been killed by the great beasts .

With the third dawn, the Trial of the Totems ends. The Sun Shaman led the entire tribe from Flameford up to Bolt Rock in the pre-dawn hours, and as the sun rose, the Party's achievement in maintaining one totem still standing was greeted with a rousing cheer. These totems represented new brothers and sisters in the Sklar-Quah, an event that is cause for great celebration. After returning to Flameford for a celebratory feast the Sun Shaman announced that he and the Chief would head off "on the winds" to the Kallow Mounds to consult with their ancestors on the information the Party had requested. As the celebrations wound down, and the Party retired to their yurt for some well-earned rest, the Sun Shaman departed, leaving Krojun in charge of the camp.

The Deathshead Vault

As the Party settled into the yurt, Garrid suddenly received a sending sent on behalf of Cressida, asking that the Party urgently return to Korvosa as an opportunity had arisen to strike a blow against their enemies and to meet her in the Dead Warrens. After a spirited discussion it was eventually agreed they everyone really needed to rest before responding to this new opportunity. Taking leave of Krojun, who seemed unfazed by their actions, Tordale cast ghost steed for the journey to Kaer Maga where another scroll of teleport was procured.Bishop d'Bear

Arriving outside the Dead Warrens they were met by Cressida who led them inside to the ossuary. Within the ossuary, they were surprised to see  Bishop d’Bear of the Church of Pharasma waiting to greet them, her expression was sombre and her manner grim. There was also a florid and heavyset man with short brown hair and beady dark eyes, whom Halleth  recognised as Boule, the guildmaster of Korvosa’s thieves’ guild, the Cerulean Society. Cressida introduced the guildmaster, her attitude bitter but resigned, explaining that the Cerulean Society had knowledge of a secret route into the Grey Maiden's headquarters in the Longacre Building where they might be able to strike a serious blow and hopefully rescue Marcus Endrin,the ex-commander of the Sable Company. Whose public execution had been announced. If he could be rescued, he could become a significant supporter of the nascent rebellion.

Following instruction from Boule the party traversed the sewer system, using a key he had provided to unlock the gates protecting the hidden entrance. While Halleth searched for the secret door they were attacked Bouleby a catoblepas. set to guard that approach by the Maidens. Unfortunately  Gawedd succumbed to  a combination of it's attacks and lethal  poison breath before the creature could be slain. While Behzad offered to take the poisoned fighter back to the Temple of Pharasma for healing, the others pressed on.

A passageway behind the secret door led somewhat incongruously to be a bar, tended by a lone goblin barkeep, who seemed overcome by actually having customers! While Halleth engaged the goblin in conversation, Tordale decided to cut to the chase and cast colour spray in an effort to incapacitate him. Unfortunately this proved ineffective as the "goblin" turned out to be a shapechanged greater barghest! Unfortunately, for the barghest that is, Tordale's vorpal blade took it's head clean off!

The door behind the bar led to a long winding tunnel that was partially blocked by a yellow mist that Garrid determined was some kind of dispelling mist. As the only magical effect in operation in the Party at the time was a light spell, he strode confidently forward, the others following. The tunnel opened into a wide cavern with a high vaulted ceiling that arches up to a height of thirty feet. Two ten-foot-high ledges looked out over the wall from the northwest wall, while to the east the cavern dipped down into a pool of dark water. Swathes of softly glowing blue fungus filled the cave with light growing in lumps that bore an eerie resemblance to brains. To the south-east, a fifteen-foot-wide tunnel was bisected by a deep pit with a pair of three-foot-wide planks forming a treacherous-looking bridge..

The cavern initially seemed empty, but as he moved forward, Garrid was attacked by two manananggals.

The Temple of Achaekek

The manananggals were swiftly dealt with courtesy of the party's silver weapons and Tordale and Dellossia's spells. Behzad and Gawedd arrived from their hurried trip to the temple just in time to assist in their final demise. Once healing was dealt out  Halleth moved forward to tackle the crossing of the rickety looking bridge over the pit at the far end, quickly discovering, by the simple expedient of plunging through it to the ground 60 feet below, that the wooden planks were in fact an illusion!

One by one the Party clambered down one side of the pit and up the other, Gawedd finding it difficult going in his armour. The arched ceiling of the vast, crescent-shaped, cathedral-like cavern beyond rose to a height of nearly forty feet, supported by four natural stone columns. These columns were caked with more glowing blue swaths of brain-shaped fungi, while a larger section of the stuff grew along the curved wall to the north and east. A total of nine dark openings near the ceiling to the south and west can be reached only by climbing or flight. To the south-east, eight stone benches faced a single pulpit that stood before a flight of stairs. The stairs led up to a worked stone facade that bore a looming carving of an immense mantis, its arms arrayed downward like an archway over a set of double doors.

Dellosia flew upward to investigate the opening  finding them to be small caves converted to individual sleeping quarters. Gawedd led the way on the ground, only to be attacked bu a a horse-sized insectile monstrosity called a cytillipede. His comrades rallied round in support and the beast was slain. Halleth then lled the way up the stairs at the far end, opening the mantis marked doors to reveal a  T-shaped chamber. The walls were decorated with incredibly detailed paintings of immense mantis-like monsters destroying towns with various forms of architecture. Strangely, the scenes constantly evolved, playing out an eternal scene of slaughter. The most impressive feature in the chamber was a towering stone statue of a four armed mantis to the west. In front of this statue a figure hovered in the air. The hovering figure immediately hit them with a blasphemy spell, quickly followed up by a confusion spell.

As the Party moved to retaliate several of them found it difficult to attack their assailant due to the sanctuary spell their opponent  had cast on herself, but Dellosia unaffected,  after casting fly on Behzad, began casting lightning bolt spells. Behzaad charged in to the attack and the combination of his melee assault and Dellosia's spells  eventually caused the enemy to flee using a word of recall spell.

To the north of the temple a passageway led to a vault where the Party were confronted by a maladaemon, who proved briefly troublesome before their combined assault drove him off.

The Deathhead Vault

After Garrid healed those in need, the Party searched the area finding another chamber belonging to someone called Cinnabar, where Halleth liberated some documents and finally located a secret door in the temple. A rough-hewnMother of Thorns passage led down and then sharply upwards, emerging into a ten-foot-wide hallway the walls of which had been set with polished ivory tiles, each of which bore a softly glowing circle of light. One end of the corridor was blocked by a set of locked and barred iron-bound doors while the other end led to an execution chamber where they were confronted by an emaciated woman, thorny vines with tiny red flowers grew and flowed like a train behind her.

Garrid and Halleth were immediately panicked by the creatures gaze attack but Dellosia began casting lightning bolts and Gawedd closed to attack. The pakalchi proved a formidable opponent and Gawedd was soon grievously wounded. In between tossing off flame strike spells, Garrid struggled to keep people alive as the Party, himself included, struggled to deal with the panic this monsters gaze inflicted. Eventually however the Party managed inflict enough damage to drive her off, causing her to teleport away. After Garrid healed those in desperate need, they moved forward, Halleth finding a secret door that led them into a hornet's nest!

The doors opened onto a caged-off area which, judging by the two Grey Maidens there, served as a guard post. Beyond a grim chamber was outfitted with all manner of torture implements: a rack, several cages, a cramped stockade with spiky bars, and smaller tools of torture like thumbscrews and iron boots sitting on shelves. Three women were imprisoned in the cages, overseen by a tall dark-haired woman talking to to the pakalchi who had fled earlier.

Gawedd and Behzad immediately charged the guards making short work of them. Dellosia cast greater invisibility and moved forward to support, just as Halleth was confronted by an armour clad woman emerging from a nearby room to investigate the noise. While the woman in the red dress, Zenobia,  began casting spells at Gawedd, the pakalchi teleported into the corridor behind Behzad and attacked, almost killing him with a series of devastating blows. Fortunately Garrid was able to channel saving his life once more.

The Maidens Nursery

As the prolonged battle raged back and forth with the Grey Maiden forces, Dellosia summoned an earth elemental which effectively distracted Zenobia, the enemy cleric. The Mother of Thorns, having smashed Behzad once again turned her attention to Garrid   , who retaliated with several Spear of Purity spells, all of which missed due to the blink spell the pakalchi had cast. Halleth eventually managed to drive back the Grey Maiden officer she had been fighting, forcing her to take refuge in her room , which enable her to finally respond to Gawedd's shout for her to come and unlock the door barring him from getting to Zenobia, once he finally broke free from to hold person spell she had cast on him.  Dellosia meanwhile, still invisible, started casting lightning bolts at Zenobia. This, combined with the earth elemental attacks, caused Zenobia to call to the Mother of Thorns to aid her. The pakalchi immediately stopped beating-up Garrid and used teleport to go her mistress's aid and began attacking the earth elemental. Halleth, pausing only to give Behzad a healing potion, finally arrived and as she went to  pick the lock spotted a set of keys,  and used them to unlock the door. This finally allowed Gawedd to charge Zenobia, who badly wounded from a combination of lightning bolts, slam attacks and Gawedd's blade urged the Mother of Thorns to teleport them away to safety!

Many healing potions were consumed over the next few minutes as Gawedd freed the prisoners held in the chamber, asking them where the other prisoners were kept. After being pointed to a set of double doors he led the way through  to a long corridor containing many cells. The corridor also contained a squad of Grey Maidens, led by an officer with a flaming sword who immediately set for battle. Gawedd and Behzad charged in while Garrid cast wall of fire in an attempt to split the enemy forces. Dellosia cast summon monster, bringing  another earth elemental to bear.

Prisoners Freed

The battle suddenly took a turn for the worse as Zenobia and The Mother of Thorns repapered and joined the battle, as did the officer that Halleth had been fighting earlier. Fortunately for the Halleth and Behzad were well equipped with silver weapons which seemed particularly effective against Zenobia, even when she switched to her penanggalen form! Garrid and Dellosia struggled to keep people alive, occasionally managing to cast from their dwindling supply of spells,  while Gawedd cut a swathe through the remaining Grey Maidens. Though things got decidedly close at one point, eventually Behzad and Halleth managed to strike telling blows then Garrid also waded into Zenobia with his silver scimitar and dealt the final blow that felled her. The Mother of Thorns immediately broke off from pounding Gawedd and teleported to Zenobia's side. She grabbed up her fallen mistresses body and teleported away with it.

This left the Party free to collect up all the prisoners, including Marcus Endrin whom they found in a hidden cell. They gathered what documents and treasure they could find quickly and then headed back to report-in. Cressida was delighted with the results of their mission, and the new recruits to the nascent rebellion. She handed the Party the scroll of teleport she had obtained for them, and while the Party settled down for a well-earned rest, she went off to see to the care of the freed prisoners.

Next morning, rested and refreshed, Dellosia used the scroll to return to Flameford. As they appeared on the outskirts of the village they could hear the clamour of battle and see the smoke from burning yurts - Flameford was under attack!


The Party immediately  launched themselves into the conflict, moving rapidly to help a group of shoanti being attacked by a combination of assassins and gargoyles. Behzad,  Gawedd and Halleth closed in, blades swinging, while Dellosia summoned an earth elemental and began casting spells. Suddenly Gawedd spotted through the melee that Krojun was in difficulty, fighting off both a female assassin and a strange wiry-looking man with a large floppy hat. He swiftly dispatched his opponent and dashed off to aid his old adversary, arriving just in time to see Krojun being struck down. He  immediately charged in to attack, leaving the others to clear up the gargoyles and assassins. Dellosia summoned another earth elemental to aid him, but Gawedd scarcely needed the support, cutting down multiple assassins and caused the strange looking man in the floppy hat to flee. In the aftermath of the battle, healing was given to the wounded and dying, including Krojun, who expressed his gratitude to the Party for their efforts on behalf of the tribe.

Later that day the Sun Shaman and the chief returned to the village and the Sun Shaman told them he had consulted with the ancestors and had the information the Party sought.

"Many hundreds of years ago, a man named Mandraivus gathered a small group of heroes to fight an insane despotic blue dragon named Kazavon, and my ancestor was one who joined this crusade. This ancestor, a shaman named Amarund, was gone for months. When she finally returned she was not the same woman—her hands shook, her eyes carried a haunted stare, and she cried out in fear at night. She spoke little of what she had experienced while fighting at Mandraivus’s side, but did say that they were successful in defeating Kazavon. While Kazavon had been defeated, his will to live was so immense that even the remains of his body twitched. The heroes attempted to destroy the remains, but key fragments of the dragon’s skeleton resisted even their most destructive spells. Mandraivus tasked the seven surviving heroes, among them Amarund, with each claiming one of the bony relics of Kazavon’s body and taking them far from Scarwall."

"Amarund told this story to her fellow shamans and revealed that her selected relics were the dragon’s fangs, which she called Midnight’s Teeth. She and the other shamans chose the ancient pyramid on the shores of Conqueror’s Bay as the fangs’ reliquary. After hiding them in a secret room deep inside the pyramid, Amarund and her descendants swore to ensure the fangs would remain safe. For generations, tThe Spirit's Songhey maintained their task—until Cheliax invaded and drove us off. The few survivors who knew the secret of the fangs were forced to flee with their kin into the Cinderlands. For the next three centuries the knowledge was passed from Sun Shaman to Sun Shaman, and we have watched with fearful eyes as the city of Korvosa has grown up around our ancient reliquary.”

He asked them to join him in a ritual called the Blessing of the Ancestors. He asked the Party if there was a specific spirit or ancestor with whom they have a particularly strong link. In response Behzad suggested the spirit of Zellara. The ritual itself took several  hours to prepare, and to the Party, it looked like little more than a rhythmic droning chant performed by the Sun Shaman. The Party seated themselves in a circle around the Sun Shaman and his focus, a small campfire, so that they were each touching another, forming an unbroken ring of flesh and bone. The shaman initially recounted tribal legends and the heroics and wisdom of the ancestors in a sing-song voice, then shifted after 10 minutes into wordless droning and rhythmic chanting. This continues for hours, after which the Sun Shaman slumped and the spirit of Zellara rose from the smoke of the fire to address the Party. 

The Sun Shaman asked the spirit for advice on how the Party can defeat their enemy, Zellara began to sing in a clear, haunting voice.

As Zellara finished her song, the Party each felt an upsurge in their souls as the spirits of the dead infused them with energy to aid them in the upcoming struggle, as the rush faded, the Party then had a vision of Zellara performing a Harrowing for them. As the ritual wound down, Garrid unexpected received a sending for Laori Vaus the cleric they had met in Old Korvosa, asking to meet them Party to discuss their common objectives and arranging to meet the Party three days hence in Kaer Maga.

Arriving in Kaer Maga, the journey made easier courtesy of mounts provided by Tordale, the Party took rooms again at The Sorry Excuse. Laori joined them that evening accompanied by a tall white haired man she introduced as Sial and a silent swathed figure, presumably a bodyguard. Sial and Laori explained that they were members of the Brotherhood of Bones. Their mission was to recover the artifacts of Zazavon and secure them so the dragon could never return. They knew the location of Scarwall and were willing to lead the Party there in return for an alliance so they could secure the Fangs and lock them in a deep dark vault.