Bear Claws

46. A Roly Poly Sandy Claws to Add a Little Spice

Characters: Jak, James, Alton, Roland, Thornside, Xaladin
Level: 13
Location: Sayre
NPCs: Odos, Izera, Tokk’it, Amyria, Bede, Buttercup, Mary, Jalissa, Althaea, Thera, Kalad, Fariex the Scalehammer, Caliandra of the Stagrunners, Quelenna Entromiel, Inogo Dravitch, Lord Divian Torrence, Andor Scrollstone.

The Bear Claws immediately go to visit Odos and the githzerai to warn them that Brann’ot, the githyanki assassin might be coming for them. When they reach the githzerai warehouse they encounter Izera putting the finishing moves on a githyanki assassin. On the assassin they find another of the communication glasses. Alton uses it to discover that this assassin is Brann’ot. They also hear from the operator that the only other githyanki in Sayre that has a communications device is Pennel.

Roland, Xaladin, James and Alton work together to triangulate the direction of the signal from the three pieces of glass that they have. They can sense it coming from the northwest.

Roland takes them to the University to meet an acquaintance of his that knows about maps. The acquaintance sends them to talk to the Scrollstone brothers who have mapped the Underdark and other underground things in the area. They talk to Andor Scrollstone who tells them that he is convinced that Auglos’s tower is not underneath the pillar where it is rumored to be. He is convinced that it is underneath Telicanthus’s mansion.

Roland, Alton and Xaladin use a small earth tremor to try to sense the area around Telicanthus’s mansion and can tell that there is definitely something solid beneath his mansion.

Meanwhile James finds a group of students to party with and gets himself roaring drunk.

Xaladin returns to Bede’s and speaks with Althaea who mentions that she taught his brother is one of her classes. He left to go work for a dwarf — but she can’t remember the name. Xaladin tries the chili again. His friends find him out back with his head completely submerged in a trough of water.

Alton speaks with Mary briefly and talks her into calming down the chili a little so that others can eat it. She agrees as long as nobody tells Althaea — who has been saying the same thing since they got here.

The next morning a small group of zombies arrives carrying a heavy oval table between them. The Bear Claws are overjoyed at the breakfast that it provides and invite Mary and her friends to join them. Mary puts extra peppers on hers. Thera does the same, almost as if she takes Mary’s pepper eating as a challenge. Pattie’s food turns into a large steak, cooked rare.

Amyria comes to take them to the Coalition meeting and they tell her they found the writing on the wall.

She is very interested and wants them to continue to investigate. She leads them to the meeting and explains what her goals are. She wants them to choose a leader, choose a name and turn over their militaries to the coalition. She also wants them to investigate her dream and Telicanthus.

On the way a local guard recognizes Jak. He turns out to be Corwyn, one of Jak’s old squad. He is accompanied by a burly tiefling named Brutal and a gnome tricked out with small clockwork gadgets named Speck. They speak briefly about Jak’s former employer, the now-Emperor Zetch’r’r.

At the coalition meeting the Bear Claws are successful at herding the coalition members into a semblance of cooperation and they settle on the name of Coalition of Rhestilar with Kalad as their leader due to his military expertise.

The Bear Claws are asked to investigate Telicanthus and his involvement with the other githyanki.

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45. Mud in my mouth, river arisen.
I could use some tea.

Characters: Jak, James, Alton, Roland, Thornside
Level: 13
Location: Sayre
NPCs: The Filth King

The Bear Claws examine the spice house and Thornside discovers that he can open the entrance by pressing on certain nails and knots in the boards that are seemingly covering the doorway. Inside the warehouse is lit by stripes of golden light that leak into the warehouse through cracks in the walls and ceiling. Debris and a fallen staircase litter the floor. Thornside notices a track through the debris that leads to the center of the room and hidden trap door.

Jak opens the trap door and dagger flies from the ceiling and sticks into his shoulder. Beneath the door is a five foot drop with a dark, four-foot high tunnel. Thornside leads the way down the tunnel and James remains behind, unwilling to venture into a tight space without need.

At the end of the tunnel is another trap door with a coin slot. Thornside lowers a coin on a string so that he can pull it back out. The trap door falls open revealing a deep room and a dirty rope ladder. The Bear Claws descend the rope ladder and climb off of it onto raised platforms that jut out from the walls. Roland drops his torch from the ladder and it stops before it hits the ground. At which point he discovers that he has a phobia of gelatinous cubes.

Alton jumps from one platform to another to get closer to the door and lands on a pile of rags that turns out to be a beggar with shiny new chain mail and daggers. The beggar throws him off and Jak leaps across to grapple him. The beggar kicks against the wall, knocking them both off the platform.

Thornside jumps onto the gelatinous cube, trying to shoot it and the cube engulfs him. Jak throws the beggar into the cube and there is a quick melee as the Bear Claws kill off the rest of the beggars who try to flee only to find the door is locked from the other side. They curse the Filth King for locking them in as the Bear Claws finish them off and destroy the gelatinous cube.

On the person of one of the beggars Jak finds a small piece of blue glass. Alton examines it and finds that it is magically attuned to some larger device to be a communications device. He tries to activate and hears a voice asking who he is trying to contact. He asks for the commander and a voice answers, “Commander Brann’ott speaking.” Brann’ott wants to know if the Bear Claws are dead. Alton tries to pretend they are still waiting for the Bear Claws to show up. Brann’ott doesn’t know what he is talking about he just wants results. He tells Alton that he will take care of the githzerai, they should take care of the Bear Claws. He hangs up when Alton starts asking too many questions.

The Bear Claws open the door and find themselves in an underground roadway that has been seemingly buried by mud and then excavated back out.

Nearby is a former temple of Ioun that has a crude painting of a five-headed dragon above the doorway. They enter the temple and find a chapel with several beggars listening to a sermon about the importance of greed. Behind the priest — who turns out to by the Filth King that beggars referred to — is a long pit, and an enormous pile of gold coins. Beyond that is a statue of Tiamat on a pedestal.

The Filth Kings sees them enter and hisses at the beggars to “get them.”

Immediately one of the beggars stands up and shouts at his comrades and they all turn and stare at the Bear Claws in unison. Jak rushes into the room and the fight begins. The Filth King whispers to Jak about greed and makes him fall into the pit near the gold. He also scratches Roland’s face with his dirty fingernails, poisoning him. When Jak climbs out of the pit the gold starts to move and a treasure golem rises up and shoots coins at him.

The rest of the beggars and Filth King get killed by the rest of the Bear Claws and the Treasure Golem falls shortly after. In its death throws it thrashes around and tips over the statue of Tiamat that breaks on the floor revealing a secret door behind it.

The Bear Claws take a few minutes to catch their breaths then venture through the secret door. There is a narrow passage that slopes downhill to another door, that is partially obscured by debris. Inside is a small library where the writings of ancient seers was kept.

There are undead librarians in the library, trapped when the silt and mud of the rising buried the building hundreds of years before. Since then they have spent their time writing the words of the seers on the walls and floors in order to keep them from turning to dust.

One of them tells the Bear Claws that five hundred years previous this site was the city of Auger, named after Auglos the Seer who invented the Bitter Glass. The Glass was an immense sphere that was attuned to communicate across the planes with smaller pieces of glass that were attuned to it. The glass had a by-product of powerful psychic energy that Auglos shunted into the Astral Sea thinking nobody would be bothered by it.

The energy attracted the attention of the githyanki who destroyed Auglos, broke the Bitter Glass and left the city in ruin. The nearby river flooded the area and buried it under silt and mud. Years later farmers began to settle the area. Then dwarves moved in and dammed up the river and dug channels for the water to drain the swamps and the city of Sayre was built on top of the buried ruins of Auger.

On the walls and floor of the building were found the following writings:

You’re watching me. I can see you, but you don’t know that. You’re listening to my words even though I’m long dead. No, not you! Idiot. You’re just writing down my words because you were told to by the old man with a beard and a magic glass. I’m talking to the other people, the ones reading this on the wall. They know I’m dead. Oh yes, dead, mud in my mouth, river arisen! I sing of a ship that sails the air, that brings swords and fire. You’ve fought it, too, but it’s worse for you. We’re just going to die. They’ll kill us all because of what the bearded man does, talking through the mirror. They’ll just flood the room, and that will solve their problem until he finds it again. He’s been looking for it a long time. You think he likes you but it’s a lie. There was digging, you see, and cleaning, and many false leads. He’ll use it to conquer you all, but no one will believe you. You’ll have to prove him a liar. They can talk through it, you see. They’ve managed to do it, and the armies whisper through the blue darkness in a way that no one else can hear. You’re dead if you don’t stop it. Even now they are discussing you. “Distract them,” he is told, “this is too important to ruin.” But you can. Boy! Boy, I demand a goose! Pluck it and ruin it and save yourself if you find the right spot. Look for the old tower when no one expects you. It isn’t where they think it is. Ask the dwarves if you like, the brothers who dream of maps. Because in the days to come SHE will spread herself, and none will be safe from HER reach, so you may wish to trust the speech of the Bladed Girl. Trust, trust her if no one else. If her people do not come together, they will certainly be ripped apart. Like my goose? I am so very hungry. I could use some tea. Boy!

—verbatim account from the recorded visions of Graiden Brackenhaus, oracular guest of Seer Auglos of Auger, as scribed by Brother Pinnot from the Church of Ioun.

”A matrix of blown glass can be formed into a mathematically perfect sounding chamber, then used to amplify magical resonance. In theory, disconnected sheets of a similar substance can be attuned to the master. This would allow communication at unlimited distance. The question is: How can one handle the planar boundary? When I began this research in Nefelus, I never expected that this would be a concern…”

“A problem has developed. I need some method for shunting away the psychic residue cast off during communication. This seems to be quite toxic. I believe that I can redirect it into the Astral Sea, where it should do no harm to anyone…”

“The final Glass is more beautiful than I could have hoped. My apprentices have outdone themselves. A full 30 feet in diameter, it has anchored itself into the very nature of our plane, and hangs in space. Our ritual went flawlessly and it has taken on a life of its own; as thoughts travel from one external pane to another, the Glass shimmers like the night sky. It is quite beautiful. It seems to be invulnerable from the outside, as I intended, but the same protections have not transferred into the interior. This worries me.”

“The interior of the Glass becomes a psychic maelstrom if the information flow is not redirected. I have succeeded in rerouting the rogue energies to the Astral Sea. So long as no one is bothered by them, I see no risk; and in such a plane, what are the chances that they will be discovered? So small as to be infinitesimal…”

“I am making only a few select panes linked to the glass, but it would be just as simple to make many. I expect that selling these to far-flung allies could make me a rich man indeed. I will need to consider it.”

—from the diaries of Auglos of Nefelus

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Adventure Supplement 1: Journal of Hautamaryat Firebreath

Characters: Mary, Jalissa, Althaea
Level: 11
Location: Orc Lands
NPCs: Thera

Jalissa says that Aunt Althaea and I like to bicker, the way I see it Althaea just refuses to admit when I’m right.

One small favor, she understands that I don’t want to hear about her father, ever. If I never see his desiccated, deceptive, devious little smirk again it will be too soon. He has made a life out of manipulating those around him and I will not suffer his arrogance.

After leaving Overlook we traveled into the Stonehome Mountains, past the Monastery of the Sundered Chain and skirted around the large peak called the Hammer. Jalissa wanted to climb to the peak to keep us “too out of breath to argue.” Althaea didn’t see the point of exhorting that much physical effort for little reward and I was anxious to continue on to the secluded monastery where I was raised.

Just a few miles beyond the Hammer lies the monastery of Avandra. It overlooks a harsh valley of craggy rock and perpetual wind and snow. It looked much like I remembered it but I found that I had no nostalgia for the place. It was home. But it is no longer. It feels somehow like it is steeped in betrayal and deception.

Althaea says I’m just being petty.

Father Garak greeted us in the way he greets everybody, by throwing a party. I did not feel in a celebratory mood but it is very much like a priest of Avandra to behave such. Garak told me that Bain left them almost immediately after I departed. He knew not where to. “Bain never cared for the monastic life,” he said, “I don’t think he even much cared for Avandra. He only stayed because of you.”

Because of his guilt, more like, but I didn’t correct him.

Jalissa says it’s just as well. She’s convinced I would have killed him if he’d been here. She might be right. I still don’t know what I intended. Thinking of him makes me feel at the pocked scar above my brow where his hook gouged me while sparring.

Now I feel nostalgic. How does that work?

We didn’t stay long. The village of my nativity lies across the Orclands and will be inaccessible once the fall snows set into the pass.

Seeing the Orclands I begin to understand why they so frequently try to invade the Elsir Vale. It is a desolate and sparse country that breeds hard people and harsh cultures. Seeing Bordrin’s Watch as we passed out of the mountains I can also see why they have never been successful. It is a formidable fortress and one that seems capable of holding back the hoards of the Abyss if necessary.

Jalissa says it is a giant symbol of the dwarves overcompensation. She thinks they build such magnificent strongholds to remind themselves they are no longer slaves of the giants.

Althaea says they just don’t bother thinking up more efficient ways.

We are a small group so crossing the Orclands while avoiding roving bands of Orcs proved reasonably simple. There are few trees of any significant size and the visibility is quite clear for miles once we found our way to the top of one of the tall sandstone bluffs. I begin to see a kind of beauty in the wastelands and the lizards, small and quick, have beautiful scales that blend into the browns and dull greens around them. They are so quick and cautious.

On our third day, however, we encountered a band of Orc slavers. Althaea said that we should remember that it is their culture. Jalissa did not speak but she is nearly as zealous as I when it comes to not suffering captivity. She has been on the receiving end twice and I believe she will die before letting it happen again.

I find that I am incapable of seeing people with their freedom taken away. The only thing that infuriates me more is seeing people who do not strive for their freedom.

As Avandra’s Hammer I will see people freed. Even if the slaves are other Orcs.

Jalissa and Althaea stayed in hiding while I approached the camp. A scout spotted me and I killed him, caving in his skull as he charged me. Soon I was surrounded by grunting, gray-skinned Orcs. They took my weapons and armor and locked me in one of their slave pens.

There I spoke with the slaves, told them that they should be free. The response was one of disinterest from all but one. They seem to be all of mixed race parentage.

One woman named Thera watched me until the other slaves had wandered away. Thera is half-Orc and half-elf. She is strong and fierce and wanted freedom. I told her of my desire to take away any who would come.

On the morning of the next day Althaea and Jalissa came out of hiding while the camp slept. Althaea surrounded the camp with summoned monsters while Jalissa lit up the early morning with holy light.

Thera and I climbed the fence of the slave pens. When other slaves spotted us they set a cry such as I have never heard before. It sounded to my heart like a hopeless envy that made me pity the poor creatures who are so broken they cannot even seek their own freedom.

The first squad of Orc guards that came running I burned with my breath and Thera attacked them while they were surprised. She seized two spears from the orcs and became a whirlwind of blood and blades.

She grinned when they were all dead, showing the small tusks in her lower jaw that were hidden with her mouth closed. She was trained to fight for entertainment by the tribe where she was born. When she got good enough that she started winning they sold her.

Using the spearhead of one of her new weapons we smashed the locks to the slave pens and threw open the gates. The slaves regarded us with hatred but a few of them looked hopeful enough that they ventured forward.

Once they started to move toward freedom the flood started. Halfbreed orcs poured from the slave pens, dirty, almost naked and completely unarmed they tasted freedom and became savage in their thirst for more.

I saw three women tear an Orc slaver apart with their bare hands and found I felt little need to stop them in their zealous rage. There is no mercy to be had for those who would willingly deny another creature her freedom.

Jalissa found us as I stood with Thera in the midst of chaos and carnage watching slaves beat and destroy their slavers. By that point we were both covered in spattered blood and exhausted beyond words. Jalissa had found my armor and other gear and I thanked her for them.

Jalissa thought it amusing that I had found a friend in an Orc camp. She said she shouldn’t have been surprised.

Althaea found us while I was donning my armor and feeling the familiar heft of my hammer once again in my four-fingered grip. Her only comment was, “Now we should go. These savages you have unleashed will only spare us until they have no other enemies.”

I took exception to her choice of word but saw the wisdom in them. Thera, seeing nothing for her there, followed us, her two Orc spears still clutched in her fists. Over the next week we traveled quickly across the bluffs and mesas of the Orc lands. Thera showed us how to find small streams in the seemingly dry wilderness.

As we approached the mountains on the far side my heart began to fear. I could already see snow on the passes and I wondered if I really wanted this anyway. I have been gone my entire life. They would not know me. Would they even want me? My mother, Nathyra, has never sought me out in eighteen years. Perhaps she is dead? Perhaps they all are. Perhaps she has forgotten me? Perhaps we would all be better if I never returned to that village. I seem to have survived just fine despite constant betrayal from both of the men who raised me.

Aunt Althaea asked me why I was so anxious. She says she can tell because I snarl silently when I am anxious, baring my teeth at my nervousness as if trying to intimidate it. I suppose she is probably right, this time.

I told her I didn’t want to meet the mother who gave me away and never came looking for me, but I feel like I have to.

She nodded as if she understood but I don’t see how she could.

My concerns proved unnecessary since the mountain pass turned out to be completely impassable due to snowfall that had piled to higher than my head in the drifts. Thera felt that we could continue, push through the snow, burrow like moles in the frozen white. It seemed foolish to continue so we turned back.

Althaea mentioned that the city of Sayre lay just to the south of us and she had long wished to witness the famed university there. I believe she wanted to assure herself that the Eladrin University of Corellon in the feywild was superior but she did not say it.

It took us two days to reach Sayre, following the curve of the mountains until the ground leveled out into a river valley spotted with cultured farmlands.

Sayre itself is a beautiful city. The focus of the University here is that of art and that focus shows in the city itself. Sculptures and stained glass dot the streets. Even the carriages are carved In great detail.

Not far from the University we found a small place called The Tankard of Ink, Bede Proprietor, Bear Claws, Beer, Bed and Breakfast. The name amused me because of my former companions and we took rooms at Bede’s. Bede makes flaky and sweet pastries that seem to melt when in your mouth. However the man cannot cook a meal to feed a hungry gnoll. His food is atrocious and his daughter, Buttercup, is nearly as hopeless. I offered to cook for him while we stay and wait out the winter. He seemed grateful for the offer, though Thera is the only one who actually eats my food. Althaea says I make it too spicy and Jalissa says she prefers food that does not leave her able to breathe fire.

I find this role is peaceful. I am not good at remaining complacent in domestic pursuits for long but for now I feel as if I can forget that I have been betrayed and abandoned in so many ways. Sometimes I can even abandon the guilt I feel that perhaps I abandoned my friends in the Bear Claws in the same way when I left them so abruptly. I hope they can forgive my need to seek my own way. I hope I get the chance to ask them.

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44. A hot meal...
...too hot.

Characters: Jak, James, Xaladin, Roland
Level: 13
Location: Sayre
NPCs: Emil, Pattie, Bede, Buttercup, Mary, Jalissa, Althaea, Thera, Odos, Gall’ott, Azitt, Amyria, Drew, Tokk’it, Izera

Jak and Xaladin go to the River Jewel where Telicanthus arranged for them to stay. They find an elaborate, very well appointed inn with a butler waiting for them to show them to their rooms. He leads them up the stairs and shows them to rooms that are more like a suite with a private dining room, living and sleeping chambers and a private room with a hot bath already drawn and steaming.

Jak, not one to turn down amenities decides to take a bath and scrubs himself with the rose and lavender scented soap until his fur glistens.

Meanwhile Roland and James make their way, slowly to Sayre along with the githzerai refugees from Akma’ad. Tokk’it approaches them and complains that Odos didn’t try hard enough to save Gallia. They assure him that there is nothing he could have done, Gallia was dead when she was possessed. Pattie suggests they offer to make him a zombie girlfriend. Tokk’it does not take them up on the offer.

Jak and Xaladin leave the River Jewel, Jak smelling of a wonderful floral bouquet, and go to the Tankard of Ink near the University, where Roland suggested they look for a good place to stay.

The Tankard of Ink is under the ownership of a new proprietor — “The Tankard of Ink, New Proprietor, Bede Quickfingers, Bear Claws, Beer, Bed and Breakfast.”

When they go in they find a very large elf woman sitting at a table alone. She has the normal proportions of an attractive elf with long, silky black hair and pointed ears but she looks like she would be well over six feet tall if she stood up. When she sees them she grins showing the sharp stubs of two small tusks in her bottom jaw.

“Bede, guests,” she shouts. Bede recognizes members of the Bear Claws immediately, as they provided some of the money he used to purchase the place. He immediately offers them lunch and brings them each a bowl of steaming hot chili.

The half-orc woman watches them intently as they each try it and immediately spit it out, finding it to be unbearably spicy. She laughs heartily, slapping her thigh at their discomfort.

Althaea — the Eladrin ‘aunt’ of Mary — comes from the backroom spouting a bunch of complaints about the capsaicin in the chili being too intense for guests when she see Xaladin and Jak and stops in surprise.

Buttercup, Bede’s daughter, enters through the main door, complaining about one of her professors then gets embarrassed when she sees the guests and bolts up the stairs.

Bede brings Mary out from the back room to introduce the ‘chef’ and she speaks with Jak and Xaladin briefly. She mentions that she and Jalissa and Althaea were attempting to visit her village before the snows closed the pass but they delayed in the orc lands when they encountered a group of orc slavers. That’s where they met Thera — the half-orc, half-elf woman — when they freed her from the orc slavers. When they got to the pass it was snowed over so they came to Sayre to wait out the winter.

They met Bede and found out that, despite his supreme skill with baking and pastries, he couldn’t cook so he hired Mary to cook for him while he takes cooking classes at the University.

The next morning there is a slight confrontation at the gates when the city guards refuse to let the githzerai into the city, calling them child-stealers. Roland offers to vouch for them and escort them to their destination in order to ensure they’re behavior.

He and James pass by the Tankard of Ink while Xaladin and James are eating breakfast and the two of them rush out to join them, eager to avoid the spicy gravy that Mary has made to go with Bede’s morning biscuits.

They follow the githzerai into the Riverdown district to a dilapidated warehouse where the other githzerai refugees are staying. As they approach they hear shouting and James barges in to see what is going on. Two githzerai, an older man and a woman, are in the middle of an argument which they only briefly interrupt to help the wounded refugees. Gall’ott is angry at the mistreatment of the githzerai in Sayre and wants to band together to create a fighting force to claim some respect. Azitt insists that in so doing they will become the rumors that are whispered about them.

Odos, angry and worried about his people, seems to side more with Gall’ott especially when he hears that the city harbors a githyanki noble — Telicanthus, who invited the Bear Claws to tea at his house the following afternoon.

While they talk Amyria steps from the shadows and asks the Bear Claws for some help. She tells them that she had a dream sent from Bahamut, of a great web of communication that stretched across the planes. She saw at its heart a great spider that tugged and pulled at the web, the center of the communications. She awoke with the sure feeling that the center of that web was in Sayre. She came here but does not know where else to look.

She also asks them to look into Telicanthus as she does not trust him because she has never met a githyanki who was not out for blood.

Her final request is that they come to a meeting she has organized the next morning. She is trying to put together a Coalition of city leaders and powerful people who can organize the material plane to fight back against the githyanki. She would like the Bear Claws to be there.

They agree and set out into the city to find information about the missing children that the githzerai are accused of stealing. After a few hours of searching and asking questions they find a lot of rumors of people who know people who know somebody who is missing a child but nothing that substantiated.

When they finish their investigation Amyria approaches them once more and asks them to convince Odos to come to the coalition meeting as well. His knowledge of the githyanki would be invaluable but he insists on fleeing the material plane and leaving it in the hands of the ‘humans.’

They return to Odos and he agrees on the condition that they cast a ritual for him to consult with mystic sages about what Telicanthus has to do with Amyria’s vision.

The response they get is:

Read the writing on the wall

You are not far from a place where knowledge turns to greed
Beneath the spice house lurks the profane

And knowledge lies trapped behind the guardian

As the Bear Claws leave the githzerai warehouse they notice several beggars approaching them from the alleyways, beneath their rags they wear gleaming chain mail and carry shiny new weapons they they brandish with obvious familiarity.

The Bear Claws leap to the attack and quickly slaughter the majority of them. As the bodies pile up the beggars try to flee but are maimed and killed even as they turn to run.

Jak grabs the final one and slams him into the nearest building. When James threatens to break his legs he confesses they they were sent by the Filth King, the King and priest of the beggars of Sayre. They ask him about the spice house and he gives them directions to an abandoned warehouse in Lowbridge and warns them that there is a young girls set up as watch to raise the alarm should they come poking about.

They tie him up and give him to the authorities on their way to Lowbridge. They also explain to the authorities that the massive count of bodies outside the githzerai warehouse had nothing to do with the githzerai.

They make their way to the warehouse in Lowbridge and find it completely boarded up and abandoned, just as the beggar insisted it would be. Across the street is a young girl — nine or ten years old — with a club foot who is begging from the passersby. When they pass close she asks for money.

Roland tells her there is warm food and free toys being given out at a location in Riverdown. She seems hesitant to leave her post but his information is compelling so she hurries away, hoping to get back before she is missed. Xaladin sends an animal messenger to Bede to make sure and arrange a hot meal for her as she is expecting so that she will not go without.

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43. The Siege of Akma'ad
a funny thing happened on my way to Sayre...

Characters: Jak, James, Alton, Thornside, Xaladin, Roland
Level: 12/13
Location: Overlook, Conqueror, Akma’ad, Sayre
NPCs: Emil, Pattie, Tokk’it, Odos, Izera

The githyanki attack and the Bear Claws fight heroically, driving them back until only their captain and a few others remained. The Captain, a githyanki woman named Iquel, surrenders to the Bear Claws but tells them that she will continue to fight them as long as she lives.

James kills her just as the airships crash to the ground a few hundred yards from the edge of the bluff.

The githyanki guarding the boulder trap see the two airships locked together crash to the ground and send up a giant cloud of dust and smoke and splintered wood. Out of the cloud flies the bloody head of the githyanki captain and the Bear Claws striding in a line from the wreckage.

Thornside fires two arrows, loaded with sticks of dynamite at the pillars holding up the boulder trap and the boulders plunge over the edge of the bluff on the githyanki armies below.

Tokk’it quickly leads the Bear Claws into a secret entrance into the monastery where he is attacked by Izera a githzerai monk. When she recognizes him she chastens him for bringing so few but lets them into the monastery.

The monastery is stark, covered with writings of prophecy and magic but devoid of anything that could be called decoration. Several rooms are being used as triage centers where githzerai are treated for wounds and sent back out to the front to defend the monastery.

In the main courtyard an older githzerai, a bandage over his eyes, stands in the midst of chaos shouting orders to the githzerai there.

Outside the Bear Claws find the githyanki soldiers assaulting the main gates on either side of the courtyard. A few githzerai hold them at bay but they are clearly outmatched. The Bear Claws rush to their aid, smashing through the githyanki invaders.

Tokk’it runs along one wall and leaps off it to land on the back of a githyanki and begins punching him in the face. Izera is also there, bright short swords flashing as she darts about the entrance, dark robes rustling.

Despite the best efforts of the githzerai the wall is soon breached and the Bear Claws turn to fight on that side as well. When the battle finally ends the old blind man emerges from the monastery, his face twisted in sadness. Tokk’it tells the Bear Claws this is Odos of the House of Reprisal.

Odos mourns the loss of so many githzerai and and pronounces that they must abandon the monastery. With such heavy losses they cannot survive another attack. He orders everyone to pack up. There is a deep anger in his voice as he tells them that he is the last leader of the githzerai and that he must meet other refugees in Sayre before they abandon the material plain and its problems for the ‘humans’ to take care of.

In the crashed githyanki ship nearby Jak finds another portrait of the king he once served and shows it to Odos, asking who it is. Odos is surprised that there are ‘humans’ here — he seems to think all non-gith are humans. He tells Jak that this is Emperor Zethr’r of the githyanki.

He is angry and upset but understand that the Bear Claws were instrumental in aiding the monastery in its defenses. As a reward he gives a few of them some magical items as well as payment in gold and potions of vitality.

While they stand around the courtyard discussing what to do next Thornside’s armor swells around him into the shape of a shadowy demon and devours two nearby githyanki bodies before shrinking back to its normal size.

The other Bear Claws want to know what is going on with Thornside’s armor but he seems either oblivious or unwilling to talk about it.

They are similarly curious about Jak’s association with the githyanki Emperor and he explains that he was press-ganged into service before leading a rebellion. When Jak knew him he was only a king on the material plain, obsessed with conquest.

About this time Tokk’it sees Gallia, his former fiancé. She is poking around the edges of all the conversations, trying to listen in. Tokk’it rushes over and brings her to meet the Bear Claws but she seems aloof and uninterested until they notice that she exhibits many of the same awkward mannerisms that the possessed leaders of Overlook did. James quickly grabs hold of her and the githyanki mindslicer that possesses her departs, leaving her lifeless. Upon searching her body they find a piece of glass that Alton can tell is some kind of magical communication device.

James and Xaladin perform the speak with dead ritual to ask Gallia what has been going on. She confesses that the githyanki possessed her a month previously and used her to relay information so that they would know when and where to attack. She tells them that the assassin, Brann’ot, is still at large somewhere.

Alton can tell that the piece of glass is linked to something to the west of Akma’ad, their current location so James heads out in that direction, looking for tracks or clues of Brann’ot.

Alton summons some fiery steeds for the rest of them to ride and they head out in the same direction, except for Emil, Pattie and Roland who stay to help the githzerai and all their wounded.

Alton, Xaladin, Jak and Thornside quickly pass James but never seen any sign of the assassin that they suspect is ahead of them. Instead the trail they follow leads them twenty miles away to the city of Sayre.

Sayre is an artistic city with a large university and three rivers running through it that eventually converge into one to tumble over a tall waterfall. The city gates is a busy place full of buskers, merchants and beggars, tumblers, workers and nobles. One servant approaches them and asks if they are the famous Heroes of Overlook. When they acknowledge the title he begs to introduce them to his master. His master turns out to be a finely dressed githyanki by the name of Telicanthus.

Telicanthus appears very excited to meet them and heaps praises on them, insisting on paying for their stay in Overlook at the finest inn — the River Jewel. He also invites them to tea on the next day which they postpone until the following day in order to wait for James and Roland to arrive.

Not trusting his heaps of praise the four of them do not immediately seek the River Jewel but head towards the University district to look for the Tankard of Ink, an inn that Roland had previously mentioned to them as a meeting location.

Meanwhile Pattie speaks with Roland and is worried about Emil. She tells him that Malthazard speaks through him while he sleeps. She wants Roland to talk to him and see if he knows about it.

Emil doesn’t know about but seems to think it’s pretty exciting until he realizes that it’s not a good thing. Roland tries to teach him some ways to keep his mind safe while he sleeps. At some point as the wounded githzerai make their way to Sayre James joins up with them.

Episode 43 – 1
Episode 43 – 2
Episode 43 – 3

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42. What Rhymes with Pact Dragon?
Chuck Wagon

Characters:Jak, James, Alton, Thornside
Level: 12
Location: Overlook, Conqueror (en route to Akma’ad)
NPCs: Emil, Pattie

Jak, meets Overlook’s new elite squad of defenders — the Minotaurs, the squad of dwarves trained to fight with the Ugrosh that Jak favors. He also develops an itch on his arm that, when scratched, reveals skin the color of flames underneath. The healer in Overlook tells him that it is likely a permanent condition as a side effect of his being turned to slime by elemental magic.

James makes Marchand a prosthetic arm and Thornside checks in on the Free Traders.

During a meal one evening a private from the city watch bursts in and asks them come to the Western gate. An airship is approaching from the West.

When they arrive Captain Daurallis hands Jak a spy glass and asks for his opinion. The ship is flying, sails full, seemingly crewed by ghost-like figures. The ship is heavily damaged and grinds to halt on the ground just outside the gates of Overlook. The ghosts fade away and a young githzerai appears on deck.

The Bear Claws go out to see what is going on and the githzerai introduces himself as Tokk’it. He has stolen the airship from a githyanki force that has invaded his fortress monastery of Akma’ad. He seeks aid from the heroes of Overlook to come with him right away. The fortress might already be lost.

The Bear Claws board the ship — called the Conqueror — and Tokk’it takes off flying back to the southwest, across Orc lands. Tokk’it mentions that he is not well-liked at the monastery because he is not a very good monk. He also talks about Gallia, his girl-friend who suddenly quit speaking to him about a month previous.

Finally he mentions that, not only did the githyanki have inside information about the locations of the githzerai leaders in the monastery, but they received that information within hours of it becoming relevant. Somebody has a way to communicate with the githyanki instantly — or very nearly.

He also happens to mention that two pact dragon knights pursued him and will almost surely catch them soon.

Jak sees a painting of his former King hanging in the room with the psychic helm. He buries the axe end of his Ugrosh in its face.

Shortly after that the dragons are spotted and the Bear Claws fire the deck ballistae at them as they approach. The githyanki on their backs leap onto the deck of the ship and the dragons fly around burn things with fire until the Bear Claws kill the knights and their mounts.

James makes Jak a dragon-slaying bow and the Bear Claws rest while the ship sails steadily on over the Orcish plains. Thornside leans over the bow to shoot at tribes of Orcs as they pass overhead.

Pattie talks to Alton and tells him she knows that Malthazard has been using Emil to talk to Alton. She doesn’t know what to do about it. “I don’t know what he wants with Emil. Emil’s kind of an idiot but he’s my idiot and I won’t let him go… If you tell anyone I said that I will remove your eyes while you sleep and feed them to wild animals.”

Alton agrees that they don’t know what is going on but says that eventually they’re going to have to take the fight to Malthazard.

The Conqueror approaches Akma’ad where smoke can be seen rising from under a bluff. At the top of the bluff several githyanki stand guard near a giant pile of boulders, held in place by a chain net stretched between two tall pillars. As they watch a troop of githzerai make a charge toward the githyanki but before they make it very far a large red dragon rises up above the edge of the bluff and incinerates them all. The dragon and his rider wheel around once then turn in a dive and head for the Conqueror.

Even as the dragon approaches the sails of another airship can be seen rising above the edges of the bluff. Lightning and fire shoot from below the bluff to scorch the hull of the airship which is beginning to list. Large bolts from the deck ballistae follow the lightning back below the bluff. The airship rises above the edge of the bluff and turns toward the Conqueror.

The large dragon and rider charge at the Bear Claws and spray fire across the deck, swords slashing and teeth biting. The Bear Claws manage to kill both of the intruders but just as they do the ship shakes violently and Tokk’it comes running from the control room, followed by flying splinters and dust, a long spar juts from the control room of the ship as the enemy vessel rams its front spar right through the control point of the Conqueror.

The two ships, now stuck together begin to slowly spiral down, toward the ground, their momentum carrying them toward the edge of the bluff even as they drift downward.

The Bear Claws are bloodied and wounded as they turn to face the army of githyanki swinging across on ropes and bounding over the railing of the ships, brandishing their silver weapons, eyes dark slits as they leap to the assault.

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41. Chaos is Chaotic
...and Sarshan is dead.

Characters: Roland, Jak, James, Xaladin, Alton
Level: 12
Location: Elemental Chaos, Djamela’s Tower, Overlook
NPCs: Emil, Pattie

The Bear Claws attack immediately with Jak pinning down the closest githyanki. Roland followed it up with a blast of chaotic magic that teleported Sarshan out of his protective forcefield and next to the edge of the tower. James ran at him and tried to push him over the edge but only succeeded in knocking him down. One of the githyanki taunted Alton by claiming to be the one who possessed Miranda in Overlook. His attack was successful in keeping Alton focused on him.

Sarshan attacked everybody with a burst of blood chaos before Roland exploded again throwing Sarshan and Xaladin off the 200-foot tower. They fell to the bottom where James could see Sarshan arise and start to turn back to the entrance of the tower to attack them. Xaladin wasn’t moving but appeared to be alive.

Emil considered dropping his spear on him to see if it would heal him.

The rest of the crew succeeded in killing the rest of Sarshan’s cronies while he was on his way up the tower. Alton jumped off the tower, turning into a swarm of flying dice then gave Xaladin a healing potion to revive him from the brink of death. Emil and Pattie gathered up all the ropes they could find and tossed them down for Xaladin and Alton to climb up.

Sarshan appeared in the teleportation circle and Jak, James and Roland unleashed on him. He teleported over to Roland, stabbed him and teleported away. Jak pursued and Sarshan blasted him with blood chaos, coving him with acid.

James pursued and Sarshan teleported again, stabbing Roland several times before teleporting away once more. The blood chaos covering Jak turned him into a pool of slime that spread out on the tower top.

Xaladin and Alton reached the top of the tower and Alton let loose with an attack that immobilized Sarshan inside a floating bubble just before Roland blasted him with Chaos, killing him and sending him over the edge of the tower to fall into the slowly rising lava.

The Bear Claws found a chest in the area where Sarshan had been preparing his linked portal and inside they found gold and several wondrous magic items. A Handy Haversack, a golden spade that will instantly dig holes in dirt, sand or ice, a gem that will record voices for playing back later and a ribbon that allows question rituals to have extra questions.

Meanwhile Alton casts multiple version of his floating disk while James performs a ritual to restore Jak back to his mobile and non-slimy self. Xaladin can see the earthberg that they came in on still floating on the lava in the distance so the party mounts Altons floating disks and he takes them back.

They make their way back through the caverns, up the tree, into the caves under Falrinth’s tower and out to the city of Talar where they emerge, bedraggled, exhausted and nearly beaten but triumphant. They find the city even more destroyed than before and Megan and Falrinth just mopping up a team of mercenaries led by Thorn the bounty hunter to try and claim Sarshan’s bounty on her.

Falrinth gives the Bear Claws a copy of his Linked Portal ritual with the runes for Brindol Keep and the Stone Hammer temple in Overlook.

James and Alton stay up all night learning the new ritual and then take everybody home to Overlook. They hurry back to the Belden’s Rest to find the Jacob and Coriander have redecorated with bright red curtains, bright green tablecloths and bright yellow chairs. The Bear Claws are too exhausted to care.

The next day they go to the Overlook Council and claim their reward for killing Sarshan.

Afterward Alton takes the entire group out to dinner at Leena’s. While there the server mentions that the githyanki have been attacking all over the world and seem to be very well coordinated in their attacks. The city of Dornaithos to the north has been spotting Githyanki airships nearby and the city of Corwyn is already under siege.

Jak meets the new Captain of the City Guard, Jerra Dauralis who is a competent woman that seems to take to the position well. She tells him that Kalad has recruited half a dozen dwarves from Bordrin’s Watch to help him clean out the Monastery of the Sundered Chain and start the order back up.

Emil also gathers everybody together to give them lessons on Pattie’s sign language. Alton and Xaladin are successful at picking it up. Jak and James seem to be confused that all those hand motions are actually supposed to be communication.

While they are gathered at the Belden’s Rest one night a young dwarf rushes in excitedly and tells them Captain Daurallis needs them right away. “One of our southern outposts spotted an airship heading this way. She’s armed and we don’t recognize the make. There could be trouble.”

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40. Sarshan, let down your hair...

Characters: Roland, Jak, James, Xaladin, Alton
Level: 11/12
Location: Elemental Chaos, Under the World Tree, Djamela’s Tower
NPCs: Emil, Pattie, Pug, Quick

After the deaths of the dragons near the giant world tree Pattie digs through their eyes to scramble their brains with a dagger. While exploring the island that the world tree grew on the Bear find the nest that the dragons had made, piling sticks and straw and old dry leaves together into a kind of bed. Nearby is an entrance to a tunnel leading underneath the world tree, twisting and winding about the roots.

The Bear Claws venture inside, seeing Sarshan’s boot prints in the dirt and sensing a strange magical residue that resembles the Blood Chaos. They venture into the darkness following the trail until a cave-in of soil slows them down. When they finally clear the cave-in they can hear the sounds of fighting from further down. They send Pattie to check it out, sneaking down the corridor. She returns to report that there is a cavern with dead skeletons and she saw a Shadar-Kai fleeing through a portal.

The Bear Claws approach cautiously and find a giant 3-headed skeleton, its remains burned and pitted as if with acid lying in the middle of a small cavern that has two unfinished teleportation circles on the floor. A large pipe drips Blood Chaos slowly into a pool in the cavern. Alton and Roland identify the teleportation circles as leading to other places in the Elsir Vale and surmise that they are part of an unfinished plan to pump Blood Chaos into the Vale.

On the remains of the 3-headed skeleton they find a notebook with a letter from Irfelujhar and Onthorirfel that speak of tasks to find ritual components and a record of transactions working to obtain items for somebody.

Passing through the portal where Pattie saw Sarshan go the Bear Claws find themselves on a floating earthberg in a sea of lava. In the distance is the burning City of Brass — the stronghold of the Efreets that have tamed a part of the Elemental Chaos. Nearby is an island seemingly cooled out of the sea of lava into a solid mass of razor sharp obsidian. In the center of the island rises a square tower, 200 feet high, also of shiny black obsidian.
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Waiting for them on the earthberg is a fire elemental, a fire lizard and a duergar who begin attacking immediately. On the edge of the island stand two githyanki warriors who draw their silver swords and leap across the sea of lava to attack the Bear Claws.

Roland dumps the fire lizard into the lava, killing it. The duergar and the flame elemental try to blast the Bear Claws with fire, attempting to knock them into the lava in turn. James catches himself on the edge and the everybody attacks. The earthbergs drift around in the sea of fire leaving Roland floating away on a small berg.

The Bear Claws succeed in killing the duergar, flame elemental and githyanki and then make their way to the island. As they approach the tower the doors open and Pug and Quick emerge.

Pug congratulates Jak on being called Clankiller, thinking it an honor. Jak disagrees with him but Pug seems to ignore his arguments, warning him that Sarshan has powerful friends and he should watch out. Pug tells him that he would be a great ally if he were on the right side.

Quick goads James and tells Alton that he’s lucky Malthazard couldn’t fully manifest or Overlook would have burned down. James charges and Quick sidesteps, knocks him down and takes his weapon.

He drops the weapon on the ground, tells James he’s “too busy to do this right now,” and walks away. James tries to shoot him with his bow but misses and as they watch there is a bright flash and Pug and Quick disappear through some kind of portal.

Inside the tower the Bear Claws find a large gallery that is quickly filling up with lava from underneath. Across the gallery is a teleportation circle. They quickly rush across the room and jump into the circle where they find another room with some undead specters inside. As they begin to move across the room the walls begin to close in on the room. Proceeding to the next room the ceiling starts to move downward. There is a third room that contains a set of doors guarded by a flesh golem. The resulting fight is given tension by the fact that the ceiling and walls are moving in to crush them while the monsters attempt to kill them before that can happen.
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They kill the flesh golem and escape through the door just in time to keep from being crushed and find themselves on the room of the tower. Several githyanki are arrayed around the rooftop guarding the portal the Bear Claws appear in. Opposite them is Sarshan and two Shadar-Kai warriors inside a force bubble working on scribing another teleportation ritual into the rooftop. Below them the dikes around the rim of the island have broken down in places and the sea of lava is starting to flow, slowly, across the island.

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39. The Wrath of Dragons

Characters: Roland, Jak, James, Thornside, Alton
Level: 11
Location: Elemental Chaos, Under the World Tree
NPCs: Emil, Pattie

The Bear Claws continue to explore the caves that Sarshan fled into. They encounter a room with a bookcase, a weapon rack and a table with a treasure chest. There is also a painting of chaos energy that makes those looking at it a little queasy.

Roland looks at the picture and finds himself in an alternate, mirror dimension. He passes back through easily enough. Jak picks up a weapon from the rack and finds that he can’t put it down, his hands will not let go. James figures out that the weapons in the rack are cursed and begins a ritual to remove the weapon from Jak’s hand.

Alton picks a book from the bookcase and the bookcase swivels around, locking him inside a closet on the other side of the wall.

Thornside sees the unlocked chest on the table and recognizes it as a mimic. Jak sees Alton disappear and helps pry the wall open so he can get out. Thornside tries to take a cursed dagger by throwing his cloak over it. It gets stuck to his hand.

Emil, intrigued by the mimic, tries to open it. It bites him and Thornside, Alton and Roland all unleash on it, killing it. Thornside uses the dead mimic to take another dagger from the weapon rack.

James begins the ritual to remove the first dagger from Thornside’s hand while they continue to explore.

Moving further through the caves the Bear Claws encounter a rear guard that Sarshan left behind. They tell the Bear Claws that he instructed them to make a line with the pillars to get out. They don’t know what the pillar are.

Jak tries the adamant one door blocking the northern exit which triggers odd shaped pillars to begin falling at random into the room. The Bear Claws quickly realize that they can slide the pillars and interlock them until they make a line.

When they do the pillars fade away and an image of an old man appears. He repeats a riddle about a salt shelf and a key that floats. The Bear Claws recognize the entrance room to the cavern being mentioned in the riddle. They head toward the entrance, passing through a shorter route that Sarshan’s guards tell them about.

On the way they enter a room with a raging river running across it and a slick rope bridge. Jak passes across safely but when James follows the bridge breaks and James is washed away under a stone shelf.

He finds himself in a pool under the pit-filled entry room, a large wooden key floating in an eddy current nearby and a sucking whirlpool near a small crystal shelf.

Jak runs to the room with the crystal floor and begins smashing it. James yells at him to stop.

Roland turns back and makes his way to the crystal-floored room the way they first came. Alton casts his Tenser’s Floating Disk and he, Emil, Pattie and Thornside ride it across the river and down the passage to the entry room just in time to see James climbing out of one of the pits with the wooden key stuck into a pouch in his armor.

They return to the adamantine door and open it. On the other side is a long corridor filled with boulders, running perpendicular to the direction they want to go. As they start across the hallway the gravity shifts and they begin to fall toward one of the distant ends. Jak catches a boulder, Alton grabs hold of Jak and Roland lands on the boulder next to them. Using a rope they climb to the exit and Jak and James stretch a rope across the span so the others can cross.

The passage slopes up slowly but feels steeper and steeper until they have climb along it. Finally they climb out into sunshine, the cave entrance a portal on a platform high in an enormous tree that is floating in a lake of Blood Chaos. As they start to descend two green dragons rise up from the other side of the island.

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They attack the Bear Claws but quickly find themselves outmatched as Alton opens up with a giant burst of energy.

The Bear Claws dispatch them quickly with one final blast from Roland who delivers the final blow to both of them in one shot.

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38. Down the Rabbit Hole

Characters: Roland, Jak, James, Thornside, Alton, Xaladin
Level: 11
Location: Overlook
NPCs: Emil, Pattie, Falrinth, Megan Swiftblade, farmers and travelers in the Green Dragon Inn

The Bear Claws journey toward Talar. While camping Pattie offers to tell a story about Malthazard and where he came from. She claims it’s because she is a bard.

That night Emil speaks to Alton using Malthazard’s voice. He tells Alton he will get what he wants which is the deaths of Emil and his family.

In Talar they enter the Green Dragon and Jak and Thornside get into a discussion with a drunk tiefling who tries to sell them his load of expensive cloth. Xaladin speaks to an Eladrin woman about the feywild and why she doesn’t feel comfortable with non-fey people.

The locals share some stories about rumored Githyanki attacks taking place in other parts of the world. They seem to think that there is an advanced communication between the armies.

One also claims to have seen a three-headed calf in Brindol.

While they are talking an earthquake starts and the building starts to fall. The Bear Claws leap into action to try to save the people and the building but quickly learn it is a lost cause when the building collapses on several of them.

Outside is a long flow of blood chaos coming from Falrinth’s tower. Tentacled chaotic beasts start to rise from the blood chaos and attack the Bear Claws in the destruction of the town.

As they wipe up the chaos creatures they see somebody crawling on the roof of the tower at the top of the hill. The tower has sunk into the hill until the roof is level with the top of the hill.

The Bear Claws approach and see that Megan is on the roof with a broken leg. Jak rescues her and she tells them that Falrinth is till inside. They find him shoring up the doors on the ground floor and help him wedge them in place. He repays them with some much needed items and a potion of vitality.

He tells them that Sarshan was there but he fled down a hole in the floor of the tower.

The Bear Claws follow Sarshan down the hole and find themselves in a maze of caverns. They pass through several caverns before they are split up by hallucinatory mushrooms. Roland absorbs the magical effect of the mushrooms and they find themselves somewhere in the dark on the other side of a cavern full of dead mushrooms.

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