Bear Claws

33. We Never Liked Overlook Anyway...

Characters: Roland, Jak, James, Thornside, Xaladin
Level: 9
Location: Mountainroot Temple
NPCs: The Caretaker, Brak, Kalad, Emil, Elder Caddrick, Elder Ironfell

The Bear Claws overhear Hethralga plotting with her minions to attack them after they deal with the trolls so that she can get the Incanabulum Primeval back from them.

They decide to deal with her later and maintain their faux-friendly relationship with the fey creatures.

Thornside sneaks into the remaining room to check it out. When he does he catches a brief glimpse of a tall, dark-robed man speaking with a rust colored dragonborn before they move out of sight on the platform high above him. He overhears the robed man telling the dragonborn that the siege of Overlook will begin in one day and it will also end in one day if he can get the temple open to bring his troops through.

Thornside sneaks up the stairs to the platform to take a look around and finds a huge room, the reliquary of the temple. It has stairs climbing to a platform in the center and a giant crystal platform that is suspended above several rooms built in the reliquary. Scattered about the reliquary are some trolls, dragonborn and several human thugs that look like the Lost Ones from Overlook.

He returns to the rest of the group and tells them what he saw. They devise a plane where the group goes back to the trap door in the vault which they presume will lead to this room. Thornside and Xaladin are going to sneak up the stairs, shout out “For Hethralga” and take quick shots at the people in the room before running full speed back to the trap door.

As they are sneaking up the stairs the rust colored dragonborn paces across the platform and sees them just below. Thornside jumps up, shouts, “For Hethralga” and shoots him with a crossbow. The shot throws him from the platform. Xaladin also shoots at dart at one of the trolls and they both run.

When they get to the trap door the party descends the spiral staircase and follows a narrow, dark passage to the north that leads to another spiral staircase going up. It emerges underneath one of the statues of Moradin in the corner of the reliquary. When they check there is a great deal of draconic swearing coming from the other side of the room and a troll picking his nose not far away. They can’t see much of the room from this vantage point so they decide to wait a minute and check again. Things look the same so they emerge and the troll bellows a warning to the rest of the room.

The resulting fight is over quickly as the Bear Claws find that the enemy is too spread out to present too much of a threat. There is one temple construct that Jak is very curious about that proves painful for him. They search the rooms and find some treasures but mostly destroyed and abandoned places.

In one corner of the reliquary is a small building that resembles a house. Inside, in the bedroom, they find a room with a carpet that is crunchy with dried blood and a dwarf tied to the bed, his skin metallic copper colored, his eyes shifting madly and his hair and beard made of bright red flames.

Jake cuts him free while James starts healing him of his wounds. The Caretaker shakes and snaps at them, his sanity obviously gone. James performs a Remove Affliction ritual to restore his sanity while Roland keeps him calm by talking to him soothingly.

When his sanity is returned the Caretaker tells them that he has been tortured because the General wanted control of the defenses of the Mountainroot Temple. Now that his sanity is returned he has released the entrances and they are all open. The General — whom Thornside saw speaking to the dragonborn — has already fled. At the behest of the Bear Claws he sends some of his constructs to chase the fey creatures out of the temple and seals all the entrances so that nobody can enter.

He tells them they may take the Incanabulum Primeval with them if they will promise to give it to Brak for safekeeping.

He asks them, before they go, if they will spend some time and money to help him cleanse the temple via ritual to restore its consecration to Moradin after all this bloodshed.

They agree and after the ritual they carry several of the more interesting bodies with them to sell to Rufus Cromley.

When they emerge from the portal they find the Stone Anvil completely deserted. Stowing the bodies they brought they emerge to find a troop of guards waiting for them. The captain tells them the Council of Overlook needs them right away.

After assuaging their mistrust the guards lead them to Caer Overlook, the keep at the center of the city. Inside they enter a great hall with a raised dais where there is a large table and three of the members of the city Council of Elders, Elder Caddrick, Elder Morgroth and Elder Ironfell. Ironfell doesn’t seem pleased to meet them and admits that Bram is her cousin.

She claims that is not her reason for mistrusting them. It is because they are mercenaries and vigilantes who get involved in things they don’t understand. She’s not above accepting their help in saving the city from siege, though.

The Council was discussing ways to keep the city safe, should the Bear Claws fail and an army came in through the Stone Anvil. Now, with this news they change their council theme to preparations for the siege. Brak, Kalad and Emil join in and the group is shown a large 3D map of Overlook and they spend the rest of the day making plans to help the troops and others prepare the defenses of the city.

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32. They've Got a Cave Troll
In the Dungeon

Characters: Alton, Jak, James, Thornside, Xaladin
Level: 9
Location: Mountainroot Temple
NPCs:

The Bear Claws move into the Cathedral of the Mountainroot Temple. It is a giant room that is larger than many of the castles they have seen. With a towering ceiling and long sloping ramps there are entire fortresses that could be built inside it.

They see several fey creatures hiding in the room and one, a feydark dwarf approaches them. They tell him they are looking for Hethralga and he starts to talk to them but just then there is a pounding on the door at the far end of the chamber and a large two-headed troll lumbers in.

Thinking they are betrayed the fey creatures attack the Bear Claws and the Trolls. The Bear Claws quickly persuade the party that they are there to help and they should team up against the trolls. The fight is long and bloody leaving many wounds and many of the fey quicklings dead.

Finding themselves too exhausted to continue they move back to the living chambers and set up a camp to rest. After about six hours Xaladin — who is taking watch — wakes them and they head off into the shattered barracks to confront Hethralga.

Hethralga is surrounded by Cyclops guards and carrying a large pack on her back. Xaladin, James and Jak approach her, Xaladin in the form of a Cyclops. They convince her they are there to help, and she offers to give them the Incanabulum Primeval as advance payment if they can free the Caretaker and let her get home.

As they are talking an earthquake starts and the ceiling begins to crumble. The Bear Claws flee, shoring up the falling rock behind them with arcane and natural magics. When the quake stops the barracks are sealed and inaccessible, many more of Hethralgas helpers are dead but the Bear Claws are safe.

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31. Getting Back to Our Roots

Characters: Alton, Jak, James, Thornside, Roland, Xaladin
Level: 8/9
Location: Overlook, Mountainroot Temple
NPCs: Brak

The Bear Claws question the doppelgänger that impersonated Brak. He tells them that he is being paid for the work and is willing to cooperate if they won’t kill him. He tells them where the real Brak is being held and they let him go.

They find a secret trapdoor inside a crate in the back corner of the warehouse with a ladder leading down into a dank and moldy passageway. At the end of the tunnel is a steel door to a cell that holds Brak. He is bruised and bloodied and chained to the wall. Set in the ceiling of his cell is a trap set to kill him if they open the door.

Between Thornside and Jak they are able to disable the traps and free Brak.

While they rest and James tends to his wounds Brak tells them what is going on, as much as he has figured out from the questioning.

Hidden beneath the mountains is the Mountainroot Temple. A place built long ago as a place for all Moradin worshippers to come together. An earthquake damaged it and the priests and clerics abandoned it. Recently it has been reopened.

General Zithiruun wants to know about the Temple and how it works, specifically how to use the portals in it. One of the portals lies within the Stone Anvil temple in Overlook. Brak guesses that Zithiruun wants to use the temple to infiltrate troops into the city.

Of more concern to Brak is the Incanabulum Primeval, the book that contains the ritual of creation that Moradin used to create the world. It is hidden inside the Mountainroot Temple. If it is found by the wrong hands it could be used to unmake the world. He offers them payment if they will bring it safely to him.

He also tells them that the possessed citizens are dead. They are being controlled by Githyanki Mindbenders. When the Githyanki take control of a person the soul is completely pushed aside.

The Bear Claws decide to rest for the night — having traveled all day before finding Brak — and pawn off their acquired treasures. Thornside stays behind to sabotage the vast warehouse of Elsir Consortium goods.

Alton inters Miranda’s body in the temple of Avandra mourning her passing.

Brak leads them to the Stone Anvil and to a treasury room where he equips them items that he thinks will help them in the Mountainroot Temple.

He shows them the crypt leading tot he entrance but tells them he cannot go with them because he has made a vow not to enter the crypt.

At the end of the crypt is a silver filigree of Moradin at his forge. He asks for a parable or fable that shows understanding of his teachings in order to pass. James knows what Moradin teaches but refuses to put forth a story.

Thornside tries to talk to the filigree but Roland steps in and gives a story about a fox a crow and a piece of cheese. The filigree asks for explanation and tells them they must fight some animated chains in order to enter.

Once they defeat the chains the filigree parts and reveals two large doors. Jak opens them and they step through into another room that is in another place. There is no feeling of moving or sensation of magic about the portal.

Inside the room are many other doors and several fey creatures, including some dwarf-looking people and a couple harpies. One of the harpies talks to them and Roland tells him that they are looking for some harpies to take care of Thornside’s baby harpy — named Jerry.

They don’t really believe but Roland smoothly talks them into letting the Bear Claws explore as long as they promise not to hurt the other fey creatures.

They begin to explore and find a tea room, and a secret door leading to what was once a vault. The vault seems to be cleared out and is occupied by a couple more harpies and a few quicklings that try not to be seen.

The Bear Claws speak with them briefly then move on to a dining hall where they find some recently killed quicklings. A short Speak with Dead ritual grants them two questions and they learn that the quicklings were killed by trolls that were under the command of the general with braces.

Beyond the dining room is a kitchen and a small area with a forge where the traps of the temple seem to be very active. A radiant tendril of light blinds several party members before they deactivate the trap then they get attacked by charging anvils with legs. The anvils charge them through the walls, knocking prone anything they hit.

Jak manages to get knocked down by the anvils and can’t seem to hit them.

When the rest of the party finishes them off they explore the rest of the area, finding some living quarters that look to have been in use recently by half a dozen dwarves.

Retracing their steps they return to the hallway just beyond the chamber of doors to explore the area to the north of that.

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30. The World is a Mess
And I just need to rule it.

Characters: Alton, Jak, James, Thornside, Roland, Xaladin
Level: 8
Location: Overlook
NPCs: Miranda, Aerun, Kalad, Emil, Brak, Megan Swiftblade, Sylen Leafrunner, Ancestor Karros, Murrik Ironfell, Ruth and Rory Teng, Lavinya
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The Bear Claws have a discussion with Amyria about religion and Bahamut and philosophy. Alton has some ideas that confuse her because she is not philosophical. She tells Jak she has seen his weapon before, it was once wielded by a great warrior of Arkhosia.

Upon entering the city the Bear Claws meet Emil, practicing his intimidation techniques. Roland gives him some pointers on bluffing which he is a little confused about.

Amyria heads for the temple of Bahamut.

Roland, Xaladin and Thornside go to Rufus’ tower to sell him their gnoll bodies. He pays them and shows them the progress he has made on the table he promised them.

Jak goes to speak with Aerun and he finds Aerun acting strange. James has the same experience with Brak only he can tell that the person he is talking to is not Brak but is a doppelgänger.

Alton speaks to Ruth and she asks for advice on how to host a half long wedding, Emil has asked her and Rory to host. While they talk food choices the rest of the group returns. Thornside’s bag begins moving and he rushes to his room and dumps it out. There he finds a hatched baby harpy. Xaladin comes in and tells him about how harpies are hatched, and what they eat. Jak tries to take away the bag of holding but Thornside takes his bag, his harpy and flees through the window.

Thornside goes to Aerun to ask for advice but Aerun doesn’t seem to know who he is or listen to his complaints.

Meanwhile, Lavinya, priestess of Erathis comes and wishes to speak privately with the Bear Claws. She tells them her friend Haelyn has disappeared and she is suspicious. She has noticed that all the clergy is acting strange.

At this news Alton, Jak and Roland run out the door.

James and Xaladin listen to the rest of what Lavinya has to say. She thinks something is wrong in Overlook and wants the Bear Claws to look into it.

At the temple of Avandra Alton approaches Miranda, who doesn’t seem to know him. She acts different and doesn’t seem interested in any of the philosophical discussions her and Alton have had in the past. Alton senses another presence from her.

Back at the inn the Bear Claws discuss a plan. Thornside goes to Brak’s apartment to look for clues about how to find him. James and Jak go this office at the temple in hopes of finding him. Alton, Roland and Xaladin go to the old Temple of Moradin in the Nine Bells to see if he is there.

Thornside finds an empty apartment and a crumpled note about a prisoner that won’t talk.

James and Jak search Brak’s office but find nothing amiss. A priest tells them he went to check on the status of the update to the old temple I the Nine Bells.

Alton, Roland and Xaladin encounter Megan and Sylen guarding the door to the old temple. An angry worker shouts invective at them and mentions that he thinks they murdered his uncle Bram. There is a brief scuffle and Ancestor Karros breaks it up and tells them that Brak already left, but that he meets Aerun each night.

The Bear Claws decide to go to Aerun’s office at the Hall of Justice to confront their two friends about their weird behavior. They get there to find Aerun already gone but the receptionist says they can catch him if they hurry out the side entrance.

They follow Aerun across town to the Pig and Bucket. Roland and Alton go inside and overhear Aerun and Brak discussing a prisoner that won’t talk. Aerun insists on doing some questioning himself and the two leave.

The Bear Claws follow them to a warehouse and charge inside after them. A fight ensues and the Bear Claws quickly subdue those inside. Thornside shoots Aerun and knocks him through a window where he falls twenty feet, dead on impact. The Brak doppelgänger and Miranda are knocked unconscious so the Bear Claws can question them later.

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29. Bring Out Your Dead

Characters: Alton, Jak, James, Thornside, Roland, Xaladin
Level: 8
Location: Castle Graystone
NPCs: Loovat, Falrinth, Cunning

The Bear Claws split up with the ranged attackers staying on the balcony near the secret entrance. The melee attackers head back tot he main entrance to the ritual chamber. Fangren proves difficult to hit but seems to have a hard time hitting things as well.

Xaladin shows his usefulness by rounding up the minions and taking down Fangren. Roland and Alton have a friendly competition of arcane powers as they blast away at the gnolls and other monsters in the chamber.

When the fight is over the Bear Claws attempt to close the portal. Thornside stumbles and falls partway through. Roland absorbs a great deal of the energy in the portal and his wounds start to bleed glowing chaos energy and his eyes glow. James hurls the sacrifice into the portal and it closes but an explosion of energy blasts through the chamber. None of them seem the worst for it so they follow Amyria’s instructions to perform a ritual.

When the ritual is over Amyria is transformed into a tall, beautiful young woman in bronze armor. She tells them that Overlook is in danger and she wants to get back there as quickly as possible.

Roland, seeing a vision of Overlook burning and filled with bodies agrees with her.

They leave the fortress, the gnoll guards oblivious to the destruction they just caused, and hike back to Brindol. The first night they all have terrible dreams that keep them from sleeping well and they wake feeling tired and weakened. James figures out that it is an effect from the explosion of the portal.

The nightmare’s continue each night. They stop at Loovat’s farm and Misty and Tuvok are excited to see them. Erlin is less so, feeling sullen and unappreciated. The Bear Claws do their best to cheer him up.

During the night Thornside tries to sneak into the house to sleep inside but gets caught by Erlin. When he returns to the barn Amyria is waiting for him and tries to tell him that he doesn’t need to be somebody, he’s good enough as he is. She hugs him and comforts him then takes his watch when he crawls off to bed.

In Brindol the Bear Claws find an unwelcome reception as the locals have gotten the feeling that every time they come to town another building burns down. There’s even a song they overhear one of the children singing — which Jak seems to think is catchy enough that he hums the tune.

James picks up a Remove Affliction ritual to cure everybody of their nightmares but they all find out the local priests of Bahamut are willing to perform the ritual for free.

As they are leaving Overlook they run into Brin who is bringing a wagonload of gnoll bodies in the hopes of impressing Jalissa. When he hears she isn’t in town he lets the Bear Claws take them to sell to Rufus.

They leave Falrinth and Cunning in Talar and make their way towards Overlook.

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28. The Grassy Gnoll
Don't eat the natives

Characters: Alton, Jak, James, Thornside, Roland, Xaladin
Level: 8
Location: Castle Graystone
NPCs: Loovat, Falrinth, Cunning

The Bear Claws approach the gnolls in the entrance to Fortress Graystone by telling them they are Sarshan’s emissaries doing an inspection. The gnolls seem confused but accept the situation. They are stuck in the room because they can’t figure out the portal system that is in there. The Bear Claws start walking through portals and find they are just as confused as the gnolls. Xaladin and Thornside end up in a small room with a door. The rest find a secret passage that leads them underneath a room where the gnolls are training in the use of the chaos ore weapons that Sarshan delivered.

Xaladin and Thornside get near the door where the troops are being trained and Xaladin recognizes Leena’s voice as the instructor. Thornside thinks she is the owner of Leena’s restaurant and barges in at the same moment that the rest of the group pushes the trap doors under the chamber open.

Leena steals Thornside’s bow and throws it at Xaladin. Thornside gets flustered and can’t seem to hit anything. Jake draws all the enemies into a circle just in time for Alton and Roland to light them on fire and freeze them to death. When they are done the room is littered with the corpses of dead gnolls and one Shadar-Kai weapon instructor.

Exploring the secret passage further the Bear Claws discover that one direction leads toward a smell like hot iron and brimstone. The other leads to a room full of githzerai ghosts and a pile of treasure. Thornside sees the treasure and tells the Bear Claws that he has found the prisoners. He leads them around to another entrance — in order to steal the treasure, and they end up fighting a room full of gnolls riding hyenas.

When those enemies are defeated Thornside grabs the treasure and the Bear Claws realize he lied to them to get them to go get treasure. When he really does hear some guards talking about prisoners several of them don’t believe him. Roland chooses to try to convince them and goes ahead into the chamber. He moves in and tells the gnoll guards (who are arguing about being able to eat the prisoners) that he is taking the prisoners to Fangren.

They believe him and he finds Loovat, Falrinth and Cunning — a tiefling leatherworker. After leading them out to the hallway where the rest of the Bear Claws are Loovat is relieved to see his friends and anxious to hear that his family is safe. Cunning mentions his leather work and offers to fix up Jak’s armor, given an opportunity. Thornside launches into a sales pitch for the Freetraders.

Falrinth complains that Megan would have killed the guards and looted their bodies.

With the rest of the Castle explored the Bear Claws head down the secret passage to the end. The sword, Amyria, speaks, urging them onward. Malthazard speaks to Alton and reminds him of his pact. He complains that Alton never tried to become an exarch — Yeenoghu gets all the good disciples.

When they reach the end of the passage they find a large circular chamber with a raised dais in the middle. Three large cauldrons burn around it and there are several twisted and malformed prisoners wandering around. On the dais three gnolls are performing a ritual with the bloody entrails of a slaughtered sacrifice. Behind them the air shimmers red as the ritual casters chant the name of Yeenoghu.

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27. Climb every mountain...
...ford every stream.

Characters: Alton, Jak, James, Thornside, Roland, Xaladin
Level: 7/8
Location: Brindol
NPCs: Mary, Jalissa, Misty, Tuvok, Erlin

The bounty hunter Thorn attacks by throwing a net at Jak and unleashing sprays of crossbow bolts from his repeating crossbow. Jak nearly dies from the steady barrage of damage but James brings him back.

When he is beaten Thorn admits that the bounty was placed by Sarshan. He bargains to track down Sarshan for them if they will spare his life. The Bear Claws agree but keep his magic items.

Alton finds a library in the local temple of Ioun. The librarian shows him a scroll that cross references information regarding divine power being the same as that of arcane users.

Roland talks to the sword. She tells him she was once a woman and she will provide them with a ritual that will restore her and also close the portal to the Abyss that Fangren has opened.

Thornside makes some potions.

Mary and Jalissa bring them payment from Sertanian to help with their efforts to stop the gnolls. Mary mentions that she has just received a message, delivered by hedgehog, that her ‘father,’ Washburn, has requested she return to the Feywild. Her and Jalissa are heading out to find a Fey crossing.

Jalissa says her goodbyes to Thornside. She seems to be amused by his posturing.

The Bear Claws are also summoned by Effram Troyas. He asks them to bring back his friend, the sage Falrinth, who raised him when he was orphaned after the Red Hand of Doom killed his family.

The Bear Claws agree and set out the next morning. Along the road they encounter a farm guarded by a twelve year old boy that Jak recognizes as Erlin, oldest son of Loovat. Erlin’s mother, Misty, is nearby patching the thatching on their roof. She invites them in and tells them that they were attacked by gnolls a couple days before. She fled with the boys but Loovat was taken prisoner and the house lit on fire. She managed to douse the flames before losing more than just some thatching but she is worried about Loovat.

The Bear Claws continue on into the mountains, leaving horses and wagon at the farm. In the mountains they travel for a couple days before they find a game trail leading to a gray stone fortress hidden on a low peak, well off the traveled routes. It begins to snow and the Bear Claws are cold and wet by the time they reach the fortress.

Fortress Graystone reflects the dichotomy of nature of the githzerai who built it. One side is ordered perfectly and straight, the other side is twisted like a chaotic group project gone wrong.

On the stairs leading up to the doors Thornside notices a shadow behind one of the statues. He calls out and a gnoll comes forward. He sniffs them and then recognizes them from Sarshan’s tower. The gnoll welcomes them, thinking they are emissaries and they are responsible for getting Sarshan to send the weapons they now have.

The Bear Claws enter the fortress and find themselves in an octagonal room with five portals.

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26. Back to the Future
a trip to the past.

Characters: Alton, Jak, James, Thornside, Roland, Xaladin
Level: 7
Location: Overlook, Brindol, The Great Dwarf Road
NPCs: Aerun, Kalad, Emil, Ruth and Rory, Mary, Jalissa, Adronsius, Mirtala, Sertanian, Rufus Cromley

The Lost One tells the Bear Claws that Mary and Jalissa are held in two separate rooms of the temple and points out which ones they are. Jak and Roland intimidate the leader into writing down the locations of the rest of the Lost One hideouts.

Jalissa is badly wounded and faints when James finds her. Mary has been beaten and battered as well and is relieved to see Alton and the other Bear Claws. The group decides to take the living Lost Ones to the authorities.

Kalad and Emil show up and accompany them. Emil chatters to Jak about how great his axe is all the way.

Aerun looks at the captured Lost Ones and at the list of locations and tells the Bear Claws that there are too many for him to strike at once. If he moves too quickly word will get out and they will all get away. He promises that he will use them in the future when he has a plan for dealing with them.

The group splits up and does some shopping while Alton and Jak accompany Mary and Jalissa back to the Belden’s Rest. On the way Mary tells them that she left Overlook to check on people in Brindol and found Jalissa ready to leave her home and accompany her. While there Sertanian, the castellan of the Hall of Great Valor, came to her and said that the platinum sword they had rescued from the goblins had started to speak and it was asking for the Bear Claws. Mary went with him and spoke to the sword. It told them that it needed Alton and James and the need was great.

When they arrive at the inn Ruth hurriedly prepares a room for Jalissa and Jak plants himself outside her door to guard. Mary cleans herself up and joins Alton in the common room.

Xaladin and Thornside take the wagon back to the temple and load up the bodies of the Lost Ones to take to Rufus Cromley. Rufus offers to pay extra if Jak ever dies. Thornside mentions the Dryad body they have and Rufus offers to create a feast table for them as payment for the bodies.

He also mentions he wants to see Jak’s axe. He wants to know if Xaladin can still change shape if he is dead and offers to pay extra for him as well.

Xaladin and Thornside take the dryad body back and drop it off.

Roland finds a first person account of a naturalist studying the demons of the elemental chaos. Iggwilv’s Demonomicon.

James learns a new ritual.

In the morning Jak finds the man from Dunesend who bought their horses and purchases some of them back. James also buys his draft horse back.

The Bear Claws take their wagon and head out to Brindol. On the road they encounter Brin who tells them that gnolls have been kidnapping people in the Vale and his troop is looking for them. He tells them to keep it safe and bids them farewell.

On the way to Brindol Mary talks to Jak about why he left his family and wonders if he misses them. She finds it difficult to understand his feelings as she was never given a choice about leaving her family.

In Brindol they spend the evening with Mirtala, who feeds them a hearty stew with thick, hard bread. Mary shares some peppers with those who don’t know to avoid them. Thornside can almost breathe fire. Jalissa thinks his reaction is funny. She also flirts with Thornside a little and asks him to teach her to shoot a bow.

In the morning they go the Hall of Great Valor and the sword speaks to them. She tells them that a pack of gnolls moved into the abandoned githzerai fortress Graystone in the Giantshome mountains recently and have started opening a portal to the elemental chaos. This portal awoke her and she wants them to take her to it and close the portal.

They are attacked by bounty hunters while they talk and the Hall is lit on fire. They fight off the bounty hunters and escape but find another bounty hunter waiting for them outside.

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25. Revenge...
...best served with a side of mashed potatoes and a nice demiglace.

Characters: Alton, Jak, James, Thornside, Roland
Level: 7
Location: Overlook
NPCs: Aerun, Kalad, Emil, Ruth and Rory, Glorin Hammerfist, (Miranda), Haelyn

Thornside tells his friends that Rufus Cromley might be able to get them to the Shadowfell to catch Bram. He rushes away and the others follow.

The Gray Redoubt of Rufus Cromley is a squat, gray-stone tower that leans slightly to the left and bears the dubious distinction of being the tallest building in Shanytown. When Thornside knocks on the door a window opens up and a zombie dressed in black butler clothes peers out growling questioningly. Thornside asks to see Rufus and the zombie opens the door, revealing a cluttered single-room interior filled with strange undead implements.

Rufus agrees to send them to the Shadowfell if they promise to bring back any bodies they ‘find’ there, as payment. They agree and he performs the ritual to open a portal. The Bear Claws go through and find themselves in a long gray hallway that stretches out into the distance. Ahead they can see torchlight and hear raised voices. Thornside sneaks closer and sees Bram standing in the middle of a group of Shdar Kai arguing with them about who is in charge.

Pug is also there and when the Bear Claws are noticed he tells them they can have Bram and walks away in disgust.

Thornside shifts through the Shadar Kai, his armor expanding as shadows stretch out around him. He lunges at Bram but Bram slaps him aside at the last second.

The Bear Claws step in and Bram falls to their attacks, quickly. Yelling in rage Thornside continues to shoot arrows into Bram’s body, his armor sucking darkness and color from the corpse.

Bram’s guards go down quickly and the Bear Claws take the bodies through the gateway back to Rufus Cromley’s tower. He seems pleased with the payment they brought him and is muttering about reanimating them as servants when they leave.

They check in with Aerun to find that the other members of the Consortium were all arrested and four of them confessed to get a reduced sentence.

On the way back to the Belden’s Rest they split up to go their separate ways. Roland wanders around looking for a temple or shrine to the Raven Queen but finds that she is not a popular deity in Overlook. Alton and Jak head to the Temple of Avandra in the Nine Bells where they talk to (Miranda) again. She has some results of the research she promised Alton she would do last time they talked.

James goes Stonehammer to talk to Brak but he hasn’t made it back from Dunesend yet.

Thornside returns to the inn where Ruth recognizes that he is very troubled and she puts him in a room and gives him some drugged ale to make him sleep.

When the rest of the Bear Claws return she serves them some turducken that she has been experimenting with. Before heading up to their rooms for the night a table full of Tieflings make a few jokes about James. His friends talk him out of confronting them until he has rested.

In the morning Rory gives them two messages. One is from Glorin Hammerfist inviting them to join her for breakfast at Leena’s, to collect their reward. One is a ransom note telling them to get out of town or their women will be tortured. The note includes two sketches of a dragonborn and an elf.

The Bear Claws decide to stop by Leena’s on their way to track down the origins of the note. They meet Savory, the tiefling chef, who speaks to them briefly and crafts them each a custom breakfast. Glorin gives them their agreed upon payment and tells them that she is making a push to bring back the Freetraders in the name of Thornside’s parents. She is making him an honorary founding member. James, Jak, Alton and Thornside all give her back some money to help with her endeavors.

After breakfast they go to tradetown to talk to Haelyn at the Shrine of Erathis. She tells them she saw Mary and Jalissa, the two pictured on the ransom note, just two days before, asking after the Bear Claws. When she sees the note she seems very concerned and tells them to go to the Pickled Imp and follow the Lost Ones representative when he comes to collect his protection money.

The Pickled Imp is dirty and known for the pickled Imp on the counter. The Bear Claws wait a few hours before they see a half-orc enter, order a beer and be served a small bag of coins along with his drink. They follow him across town to the Nine Bells district where he enters the abandoned temple of Pelor.

It starts to rain as the Bear Claws approach. Megan Swiftblade calls to them from the porch of the Temple of Moradin where her and the Freeriders have taken a job as guards. Megan tells them to be careful if they are to confront the Lost Ones, they have a good reason to kill the Bear Claws because somebody has put a price on their heads.

When the Bear Claws enter the temple they see Jalissa tied up in chains in the center of the open room. She sees them and seems relieved that they are here. While they are releasing her there are sounds of a scuffle from one of the other rooms and Mary emerges carrying two short swords. One of them she tosses to Jalissa and she greets the Bear Claws as she approaches. When she is within striking distance she attacks, morphing into her natural form. Both of them are doppelganger assassins and the Lost Ones quickly emerge from the back rooms to attack the Bear Claws in ambush. There are some tense moments before the last of the Lost Ones finally surrenders, unwilling to fight to the death when he is obviously outnumbered.

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24. Cabbages and Kings
...my second cousin twice removed on my mother's side...

Characters: Alton, Jak, James, Xaladin, Thornside, Roland
Level: 7
Location: Lost Mines of Karak, Overlook
NPCs: Shephatiah, Aerun, Balasar, Alebottom, Kalad, Emil, Ruth and Rory, Bede, Glorin Hammerfist, Brak

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The Bear Claws wake Shephatiah and question her about what is going on. She tells them that she is the immortal Queen of the Drylands. Sarshan has employed her to operate the mines and provide chaos forged weapons. Bram is his contact in Overlook and he sent the Bear Claws to the mine so that she could kill them. Sarshan works for a General Zithiruun, a once great conqueror of the githyanki who disappeared a few hundred years ago. Pug and Quick represent some presence higher up than Zithiruun.

Malthazard is a demon of the Abyss and he has long had great interest in the material plane and in sowing chaos therein.

She tells them there is no way to seal the rift to the elemental chaos.

Jak dispatches her and Thornside skins her and puts the skin in his bag of holding. They load the entrance platform with mining explosives and leave it halfway down the shaft. Alton’s fireball he uses to set them off misses and lights the rope instead. The platform tips and the explosives begin to roll and then fall down the shaft. Xaladin throws one of his flame seeds after it and the explosion causes the floor of the dungeon to collapse. Xaladin summons the roots of the trees above to grow down into the basement and hold up the floor so that they can get away.

On the journey to Dunesend they discuss what their motivations are for joining the Bear Claws. Jak wants to know if he can learn to change shape into a human.

In Dunesend they meet Glorin Hammerfist, who is helping move the inhabitants to Overlook. The sandstorm destroyed their crops and they have nowhere else to go. With her is Brak. He has been given the job of High Ancestor of Moradin because Durkik Forgeheart passed away. He has come down here to help Glorin before taking up the position. He has some new information for James regarding runes and they go off to talk, taking Roland’s staff with them.

Glorin tells them that Bram killed Thornside’s parents because they were staring up a competing coalition of merchants. He is also responsible for the Orc invasion.

Bede tells Alton and the rest that he is not going to Overlook. His daughter Buttercup wants to be a bard so they are going to Sayre where she can join the University. Bede wants to open an inn there. Alton suggests more of a coffee house type setup to cater to the university crowd.

Alton summons his phantom steeds to pull their wagon to Overlook and the Bear Claws set out across the Thornwaste. As they enter the Westdeep Alton guides the horses across a small lake, their flaming hooves sending up a trail of steam in their wake as they run across the water.

As they enter Overlook Aerun meets them and tells them that there are rumors going around that they had all been killed in the Thornwastes. He asks to talk to Thornside and takes him into the guard room off the main gate. Inside are Balasar and Alebottom. Balasar identifies Thornside as the one who admitted to thievery and leaves. Alebottom curses Thornside and tells him he doesn’t want to see him again. Aerun makes a deal with Thornside that he will forgive the jail sentence in exchange for doing spy work for the city guard on occasion to help them round up the corruption in the city.

Thornside agrees and when they get outside Jak hands Aerun the letter they found among Shephatiah’s things, the one that is from Bram telling her to kill the Bear Claws. At this evidence Aerun is anxious to act fast to arrest Bram and the rest of the Elsir Consortium. He tells them to meet him at the inner guard post in one hour where he will have seven teams of men to arrest all the members of the Consortium at once.

The Bear Claws are teamed up with Kalad and Emil to go to Bram’s house and arrest him. Once there Thornside goes into the house to check for traps or guards before they make their entrance. While he’s in there he notices a shadow moving in the corner of his eye. Angry at the recent news that Bram killed his parents and upset that he just got kicked out of Alebottom’s house he loads an arrow and takes aim at the shadow.

Outside Kalad is telling the Bear Claws that he would like to reinstitute the Order of the Sundered Chain and asks if any of them would like to leave off adventuring and become priests of Moradin.

Emil shows Roland his plans for intimidating people: “I’ve come here to vanquish evil and eat potatoes. And I’m all out of potatoes.”

He’s also excited to tell Alton that he is getting married to a young farmer girl named Sweet Potato. The marriage was arranged by his mother but he’s met the girl before, their caravan passed near her farm last year.

Just then the door of the Ironfell mansion blasts out of its frame and Thornside comes flying out, followed by the huge head of a shadow dragon, the rest of its body coalescing out of the shadows as it lunges forward.

The Bear Claws rush in to do battle and fight off the dragon and two dragonborn mercenaries that are also hiding in the shadows. Emil tries to help out but only manages to knock a piece of wall across the street into Xaladin.

The dragon is killed quickly and the dragonborn tells the Bear Claws that he doesn’t know where Bram is, Sarshan left them here to cover Bram’s escape, probably into the Shadowfell.

Kalad and Emil run past while the Bear Claws are questioning the dragonborn and they all make a thorough search of the mansion. Emil finds some scraps of letters burned in a fireplace. One of the scraps has Sarshan’s signature on it. Several others are written in elvish on some kind of leaf-like material.

Bram is nowhere to be found.

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