Bear Claws

Adventure Supplement 3: Journal of Hautamaryat Firebreath

Characters: Mary

I finally met my mother.

She is… different than I had supposed but now that I say that I find that the truth is that I had not supposed anything. My imagination, all my thoughts, have a void in the place where a mother should be.

I have had many parents in my life and none of them were real and all of them betrayed me, one way or another. Nathyra Bloodbane. She gave me away. Now she is here and I find that all I want is to be gone again.

Our lives are so different. Mine has been one of misplaced anger and constant betrayals. Hers has been one of seeking and never finding.

In my mind I pictured this. Finding her, happy and healthy in her home and asking her why, why did she leave me among Eladrin to be abused and banished and lost. Why did she give me away. I yelled and railed and spoke plainly in my righteous wrath.

I also saw her holding me with tears in her eyes as she welcomed me home, joyful to see me at last.

The truth is so much worse than the imagination and far more raw. Nathyra has spent far longer removed from me than I have from her. She is seasoned and old and not the type to tearfully welcome anybody and I find I have not the heart, nor the anger, to pile up on her my years of frustration and betrayal.

She is my mother but I am not her daughter. I am, somehow, something else.

I wish that I had somebody I could talk to.

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58. Rufus and the Secret Chord...
... by Rob Zombie

Characters: Thornside, James, Alton, Roland, Jak, Xaladin
Level: 17
Location: Sayre
NPCs: Mary, Amyria, Emil, Pattie, Telicanthus, Jeff

Cachlain pulls Xaladin down from the rafters and introduces him to Inzira, Daughter of the Frostwhite Forest. She holds up an icy white acorn on a platinum chain and thanks him for returning the Seed of Winter to her. She then shows him a mirror and when she lowers it they are in an icy white forest where she tells Xaladin to take Nathyra back to the Material Plane with him, Nathyra has made a deal with Inzira in order to be allowed to leave to look for Mary.

Back in Sayre Amyria comes to check on the Bear Claws and tells them that the githyanki have been strangely silent inside the Coalition lands. Outside of it the attacks continue and Amyria has messengers offering aid to any that will accept it but the offers travel slower than the news of the destruction.

Alton asks James to make him a magical item that will make him more awesome as a Hellbringer of Avandra. James says he will do some research on that.

Roland makes a trip to the library and talks with a dwarf about the Incanabulum Primeval. The dwarf doesn’t want to talk but eventually does. On the way back Roland sees Mary approaching the mansion and stops to talk with her before going inside.

When she comes in Jak goes to find Nathyra who has taken up wood carving at the prompting of Alton. Jak has her close her eyes and takes her out to meet Mary. Nathyr and Mary do not know each other at all but when they are told who the other is there is shock and awkwardness — neither of them knows how to react.

Thornside invites them to come back later for a feast. Emil and Pattie come to visit as well and Emil has been helping Amyria run the Coalition. He mentions that each of the members has their own agenda that gets in the way of things running smoothly. He tells them that Pattie is expecting… her family to come visit. Thornside and Xaladin think he is saying expecting a child which embarrasses Emil.

Pattie responds that she can’t have children because she might eat them.

Emil asks to speak to Alton in private and asks him what Malthazard asked of him in exchange for his power. Alton reluctantly explains that he destroyed his entire village in order to get the power that he wanted. Emil is shocked and admits that he made the deal expecting Malthazard to play fair and he is now scared about what may be required.

He leaves feeling troubled.

Rufus Cromwell sends a message by way of his zombie butler, Jeff. The message says that Lady Torrence has been to visit Telicanthus in prison and he claims that he has information for the Bear Claws.

They make a trip to the dank prison under the dam at the top of the city where Telicanthus has a well-appointed cell with plush carpet and comfortable chairs. He claims that there are no hard feelings between them and he can find a rebel githyanki faction if they will take him to the city of Tu’narath and set him free. They do not believe him but James escalates the discussion by tossing a large bag of excrement into the cell. Telicanthus immediately starts to gag and wretch and Roland summons a thunder storm that teleports the entire contents of the cell on top of James. Jak grabs Telicanthus and they have the guard show them to an interrogation room while James cleans up his mess.

They question Telicanthus some more but find that his information is of little use and that he is simply making a desperate try for freedom.

They return to the mansion and have an awkward dinner with Nathyra and Mary while the two of them struggle to find things to talk about. Nathyra is quiet and timid after decades of serving the Winter Queen first as a soldier and then as a house slave. Mary is open, intimidating and outspoken and they both come from very different worlds.

At the end of the dinner Amyria returns frustrated that the Coalition is so hard to deal with. She has heard reports of githyanki moving about on a mountain pass north of the outpost of Thiradith — the northernmost outpost of the Coalition. She asks the Bear Claws to go check it out because it coincided with the location of a githyanki camp that Cachlain told the Bear Claws about.

She gives them two scrolls of sending and the portal sigils for Corwyn — a city three days to the south of Thiradith.

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57. At the Village Inn
Known for their pies.

Characters: Mary, Jalissa, Althaea, Thera, Izera, Kira, Glamor
Level: 17
Location: Village
NPCs: Quick/Qeelak, Kava, Bardan

Mary and her friends struggle through the still frozen mountain pass to reach the village where her parents lived. As they approach through the thick, black forest a dark green, very large dragonborn steps from behind a tree and enquires after their intentions. Behind him is an older female in roves.

The older one, Kira, recognizes Glamor as the last descendent of the rulers of Tu’narath, whom she has sworn to destroy. She is immediately antagonistic toward the group because of Jalissa’s prattle about Bahamut and the tiefling who does nothing but egg her on.

The large dragonborn, Bardan, offers to take them to the new leader of the Village, Qeelak. Kira does not approve but follows along, keeping her eye on Glamor along the way. They pass by Kava’s house — the leader of the Village. She speaks to them briefly and tells Bardan to take them to Qeelak. Kava is the official leader due to being the oldest living person in town.

In the town square Qeelak is leading a group of the local dragonborn in practicing sword forms. He is a stocky and short dragonborn dressed like a paladin of Bahamut. When Bardan interrupts Qeelak wants to know what they are doing there. He is especially welcoming to Glamor until they start asking questions back. He accuses them of being spies and tells Bardan and Kira to take them to Kava’s house until he can finish what he is doing.

At Kava’s house they learn that Qeelak showed up about a month before and told them he had a mission from Bahamut to train them to ambush a party of evil adventurers. They also learn that Nathyra, Mary’s mother, is no there. She has been gone looking for Mary since shortly after Mary’s egg was taken away.

They also learn that Kira and Mary are cousins. Kira still doesn’t believe them. She thinks they are here under some pretense.

The young dragonborn knocks on the door and says that Qeelak is ready for them. As they approach the town square he is rehearsing the descriptions of the members of the party that the dragonborn are being trained to fight with. It is pretty clear that these descriptions are of the Bear Claws.

Qeelak wants to test the Daughters of IO against those he has trained. Mary asks Kira to join in the fight. She agrees but on the other side. The dragonborn square off across form the Daughters of IO and the fight begins. Izera runs into the middle and Kira immediately tries to focus her attacks on Glamor. Althaea summons monsters from the Elemental Chaos and Jalissa shines the light of Bahamut on her friends to keep them alive. Thera and Mary take turns hitting the dragonborn.

The battle only lasts a few seconds. When it is over Mary and Jalissa set about healing those who were injured, on either side.

She asks Qeelak to join and he refuses, claiming he has taken a vow to never be touched. Jalissa knows that there is no such vow among followers of Bahamut and it becomes clear why he has taken the vow a few minutes later when Kava comes up behind him and puts her hand on his shoulder. His image shimmers briefly and he turns on her, angry.

Kira notices the shimmer and realizes that Qeelak has been playing some kind of game on them all along. She attacks him and he realizes the game is up. He pulls the helmet off his head and throws it to the ground, changing into a tiefling (Quick — James’s nemesis), carrying daggers at his waist. He grabs Kava and takes her hostage while he pulls a scroll from his pouch.

As he shakes it out demons crawl out of the ground and climb about the Village, setting the thatched houses aflame as others tear about the square, tossing dragonborn around.

Althaea grabs Quick in an icy arcane hand and Thera, after throwing Glamor at him leaps across the square and throws him down with a thigh lock around his head. Kira races over and grinds his face into the mud while he struggles to pull another scroll from his pouch. Jalissa and Mary move about helping the villagers to fend off the demons. Izera helps keep some of the villagers alive using her quick blades and her divine power.

Quick finally gets his scroll out and he disappears but leaves behind a village full of angry villagers that are ready to rebuild as well as do something more active in the world. Thera suggests they start a fighting school and teach themselves to fight.

Bardan likes the suggestion and sounds as if he is thinking about it when they leave.

Mary is upset that she didn’t find her mother but is also, maybe a little relieved. She now knows that her mother didn’t just abandon her, something happened to her — which may or may not be good news.

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56. Virizan -- Nationwide Coverage
Even in the feydark.

Characters: Thornside, James, Alton, Roland, Jak
Level: 16
Location: Cachlain’s Court
NPCs: Cachlain, Sovocles

In Cachlain’s throne room Roland scares Sovocles into backing away. Jak comes in and does the same which prompts Sovocles to order Cachlain to attack the Bear Claws.

Thornside sneaks into the doorway to help with the fight and the Bear Claws quickly knock Sovocles back and into the fireplace where they continue to pummel him.

Cachlain, wakened from the stupor that has been put upon him, throws Sovocles into the center of the floor and blinks his large evil eye. The glass floor disappears and those who are standing on it fall into the arena below.

Cachlain shouts at them to fight and kill Sovocles for his betrayal in allying with the Sangwyr against him.

Sovocles body breaks when it hits the crystal floor but rises up in the form of a naga — a giant snake with a human face. He hisses at them. “You have broken my human form but now you will deal with who I really am, Virizan, the Green Exarch of Tiamat.”

Thornside tries to pull Alton to safety while Jak and James deal with the exarch. A group of Eladrin are busy with a captured treant that is chained in place nearby. Alton frees the treant, which by breaking its chains. Roland casts a spell that switches Alton with Cachlain. Thornside, now holding a rope with a twenty-four foot giant on the other end if pulled down into the arena.

Cachlain exchanges some blows with the treant before he teleports back to his throne, knocking Alton back down into the arena.

Meanwhile Virizan has gained control of Jak and forced him to attack James while the treant grabs at nearby creatures with grasping roots and pummels them with his wooden fists.

Virizan has many forms that he shifts into as he moves about the battlefield. A naga form that can strike at a distance with thunder spells, a swarm of snakes that crawl across creatures and bite them with their tiny fangs, a venomous mist that can fly quickly about the battlefield poisoning all it touches and a humanoid form that can move people around with spectral snake coils.

As the Bear Claws fight he shifts between the forms depending on which is more useful. Finally Jak kills the treant, having spent most of the battle either tied down by its roots or mentally dominated. Thornside makes a leap into the pit that surrounds the arena and runs along the wall of the pit to rise up behind Virizan. His shot kills the exarch’s snake swarm form and another shot kills his naga form.

Gravely wounded he threatens the Bear Claws. “I am not the most powerful of my lady’s exarchs. Even if you kill me you can’t kill all of us.”

Roland ends his life once and for all, melting him into a puddle of acid-melted flesh.

After the battle Cachlain takes them all back up to his throne room while the crowd goes wild. The characters succeed in brokering an agreement with Inzira. Cachlain will accept her help with the upstarts Sangwyr and she may use the Seed of Winter until then. Also, in exchange for freeing him of Sovocles/Virizan, Cachlain agrees to stop allowing the githyanki to travel through his portals. He also gives them a map that he found on the body of one of Bram’s guards. The map shows the location of a hidden githyanki outpost in the mountains north of the Elsir Vale.

The Bear Claws return to the natural world and back to Sayre to report to Amyria.

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55. A Bullette in Your Bram Pan
Squish

Characters: Thornside, James, Alton, Roland, Xaladin, Jak
Level: 15/16
Location: Cachlain’s Court
NPCs: Cachlain, Sovocles, Bram Ironfell

The Bear Claws look at their cramped quarters and Alton settles down on a bed to eat some snacks and ask Roland about why he uses Wild Magic instead of something more stable. Roland thinks the instability is what makes it so powerful.

Jak heads out into the hallway to practice with his ugrosh while Thornside breaks into the room next door, Xaladin goes to check out the banquet hall and James goes in search of a restroom.

James finds directions to a restroom but sees an envoy going in to Cachlain’s throne room and follows them in. The envoy is there to talk to Cachlain about shared slaving resources and James quickly grows disinterested as Sovocles haggles with them.

Thornside finds a locked chest in the neighboring room with a Ironfell pendant and some fancy clothing inside. Thornside takes the clothing and pendant and locks the chest behind him.

As he comes back in the hallway James and Xaladin are just returning from their excursions and ground starts to quake and tremor. James identifies the sound and quaking as coming from something tunneling through the rock and crystal.

Jak takes a fighting stance and gets ready to fight whatever is coming when a bullette smashes through the wall into the entryway followed by a drider and several drow shouting out Sangwyr’s name.

The drider takes to the ceiling and the drow rush into the room behind her. Thornside runs away screaming about being attacked only to come face first with two purple nightmare creatures and a githyanki. The githyanki attacks Thornside and his screams turn to cries for help.

Roland unleashes his Wild Magic and only hits Alton. The drider, once dead rises up from the floor and begins attacking once more. The drow go down quickly but are followed by fiery bats that swoop about and light the Bear Claws on fire.

Thornside flees from the githyanki and his companions but one of them changes shape so that he looks exactly like Thornside.

Roland teleports Thornside so that he switches places with the drider which makes her angry enough that she attacks Roland. He stabbs the Thornside look-alike in the eye with a dagger full of lightning. Thornside and Jak rush in finishing off the drider, the purple monsters and the githyanki but not before the githyanki cut down Roland and nearly killed him.

While the Bear Claws rest and try to recover from their encounter Cachlain’s slaves come into the banquet hall bearing trays of food. They stop and stare shocked at the carnage.

Behind them, talking softly is a dwarf with two githyanki bodyguards. The dwarf looks up and sees the Bear Claws, turns pale and tries to flee. The Bear Claws recognize Bram Ironfell and Jak makes a grab for him. Thornside shoots him with an arrow and draws another one.

At that moment Cachlain, lumbers up the stairs behind Bram, while the githyanki body guards pull together to keep James from getting to him. Cachlain tells Bram to tell the Bear Claws the truth about Thornside’s parents.

Bram haltingly tells them that he didn’t kill the Autumnfalls. Xaladar — Xaladin’s twin brother — did. Bram claims Xaladar was instructed to scare them, not to kill them. Cachlain seems very lucid and angry that the githyanki have betrayed him to Sangwyr, not like he was the last time the Bear Claws spoke with him.

He picks up the two githyanki body guards and enters the room, leaving Bram unprotected. Thornside shoots him again but is inadvertently blocked by some of the stone armor on Cachlain’s skin as the giant steps over the dwarf. Sovocles appears on the steps and Cachlain suddenly becomes less lucid. Sovocles calls him back to the throne room and he turns solemnly and leaves, still dragging the githyanki bodyguards behind him.

James grabs Bram and asks him how he is still alive. He admits that he paid a body double and that is who the Bear Claws killed previously. He went into the Astral Sea where he made his way to the githyanki city of Tu’narath and got hired to be their ambassador to Cachlain.

Xaladin polymorphs him into a rat and Thornside cuts off his tail before Xaladin turns him back. He comes back screaming and two of his fingers lie on the floor. Thornside stabs his arm with a letter opener and they get him to talk.

He offers money if they won’t kill him but they just take his money anyway. He offers more if they let him go and they find where he’s hidden it and take that as well. Bram, desperate and in pain spills all everything he knows about the githyanki.

He tells them that recently the lich queen Vlaakith XXVII was assassinated and Zetch’r’r took over as Emperor of the githyanki. He made a deal with Tiamat and they have pursued her agenda of conquering the material plane instead of their usual pursuit of war with the mindflayers. The githyanki believe that each incarnation of Vlaakith is the reborn soul of the ancient warrior queen Gith. They hired Bram to negotiate with Cachlain for use of his portal network so that they could start their invasion before their own plans to build a portal network were complete.

James asks Bram what he is keeping in the chest in his room. Bram tells them it is clothes and Thornside tells him if he is telling the truth they will let him go. When Jak smashes the chest open it is empty and the Bear Claws conclude they cannot trust Bram and they knock him unconscious and take him with them back to the banquet hall.

They come up with a plan to get Sovocles away from the king by having Roland go talk to him while the rest of them lay in wait to knock him out. When Roland enters the throne room the doors slam shut and Sovocles immediately accuses him of orchestrating the attack to kill the king. He accuses the Bear Claws of lying and tells Roland if they submit to being imprisoned their lives will be spared. Roland gets angry and scary and Sovocles stumbles back, almost revealing something about himself as he tries to regain control.

Sovocles sends the guards to bring the rest of the Bear Claws to the throne room.

Meanwhile Alton has been eating the food the servants brought and promptly falls asleep, the food obviously drugged. When the guards appear Jak picks up Alton in one arm, Bram in the other and follows them. Thornside and James are left in the banquet hall wondering what to do and Xaladin has hidden unnoticed in the rafters as a small flying animal.

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54. In the Hall of the Stone-Skinned King...
by Grieg

Characters: Thornside, James, Alton, Roland, Xaladin
Level: 15
Location: Rhest, Skyshaper’s Demesne, Cachlain’s Court
NPCs: Cachlain, Sovocles, Druemmeth, Inzira, Nathyra

Thornside motions to his friends that he has a plan and sneaks into the room where the cyclops slavers are and begins tying a piece of his silken threads to the pant leg of the nearest cyclops. Roland peaks under the edge of the ceiling to see what is going on and one of the cyclops hears him and turns to look at him. The rest of the Bear Claws move into the room and the cyclops toss sleeping powder into their midst to try and knock them out.

They also toss nets onto the Bear Claws to keep them restrained while they move into pummel them senseless.

The Bear Claws find themselves in some tight situations as the giant fey creatures attack them, trying to capture them as slaves for Cachlain’s court.

They eventually kill all but one of the cyclops and subdue him into leading them to the feywild gate in the ruins. The gate leads them into a stone circle in the feywild where they encounter two firbolg who are looking for the Seed of Winter. They were sent by Inzira, who had scried out it’s location and told them it would return to the feywild in this place. They take the Bear Claws to a nearby encampment of Eladrin and introduce them to the leader who is named Druemmeth Goldtemple.

Druemmeth asks them about the Seed and Xaladin admits that he has it. Druemmeth is impressed with their honesty and opens a communication channel to Inzira, Daughter of the Frostwhite Forest and cousin of the Winter Queen. Inzira tells them the fomorian upstart, Sangwyr, has been causing problems for her and for Cachlain and she wants the Bear Claws to take the Seed of Winter with them to help in bargaining with the Stone-Skinned King — but they must return it to her when they are done. She wants them to bargain for an alliance with Cachlain to help put down this Sangwyr.

Xaladin agrees as long as he can find out about his friend who was captured by Cachlain. While they are deliberating an dragonborn approaches them, she is Nathyra — Mary’s mother — but she has aged nearly forty years since they last saw her, eighteen years in the past. She has been in the feywild looking Washburn who took her egg. She has not been able to find him and had nearly given up hope until she recognized the Bear Claws. They told her that Mary was only 18 and that she was no longer in the feywild.

Druemmeth leads them to an entrance to the feydark and the cyclops guards there guide the Bear Claws under ground to Cachlain’s court which is a miles long palace carved from a single solid piece of purple crystal.

Inside the throne room sits Cachlain, purple, skinned, hunch-backed, one large dominant red eye and a smaller beadier black one. He sits on a huge crystal throne staring down at a gladiatorial arena that can be seen through the transparent crystal floor. Next to him sits a human who introduces himself as Sovacles.

Sovacles despises the Bear Claws and it just short of being rude to them. They succeed in catching Cachlain’s attention briefly but there is some kind of magical hold on his mind that keeps him distracted.

Sovacles tells them that they will be given guest quarters and allowed to stay for a few days while the King ponders the things they have said to him.

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Adventure Supplement 2: Journal of Hautamaryat Firebreath

Characters: Mary, Jalissa, Althaea, Thera, Izera
Level: 14
Location: The City of Brass
NPCs: Glamor, Darujhistan

Watching the elves and eladrin flail around and run for water was amusing but only a passing fancy. I grow restless. Bede’s daughter agreed to teach me some of her songs. She says I have a natural voice for music but my ear needs a little work.

I don’t even have ears.

I think she’s a little scared of me.

Izera is a githzerai woman with quick eyes and a deep and angry wisdom. She claims she has the means to cross the planes and get us to the City of Brass and home again. The Codex Avaritia is supposed to be there.

The weather turned cold before we left Sayre, the crisp air threatening frost before too long, and snow perhaps. I do not like snow, it works under the scales and freezes there, aching and cold until you step inside and it all melts with a dripping rush that leaves you wet and shivering. I do not know why dwarves seem to thrive in it so well. Perhaps it is the beards.

Izera says the City of Brass will not have any snow. I relish the thought.

The portal was a mass of swirling red and purple chaos and a wave of great heat, like a campfire built too high. I went through first. It felt like jumping into a furnace. When I arrived I was surprised to find my scales un-singed and my armor cool to the touch.

Thera came next. She has a furious kind of bravery that I can’t help but respect. She came through with a snarl and a shake of her head, her tusks gleaming. Izera, Althaea and Jalissa followed quickly. The city is a hideous mesh of opulent decadence and foulest poverty hidden under a veneer of flame and artistry.

And slaves.

The denizens of this city are ten-foot tall fiery lords of fantastic wealth. They show their wealth by enslaving those they see as lesser races.

Which is everybody.

The portal took us to an abandoned hovel in the poorest part of town — Izera calls it a safe house.

It took me only a few minutes of observing the movements of the people in the city to become angry. Freedom is sacred and slavery is exactly opposite the strongest tenet of my belief. The slaves of this city outnumber the denizens by ten to one. Why do they not rise up and fight back? Why are they content to live a life of captivity, however safe it may seem?

What happened next felt inevitable to me. Like the anger of dragons provoked or the coming of snow in the winter. Althaea tells me I could have walked away, kept the mission in mind. I contend that I could not.

I will tolerate injustice when I have to but I will not tolerate the selling and owning of beings who the gods have given free will.

I urged the slaves on the street to rise up, to free themselves. I spoke to them with all the fire that is in my bones. They gathered, they listened and then they tore me down. The slaves swarmed around me, pulled me to the ground and beat me. Thera and Jalissa tried to fight their way through the crowd but they were too thick around me.

When I regained consciousness I was bruised, battered and left naked lying on cold stone. Jalissa was there and she helped me rise. Thera also shared my prison. Althaea and Izera seemingly escaped when the Efreet authorities arrived.

The cell was small enough that only one of us could lie down at a time and the water was served to us in a rusty bucket that smelled like it had previously been somebodies chamber pot. The food was worse.

I have more sympathy now for those who are burned by the stews that I produce. Perhaps I will temper them in the future. Being served inedible food is nearly as bad as being locked up.

Izera says we were only in there a week but it seemed much longer.

Many times the efreet guards would come and drag me away. What they did to me is better left unsaid but they wanted to know which faction sent me and who paid me to start a slave revolt. They didn’t seem to believe that I acted on my own.

Once, when they returned me to my cell I heard a voice from the cell next to ours. It was female and soft.

“Just give them what they want. They don’t care if it’s the truth.”

The voice belonged to a woman imprisoned for trying to steal an artifact that she referred to as a piece of the Rod of Seven Parts. She called herself Glamor and talked to us in the times between our meals and my frequent visits from the guards.

Glamor claimed to know where the guards stashed our weapons and armor. To the efreets, even such wealth as our magical items were regarded as paltry and plain. In exchange for getting us out she wanted us to help her break into the solarium of Bashumgarda, lord of the efreets to help her steal her artifact.

After several more days of being woken and beaten and starved I was willing to try anything she might suggest.

Glamor charmed the guard when he came to get me and we quickly ushered him into the cell and fled. In the light she is a pale tiefling, with flaming red hair and dark red horns that curl away from her forehead.

True to her word she lead us straight to the closet where all of our gear was stashed in a tangled pile.

Leaving the prison building was more problematic. Efreet’s are giants made of fire and are powerful. Thera tells me that when they came to arrest us it took only two to hurl the slaves aside and bind the three of us. She said the last part with a low snarl that convinces me that she tried her hardest to stay free.

Glamor rolled her eyes at us and muttered the words of a spell. Before our eyes she grew taller and morphed into an efreet woman with flames pouring down her back like a glowing cascade of hair.

I have seen other illusions before. Jalissa and I were impersonated by doppelgangers in Overlook that were able to create an approximation of our faces and bodies by studying us. This illusion was not nearly so complete. Glamor would only pass for an efreet from a distance.

She wanted us to be pretend to be her slaves.

I will never be a slave. Not even in deception.

Thera told me to get over my pride and move along. Jalissa pointed out that by feigning captivity I could actually facilitate my own freedom. Jalissa is often more wise than her appearance indicates at first glance.

Still, I make a poor slave for even when beaten and starved I do not have the deadened look that is in their eyes.

Reluctantly I allowed Glamor to lead us from the prison — newly purchased from among the prisoners as she said was common in the City of Brass for the less wealthy in need of slaves.

Once away from the prison, a black, obsidian structure with peaked dome topped towers and a mote of fire leaping about the walls, she returned to her normal appearance.

Crossing the city to the Solarium of Bashumgarda was an exercise in frustration. I have never been good at subterfuge and sneaking but being seen outside alone without any slave markings would immediately point us out as suspicious.

Worse, we had to move quickly else our absence be found out and the search for us begun.

My instincts were to step out in the street and face the onslaught and beat it back. To bring the light of Avandra to this fiery hell of a city. I long to face the efreet masters there and drive them back. My desire to fight back made my scales itch and burn with impatience.

But the efreets, even the lowliest, have skin as hard as brass and arms as strong as dragons and they are fast and deadly beyond even my reckoning.

I was forced to sneak, like a common thief. My only consolation is that Jalissa was at least as bad at it as I was.

The City of Brass is the largest city I have ever seen, larger then a person on horseback could cross in a single day if she started at sunrise and rode till the sun had sunk below the western horizon… if there was a sun in that infernal pit. The sky was a constant coppery shade of orange that glowed as if the city had sunk into the sun itself.

At times the heat made me wonder if it had.

It took us most of a day to follow Glamor to our destination. After a time the buildings drew closer together and we took to the rooftops, leaping across the gaps between the buildings and skittering over the steep peaked tiles that sheltered the inhabitants — from what I cannot say, I do not think that it ever rains there.

The Solarium was guarded on all sides by a circling patrol of demons. Demons that thrive on darkness and hate the light. Demons I know how to handle. Demons I can kill, or at least vanquish.

Jalissa and I summoned the radiant energies of our gods to blind them long enough for Glamor and Thera to sneak past. The demons put up a horrendous keening sound that grated the ears and seemed to rattle our brains inside our heads.

We followed Glamor inside, to get away from the sound and regain our sanity. Jalissa had a small trail of blood coming from one ear. When I remarked on it she told me that I didn’t look so good either.

The comment seemed fair. I had not had enough of food or drink or sleep in over a week.

The Solarium of Bashumgarda, like the rest of the City of Brass is a posh exercise in arrogant wealth. Displays made of solid gold are arrayed about the room in a long maze of artifacts from across the planes. The labels are scribed in platinum and mounted on aluminum plaques.

Glamor led the way to a display showing what appeared to be a piece of a staff. She looked at us, shrugged and smashed the glass case open before grabbing the piece. Jalissa pointed to a case nearby. Inside lay a small book, bound in leather, worn and yellowed with age. The title was written in common on the front, faded but still legible. “The Codex Avaritia.”

At that moment the room filled with efreets bearing long curved swords that were nearly the length of a grown human. They moved in from all sides and their leader hit Glamor so hard that she was thrown many feet in the air, the rod flying from her grasp.

The fight didn’t take long. The efreets are too powerful, too quick, for us to fight. They beat us and bound us and drug us away. They took us to the nearby house and into a large, marble hall where a tall blue-skinned creature took custody of us. He introduced himself as Darujhistan, the djinn head slave of Bashumgarda. He informed us that we were to be delivered directly to his master but before he opened the door to show us in to the chamber he stopped us.

“I will remember you,” he said, “nobody has fought back against the efreets in ten thousand years. I will remember your words. In return you should remember mine. One shard of Erek-Hus is left, forged into a hammer that can blend two souls. You will need it before your journey ends, avatar.”

With that he opened the door and showed us into another posh and polished room where an efreet lord greeted us. He said he had been looking for us since we escaped his prison.

He gestured with his arm and I saw Althaea and Izera standing a few feet away. The efreet lord told us that we were free to go as long as none of us ever set foot in his city again. He nodded to Althaea and apologized for taking her slaves and warned her that we should be marked in the future. With that we were released and Izera scribed her sigils in the air and we found ourselves back in the Material Plane.

Glamor cursed soundly the loss of the rod that she had tried to steal and tried to intimidate Izera into sending her back to try to get it again. She seems more concerned with getting that rod than with her own life. She can be surprisingly terrifying when she is angry, though and will make a valuable companion.

Jalissa, watching the argument winked at me and pulled the small book from inside her pouch. She had grabbed it while we fought the efreet warriors. The mission, then, was not a total loss but still felt like defeat.

My mind looked back to the words of Darujhistan, trying to salvage some feeling of good will from it all. He at least seemed to be touched by my words. Was it enough to make a change in his world, in the City? My heart aches even now that so many people are slaves, owned by another person and commanded and forced to obey out of fear, or pain or simply because they never knew any better.

Althaea made a pact with the Queen of Winter while the rest of us were incarcerated. The Queen offered Bashumgarda support in his machinations to seize control of the City of Brass. In exchange Althaea owes the Queen a favor — making a deal with one of the archfey is foolhardy at best and I fear that we will all live to regret her decision.

Althaea says that at least we will live. She has a point there. I would not have lived in the City of Brass for long. They would have tried to enslave me and I would have died.

Outside it is snowing. I have never been happy to see snow until this day.

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53. To Uarion
We Will Never Forget Him... Again

Characters: Thornside, James, Alton, Roland
Level: 15
Location: Icehome
NPCs: Amyria, Fariex, Emil, Pattie, Caliandra, Quelenna, Inogo, Rufus, Mary, Althaea, Ponocrates

The Bear Claws prod the body of Chillreaver and the iceberg begins to shake and collapse. They quickly move into the secret treasure horde off of the side of Chillreaver’s chamber where they gather up as much of the treasure as they can before the iceberg collapses. The beholder, Eye of Frost, attacks them with a group of icy gargoyles in an attempt to claim the treasure.

They blast him back just as the iceberg drops them all into the cold water. They swim to their Apparatuses of Kwalish and make their way back to Nefelus. On the way they count up the treasure they were able to acquire. There were a couple of magical items, enough platinum and gold for each person to get over 12,000 gold pieces and the scrap of a note from Emperor Zetch’r’r that mentions that the Ironfell dwarf will work as an ambassador to the Stone-skinned King.

In Nefelus the Bear Claws meet with Amyria and Bejam. They convince Bejam to return to Sayre with them to be part of the Coalition leadership. Amyria tells them she just got a Sending from Fariex. “Return quickly. Disaster has struck. We are in bad need of strong leadership.”

The Bear Claws bring their two remaining Appartuses of Kwalish through the linked portal with them and leave them tied up at the river dock near the University. When they enter the meeting room of the Coalition Emil is standing on a chair confronting Quelenna who is in the middle of a tirade about being the most experienced leader in the room, (which Fariex quietly takes exception to.) Eofram Troyas is there from Brindol urging the need for an all out attack against the githyanki, he wants to lead the Coalition and strike against them.

Quelenna wants to build up the defenses of the cities in their lands and control the trade so that the githyanki can’t get supplies.

Amyria thinks that it is finally time that she tries to take control as she thinks that the Coalition will bicker and fight over their own interests until they lose all effectiveness. Emil tells them what happened to Kalad and that the city of Sherbyrr was lost. At this time a package is delivered, the head of Divian Torrence with a note: “We do not parley with insects. We will take what we want and burn this world, for it is ours.”

The Bear Claws back her and set out on a campaign to win representatives to her side. They succeed in exposing Quelenna of bribery and pointing out a more moderate path to the rest of the Coalition.

During this time Mary and her friends return from the City of Brass. She looks worn, thin and bedraggled, her scales missing their normal healthy luster. She has a new companion, a tiefling woman named Glamor who seems confident and mysterious.

Rufus Cromley also visits the mansion and asks for a place to stay, wanting to know if he can make a lich lair in their basement. His father was Lord Torrence and his mother doesn’t like all his dead things in the house. They gladly give him a place to stay and for payment he will create an army of undead to guard the place.

As Amyria’s first act as leader of the Coalition she appoints Emil as her second-in-command to succeed her and speak for her when she is not around.

Emil seems more confident than usual and also more solemn and angry but also more powerful. He is still excitable but it has an air of melancholy to his actions and excitement.

Amyria’s next action is to ask the Bear Claws to once again go on a mission for the Coalition. Cachlain, the Stone-Skinned King, made a deal with Chillreaver in which he gave Chillreaver the Seed of Winter. Part of that deal was that he would allow githyanki troops to use his rather extensive portal network to move between the planes. Amyria wants Cachlain to be turned to the side of the Coalition and she believes that offering him the Seed of Winter will be a bargaining chip in that negotiation. She also believes that the Bear Claws are the only people who stand any chance of returning alive — with Mary’s friends not being an option because of her inability to remain non-violent around slave owners.

Althaea comes by to answer any questions they have about the feywild and warns them that it is a strange and unusual place and to accept no gifts from the archfey as they can be tricky and wild. “In this place North is North and West is West and the sun also rises. There North is some times south and sometimes it is east and sometimes it is light when there is no sun and sometimes you must go around a place in order to approach it.”

James goes to Overlook to visit with his friend Brak and to commiserate over the death of their friend Kalad. James seems to be particularly hurt by the news of Kalad’s death and frustrated by his inability to do anything about it. While there he copies three random pages from the Incanabulum Primeval to give to Cachlain as a further bargaining chip. Brak seems willing to let him use the copies as he doesn’t think they will be particularly useful.

The Bear Claws meet Roland’s old mentor, Ponocrates who has is excited to see Roland. They visit briefly and then he gives them the sigils for the portal to the ruined city of Rhest in the northern part of the Elsir Vale. They arrive to find a city tumbled and fallen, covered in lichen and moss and swamped by encroaching swampland and water with grass and weeds grown virulent. Even a tree that was grown up through the roof of one of the buildings. They find tracks and follow them to a staircase leading underground.

Thornside sneaks down the stairs and sees several cyclops guarding some prisoners locked behind a portcullis.

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52. Trebuchet's Were Totally Designed With Passengers in Mind

Characters: Del, Galadorn, Thoran, Foe
Level: 10
Location: Sherbyrr
NPCs: Kalad, Emil, Pattie, Inogo Dravitch, Zoander, Sorry Apsilar

In an early snowstorm Kalad, Emil and Pattie show up at the Monastery of the Sundered Chain to take a small group of dwarves to Sherbyrr to help break the siege of githyanki.

Upon their arrival Inogo Dravitch introduces them to Zoander, the commander of the city guard, and Sorry Apsilar, the captain of a force of mercenaries sent by Fariex the Scalehammer.

Zoander wants to take the conservative approach and shore up the defenses of the city. Sorry wants to abandon it as lost, fill it with alchemist’s fire and light it once the githyanki move in. The dwarves convince her that they need to defend the city against the githyanki and try to point out methods which might help keep the city safe. Some of which include failed demonstrations of launching themselves from catapults.

Zoander and Sorry wonder why they are there.

The next day the siege starts in a rain storm as githyanki form up in ranks, pushing great rolling siege towers. Dragon knights lift off the ground and airships float into position for a broadside on the city.

Galadorn immediately straps into a trebuchet and launches himself at a dragon, hoping to punch it into an airship. He miscalculates and flies right past the dragon, fist cocked and ready to fly. Thoran, somewhat bookish and clumsy attempts to determine the attacking strategy from the map and gathers the forces to a place farther along the wall. Just in time for a large black minotaur to leap from a siege tower onto the wall and start laying about him with a giant axe and a large cleaver. Githyanki pour over behind him.

Del runs up to the minotaur and tries to throw him off the wall but finds him immovable. Foe chases after Galadorn, hoping to catch him but he sees Galadorn land on an airship and start punching and head-butting his way across the deck.

The siege takes a turn for the worse when the minotaur shouts that he has killed the leader and holds up the body of Kalad, high above his head. Emil, standing on a nearby trebuchet shouts, his spear raised high above his head and runs at the minotaur, stepping on the heads of the githyanki between them.

His spear flashes white and then a siege tower crashes through the wall between the dwarves and Emil and they can no longer see him.

Githyanki corsairs poor from the siege tower onto the wall top and archers can be seen behind the arrow slits of the tower. Thoran starts the encounter off by nearly wiping away all the githyanki on the wall before the tower spits a fireball from the metal dragon-headed top and the archers let loose through the slits. A dragon with a dragon knight shows up and things get pretty edgy after that.

Thoran summons an angel of blades inside the tower to keep the archers busy, Del rallies his allies around the tower to fight it better. Foe and Galadorn (who forced the airship he was on to crash near the wall) fight off the dragon and knock the dragon knight off his mount.

As the tower moves farther into the city the minotaur can be seen talking to Emil, telling him that Kalad can be saved if he is willing to make a deal. Emil agrees and fire bursts out of his mouth burning friend and foe alike.

The dwarves kill the dragon and climb down behind the tower to attack the dragon knight, not realizing that the tower is still mobile. It backs up over them, crushing them and rendering all but Thoran unconscious, and him nearly so.

The minotaur drops Emil on the wall top and sounds a horn that calls the githyanki to press the attack. The tower moves away and the githyanki pour into the city, leaving the dwarves behind for dead. Emil checks on Pattie, lying nearby. Climbs down to the dwarves and uses his Healing Hands to revive the three unconscious ones before climbing back up to check on Kalad.

Kalad moves, opens his eyes and says, “Emil, what have you done.” Then his pupils turn white and his skin gray and his wounds gape open as his mouth peels back in a death rictus grin. His fingers now curved like claws he swipes at Emil, alive only in undeath.

Emil screams at the minotaur and tries to chase after them but Pattie tackles him. The dwarves, nearly unconscious form loss of blood themselves attack the newly arisen Kalad and beat him back off the wall where they destroy his undead body.

At that moment Sorry Aspilar, leading a contingent of her mercenaries, comes by, fleeing the city. Sherbyrr is lost, the githyanki are pillaging and burning as they move farther to the center and the linked portal is working overtime to get the people trapped int he city out. Everybody else is fleeing while Caliandra’s elves cover the escape. Pattie forces Emil to his feet and drags him away from the city, tears streaming from his face.

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51. In Which the Bear Claws Fight an Epic Battle and Chillreaver is Killed

Characters: Jak, James, Alton, Roland, Xaladin
Level: 14/15
Location: Icehome
NPCs: Uarion

The Bear Claws fight their way to Uarion, Roland taking down both of the fire elementals with his dagger and his skill with elemental power. Jak knocks Uarion out and ties him up to take with them on the rest of their journey.

They hear some noises beneath a crevasse and Roland shoots a blast of energy into the crevasse to see what is in there. His blast wakes up the umber hulks inside and they crawl out to attack. One grabs Roland and falls back into the crebasse. Jak jumps on him and the umber hulks retreat into a corner. Jak and Roland climb out and the Bear Claws leave the crevasse behind.

Moving further along they encounter a group of ice giants and attempt to sneak up on them. James is spotted and the wolves and giants attack. As soon as it is clear that the Bear Claws are much more powerful the leader of the giants, Nara of the Wastes, offers to trade information and to abandon the iceberg if they will stop killing her sons — the other giants.

She tells the Bear Claws that Chillreaver is the White Exarch of Tiamat. She tells them that he has mirrors that amplify the power of the Seed of Winter. She tells them that there is a false wall in the upper chamber that hides Chillreaver’s lair. She tells them that the jarl of her tribe made a deal with Chillreaver to get the island of Nefelus as a new home once it was completely frozen.

After this she leads her living sons away and uses a linked portal ritual scroll to go home and leave the iceberg, which she says Chillreaver calls Icehome.

The Bear Claws use the ritual that Bejam gave them to rest inside the bole of a large feywild tree. They return and only an hour has passed but they are refreshed and ready to fight Chillreaver.

They venture up the slick ramp to his lair where they find a polished, finely crafted room full of ice gargoyles. They quickly spot the false wall and enter his lair.

Chillreaver sits at the end of a large chamber on a raised dais covered with runes carved into the ice. In the center of the chamber, glittering silver and white is a the Seed of Winter with ten silvery mirrors reflecting bright which light onto it.

Jak, James and Xaladin head for Chillreaver to distract him while Alton and Roland start breaking the mirrors. Chillreaver immediately starts to freeze people. He uses the seed to dominate Xaladin, then Alton, then Jak. His frosty breath proves hard to resist as well and the Bear Claws take turns being immobilized by the cold.

Finally Jak teleports above him and lands on his back to beat on him. Alton steps through the dimensions to arrive at the Seed of Winter, only to find the mirrors are anchoring it in place. He and Roland blast more of the mirrors while Jak is tossed away from the dragon, who scrabbles at the pillar where the Seed is, trying to get Alton away form it.

Jak, dominated and under the control of Chillreaver is dropped to the floor of the chamber and Xaladin fey steps to the pedestal next to Alton where he grabs the Seed of Winter and it speaks to him. “Intimidate and control your friends,” it say, “it is good to be back in the hands of the fey.”

James, unable to attack from a distance throws a rope over Chillreaver’s claw and swings across the attack. He slams into Chillreaver’s side who then swings him, still on the rope until he wraps around the dragon where the dragon bites him and claws at him with his other foot.

James is finally knocked unconscious and dropped to the floor of the chamber and the dragon rushes at Alton. Roland stands up and hits him with a spell that slams him to the floor next to the newly recovered Jak who unleashes his revenge on the dragon.

Alton finishes him off with a silver spike through his chest.

Jak rushes over to James and dumps a healing potion down his throat.

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