Eternal Ambitions

At a loss for direction....

22 Eleint 1384 D.R.
Year of Three Streams Blooded

The party warily continued on to Ambroth, but were not prepared what they would find there. A wooden palisade encircled the entire city, where none stood before, and uniformed guards (a far cry from the ragtag group they’d encountered previously) met them at the gate. Through further discussion, and some cross-referencing, it was determined that ten years had passed since they’d been to the town, even though it had been just two days prior…

In a nutshell:
The town is now under the leadership of Lady Iselda, who, with her late husband, moved to the area several years ago and brought with them a good deal of commercial contacts (and an even greater deal of gold). Lady Iselda now seeks to clear the name of Lord Drestyn, her great-uncle, and has employed the party to those ends.

The party believes they have a right to the ownership of Drestyn Manor by the fact they possess a deed. However, the Lady Iselda also has a deed, acquired in recent years by way of legal channels in the absence of the rightful deed-holders.

The Pixie and Dixie Tavern is now being managed by Orik, the son of Burgo. Burgo suffered a perplexing episode that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak (a stroke), but he remembers the party members.

The town has grown considerably, and trade has expanded.

At the end of the session, the party had departed Ambroth, equipped with new horses from the stable of Lady Iselda De Vis, and on their way to pay a visit to Liam Roummos, the author of a cryptic message left in Drestyn Manor and found by the party. Aldruin, a wizard at the mage guildhouse, recognized the handwriting and informed the party that Liam was once an instructor at the Citadel where he once studied, and that Liam had relocated to this area several years ago.

Aldruin also told the party about a snake cult that the Host Tower of the Arcane had dealt with in the area a few years back, and gave vague directions as to its location.

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Out of their league...

Year Unknown

Half an hour from the manor, and still facing another hour of travel, at the least, the party came to a sudden halt as the heavy drumming of massive wings came to their ears. Slipping to the ground, and sidling up to the largest tree stumps they could find in the gloom, the party watched in horror as a gargantuan form descended out of the sky, angling directly for them.

Landing nearly forty yards away, the dragon (for that is all that came to mind upon viewing such a massive, scaled and terrible beast!) set up a dust cloud that pelted the companions with debris as it beat it’s wings to slow itself. The earth shook under its weight, and it advanced upon the party, an eerie blue glow emanating from behind its yard-long teeth.

Anders, his back to a stump, grasped the dragon coin he had found on his previous visit to this realm, and extended it toward the dragon, hoping it might somehow ward off the beast.

THAT is MINE!” the beast bellowed, and, roaring fiercely, extended a great clawed hand toward Anders, completely engulfing him underneath it. The golden coin dissolved to dust

“You are meddling with powers you are ill-equipped to face, mortals!” the beast growled, retracting his hand, and, in the process, revealing Anders, quaking like a leaf. “Begone, and do not return! The next I lay eyes upon your wretched forms shall be the last!”

With this proclamation, the great beast took a mighty breath and reared back, crackling energy building in his throat. The party scattered, frantic to avoid whatever horrible fate awaited them underneath this behemoth, and they did so none-too-soon.

Opening his immense maw, the dragon belched forth a stream of glowing blue energy that flowed forth like molten lava, and splashed across the ground. As it hit the parched earth, it shot out in a spiderweb of striations, like lightning streaking across the sky, and caused tree stumps for fifty feet in every direction to explode, showering the fleeing party with splinters.

The dragon beat his mighty wings once, and lifted powerfully into the air, roaring its last warning as it flew away.

Moments later, and to their great relief, this time, a piercing shriek drove them to their knees, and they instantly found themselves in the midst of a bustling forest once again, the sounds of wildlife all around them, and the parched ground replaced by flourishing undergrowth.

The cobblestones, however, remained…

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Slavers?

Year Unknown

The party, having found themselves once again under the burning sun of another time, stood bewildered. The parched and cracked ground radiated the heat back at them, and the air seemed too dry to breathe. As they scanned the area, a dwarven form appeared from behind the now-ruined Manor. Hands flew to weapons at once, but the dwarf held his empty hands before him, careful not to show any signs of aggression.

“Hail, good sirs, my name is Tonan Anvilwork,” the dwarf offered, “and who might ye be?”

Through tense introductions, the party sweated and baked, their weapons at the ready, but the dwarf seemed to be in the same predicament as they found themselves, so the party reluctantly accepted him into their ranks.

Exploring the ruins, the party discovered that every shred of wood had long ago rotted away, revealing gaping holes in the floor, and exposing the shadowed depths of the basement and cellars. Rummy lowered Mesmer into the gloom, and she found the old well, still wet, albeit far less full than they had previously found it. Mesmer proceeded to fill everyone’s wineskins until Anders got their attention, pointing to the road. Away in the distance, the group spotted a massive beetle pulling a rolling cage, with robed humanoid drivers walking alongside.

Scrambling out of the depths, Mesmer joined the party as they ducked behind the cover of the marble walls of the manor, watching warily as the caravan slowed and turned onto the paved approach to the manor grounds. Slowly, the beetle pulled it’s burden, the massive wooden wheels creaking under their load.

The original party members felt uneasy about revealing themselves, but the newcomer, Tonan, produced a set of dice he claimed were from his Goddess, Tymora, and proclaimed he would allow Her divine guidance to show him his path.

Rolling the dice, he was startled to witness the pips fade from view as they settled to rest showing eight, indicating, by his own prior determination (“One to six we reveal ourselves, seven to twelve we remain hidden”) they should remain hidden. Pocketing the dice, however, he felt a sudden burst of energy through his body, and felt a sense of luck unlike any he’d felt in months. [Tymora’s dice granted him a +2 bonus on all saving throws for an undetermined amount of time] With this new-found sense of luck emboldening him, Tonan was convinced he must have assigned the wrong decisions to his roll, and determined that his course was, in fact, to introduce himself to the approaching group. Rolling their eyes, and not quite trusting this odd dwarf, Badrick and Rummy accompanied him, their weapons at the ready, while Anders and Mesmer remained behind cover.

As the trio revealed themselves, the whip-cracking drivers signaled the beetle to stop, and three of the robed figures continued their slow, silent approach, their cowls hiding their features from view.

“That’s far enough!” Rummy declared, leveling an arrow at them as the hooded figures came within bowshot, but they continued, undeterred.

As the distance dwindled, Rummy reiterated his warning, but it went unheeded until he was forced to loose his arrow. As he released the bowstring, one of the figures raised his arms above his head and a dome of pale blue energy crackled to life overtop of he and his partners. The arrow sped from the bow, but sweat had soaked the fletchings, and the arrow veered off course, striking the glowing dome and deflecting harmlessly across the scrubland.

The central figure produced a pair of manacles, and tossed them at the companions’ feet, barking something in a guttural language, and pointing from the manacles to the companions and back again.

“Go fuck yourself!” Rummy yelled, and he, Badrick and the dwarf turned tail, darting into the cover of the ruins.

“Down!” Badrick urged, and nobody argued. The party quickly descended into the darkness, and took up hiding places in the deepest of the shadows.

The strange figures gathered around the opening above, but refused to venture into the basement. After more than an hour of waiting, they departed, and the party climbed cautiously out of their hiding places.

With the sun high in the sky, and the temperature climbing, the party decided to wait for nightfall to attempt to make their way to Ambroth, and reluctantly returned to the relative comfort of the slightly-cooler-than-a-blast-furnace basement.

As the sun made it’s way across the sky, and the temperature soared, then began to fall, the party got to know the dwarf a bit better, and compared their stories. When the sun had dipped below the horizon, the party climbed out of the hole once again, and headed toward the road.

Traveling was made easier by the fact that the dirt path they knew from Ambroth to the Manor was now a cobble-stoned road, and they trudged wearily toward their goal. Conversation was light, however, as each of them pondered the strange circumstances they found themselves embroiled in.

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Gathering their courage

20 Flamerule 1374 D.R.
Year of the Lightning Storms

The party spent a day in Ambroth, allowing the local temple time to brew healing potions for their next assault on the manor. Tulia, chaperoned by Mesmer and accompanied by Badrick, sought a blessing from the priest to remove the ill-effects of the curse set upon her by the relic in the Manor. However, while the blessing was successful, the priest’s diety (Tyr) did not take kindly to an evil individual seeking his aid for their own selfish gain, so he set his own curse upon her.

The next morning, the party awoke to find Tulia missing, and their belongings ransacked. A coin purse taken from Badrick, a magical ring taken from Rummy, and a holy symbol stolen from Anders would ensure the party would follow her back to the manor. She left a note revealing her actions, but the party was incensed.

The party, in due course, made their way back to the manor and followed a breadcrumb trail of coins and notes inside. In the basement, they discovered a large band of dog-faced humanoids reveling and imbibing copious amounts of liquor from the cellars. As the mass of snarling dog-men converged upon them, Harzinon yelled “DOWN!” and the party took cover. A moment later, he hurled a fireball into the center of the room, and incinerated the entire mob.

Ultimately, the party discovered Tulia’s corpse in a secret room, a dagger protruding from her throat. Rummy, being the first to discover her, quietly launched her corpse down the descending ramp back into the main chamber, where the party momentarily thought she was attacking them. Rummy had a good laugh, and set to looting the room. Amidst the paltry loot, a scroll case, a golden rod, and a gem were found. Within the scroll case, the party discovered the deed to the land and the manor, as well as a note inviting them to seek out its author, if they were worthy. The rod is about a foot long, and incredibly slender, with a dragon head at one end. The gem should be able to be sold for a tidy profit.

At the conclusion of the looting, the party headed back upstairs to deal with the rest of the manor. At one point, Mesmer played her armonica to soothe a group of fire beetles, while the party slaughtered them in their tracks, proving brawn isn’t always the most potent weapon in a fight.

The final room to be cleared was the master bedroom, and they made a two-pronged assault, entering through both the door and the secret passage. The skeletons within fell in short order, and the party was faced once again with the burning candle. Ideas were voiced regarding how to best address the issue, but a consensus could not be reached.

Harzinon, realizing time was wasting, and noticing another bead of wax making its trek toward the skull, grabbed an axe out of Badrick’s hand and launched himself across the room, bringing the axe down upon the skull in a massive overhead swing. The skull shattered, and the immense magical energy stored within came surging outward, slamming into Harzinon and flinging his lifeless body across the room to impact the wall with a wet crunch. Everyone in the room was knocked from their feet, and as they shook their heads to clear the cobwebs, they witnessed Harzinon’s pulverized, boneless body sliding slowly down the wall to rest in a puddle of skin and tissue.

The party came to realize Harzinon had not been the manipulator they had thought, and removed his remains from the room, to be disposed of properly. They also recovered his spell book, and a deck of cards from his robes. Passing the cards around and inspecting them, Mesmer drew a jester from the deck and laid it on the table before her, as she began to sort the cards into piles. A bright flash of light stunned everyone, and Mesmer had an incredible insight into the art of storytelling and music-making. However, the packet of cards disappeared from her hands and was gone.

Hours later, the party had cleared all of the corpses from their new manor and lit a bonfire to dispose of them. As they stood around, watching the flames lick the pile, and contemplated how best to clean up the rest of the manor, an ear-splitting screech sounded in their skulls, and streaks of black lightning raced across the sky.

Once again, they found themselves standing on parched, dead ground. The nearby forest was nothing but charred stumps for as far as the eyes could see, and the manor stood in a state of ruin, it’s upper level entirely missing, and it’s lower, marble walls, baked and discolored to a dirty orange/brown. Sand and dirt stood in drifts against the walls, and every window stood entirely empty of glass.

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The first foray into the Manor

18 Flamerule 1374 D.R.
Year of the Lightning Storms

Arriving at the derelict manor, the party finds a huge marble fountain in front. When Rummy Fourcoins decides to fish out a few coins from the murky water, a disembodied voice intones a short poem:

“The touch will always show Which new wall is mine. Blind the sun to know Where stars always shine.”

Perplexed, the party ventures into the manor through the front doors, and finds themselves beset by phantasms of events-gone-by. Images of Lord Drestyn battling his servants briefly flash before them in each room, slowly painting a portrait of the truth behind the rumors of evil dealings and ill omens.

Upon discovering the manner of Lord Drestyn’s death, the party inters his remains (what little there are) nearby and Anders says a blessing to hopefully ease his passing into the next realm.

Venturing upstairs, the finds a jade snake-headed scepter behind a bookcase, and Rummy Fourcoins is the only person gutsy enough to pick it up. As he does so, it comes to life and constricts around his arm. Rummy bites through it, and the head falls to the floor, shattering, while the rest of the snake turns back to jade, still twisted about Rummy’s arm like a bracelet.

As this happens, Lord Drestyn appears beside Rummy and thanks him for releasing him from the curse the scepter held over him. Drestyn lays his hand upon Rummy’s shoulder, and teleports him to the library, where he reveals a hidden passage. Lord Drestyn then disappears, and Rummy quietly descends into an armory/training room, where he finds a few nice items.

Meanwhile, the party has no clue where Rummy has disappeared to, so they head back through the mansion to find him. As they reach the top of the steps, and are contemplating where to search, a pink-haired gnomish mage appears from a doorway. She introduces herself asTulia, and tells a tale of confusion and betrayal at the hands of her party of adventurers a week before.

While they try to discern whether they can trust this new, colorful character, Rummy finds them, and they reunite. Deciding to accept the odd gnome into the group, they continue the search of the manor, and discover the master bedroom, where a slew of undead mill about.

Bad luck seems to follow the party, as Badrick, their fighter, takes a swing at a skeleton and proceeds to trip himself up in the doorway. His inertia carries him into the doorframe, where he knocks himself unconscious and falls to a heap. Anders takes the lead, stepping over him, and the party drags Badrick’s inert form into the hallway to administer aid. Mesmer, the half-gnomish bard, begins playing her armonica, and rallies the party through her stirring music. Anders and Rummy, with the aid of Harzinon, lay waste to the skeletons, but Anders takes a dire wound in the process. As they catch their breath, Anders sits down and the party notices a candle burning atop a skull in the corner of the room. A quick search of the room reveals a small passage behind a bureau leading into the adjoining room. As they examine the skull, a bead of wax slowly drips down the candle, making it’s way toward the skull. Tulia reaches out to touch the skull, and receives a massive shock of magical energy that imparts a curse upon her. At that very moment, the bead of wax makes contact with the skull, and the skeletons reanimate, resuming their attacks upon the weary party.

The group scrambles through the hidden passage and into the adjoining room, while Rummy makes a heroic grab and scoops Tulia under his arm, pulling her away from the cursed candle. He throws her through the portal, and dives behind her as the skeletons swing at his heels. The party barricades the miniature doorway with furniture, and then sneaks into the hallway to close the bedroom door, effectively trapping the skeletons inside the room.

Anders, at this point, is hanging precariously to consciousness, but when confronted by a slew of skeletons on the staircase, he bravely slides down the banister and into their midst, crashing through the throng. The party battles their way outside, and the skeletons give up the chase at the threshold.

The party decides to head back to town, since dusk is upon them and they do not relish the idea of staying in the cursed area in the dark.

[During the RP of the characters’ interaction, Tulia revealed to the party that she had received a necklace from a strange man a while back, and, upon putting it on, could not remove it. From the necklace hung an amulet much akin to the coin the group had previously found, with a dragon on one side and an hourglass on the other. However, it appeared that the amulet had been mis-minted, as the hourglass on the reverse side was upside-down, with it’s sands appearing to pour upward. She informed the party that since that day, she had felt an overwhelming compunction to travel, and her travels inexorably drew her to this manor. Even when she attempted to ignore the compunction, she would awaken to find herself plodding along.]

During the journey, Rummy knocks Tulia unconscious to prevent her from heading back toward the manor, and the party ties her up in the back of the cart for the trip. As they travel, they notice a hooded figure tailing them at a great distance. When they exit the woods, the figure remains at the edge of the trees, and watches their progress. Rummy tries a long-distance shot with his bow, but misses, and the stranger simply waves.

Bleeding, battered, and confused, the party arrives back in town to lick their wounds and consider their next course of action.

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Where are we?
First night, continued

17 Flamerule 1374 D.R.
Year of the Lightning Storms

The party, having found themselves, by some foul magic, in the village of Ambroth, settle into the Pixie and Dixie Tavern to learn more about their situation. Querying the barkeep, a portly man named Burgo, they learn of Drestyn’s Manor nearby, and its dark history. Further information however, Burgo tells them, should be sought from the resident minstrel, Harzinon, who would be performing that night alongside Arbenobos the Mystery Mage and Rifin “Red Cat” the Juggling Idiot.

A sudden ruckus arises outside, and the clangor of an alarm bell resounds through the town. The sounds of battle arise, and the party witnesses a great horde of short, dog-faced humanoids flooding into the town, brandishing crude spears and daggers, and being systematically destroyed by the local militia. At the edge of the melee, however, a single attacker is seen lobbing a glass vial of silvery liquid into the blacksmith shop, where it shatters on the smith’s anvil.

All at once, the attackers flee, and the town is left to clean up the corpses, numbering no less than fifty and all in various states of dismemberment, including one whose head was turned to pulp by Burgo’s frying pan.

Learning this attack was nothing new, and, in fact, was just one of many in the past several weeks, the party is left to ponder its meaning while they wait for the minstrel’s show.

That evening, the minstrel performs to the jaded jeers of the townsfolk, who call for new stories and new songs. Harzinon smiles and continues his tired performance, then departs the stage to make way for the next act. Meanwhile, Rummy, the rogue, has finally found a comfortable level of inebriation, and decides to fatten his coin purse at the expense of a table of well-lubricated townsfolk nearby.

Synchronizing his actions to the approach of the serving wench, he reaches across the table as she flirts with the men, flashing her ample buxom in their faces. However, his luck departs him as he makes his attempt, and his toe catches on a raised floorboard, sending him crashing through the table, mugs of ale spraying across everyone and coins and discarded mutton scraps raining down upon the room.

Gathering his well-abused pride, Rummy extricated himself from the mess with embarrassed apologies, and returned to his booth, rubbing his elbow and picking splinters and refuse from his clothing.

An hour later, the three acts have concluded, and Harzinon is introduced by Burgo, to the party. Harzinon tells a tale of dark evil at Drestyn’s Manor, and asks the party if they would like to accompany him to the place in search of any riches that might remain. A group of adventurers has preceded them by a week, he tells the party, but returned a day later and one member lighter, before quickly fleeing the town, tales of death and evil spirits in their wake.

The party reluctantly agrees to make the journey, but they do not trust Harzinon.

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A visit to Ambroth
First night

An incredibly hot day, Year Unknown

A wiry drunk of a rogue, a burly fighter, a swarthy, sea-faring paladin, and a curious half-gnomish bard awaken hungover in a decrepit tavern, surrounded by dust and rot. The very walls of the building are falling apart from disuse, and sunlight streams through the many cracks between the boards. Each remembers little of the past several weeks, but each has had a curious dream. Coming to their senses, each realizes they are surrounded by strangers, and a tense standoff ensues.

Slowly, through tentative questioning, they learn they are all in the same situation, and they reach a fragile truce. Searching the room, they discover little of value beyond a couple bottles of rum tucked away behind the bar, and a curious coin in a dust-free box. The coin depicts a regal dragon on one side, and an hourglass on the other, and has a tiny hole bored through it’s breadth, from edge to edge.

The group ventures outside into a sweltering heat, and learns that the entire area around them is baked earth and crumbling buildings. Nothing grows, and nothing, aside from the dust, moves. Judging from the sun, it is early in the morning, but it is already too hot to remain in anything but the most basic clothing.

Amidst the tumble of ruins, they spot a slightly less deteriorated building and approach its front steps. A cracked and crumbling sign stands out front, but it is illegible. The steps crumble under the paladin’s feet, and they each cringe at the sharp crack of wood echoing through the deserted town.

Suddenly, the rogue hisses at the others to be silent. A deep beating sound can just be detected, and it grows louder with each drub. Looking about, the group spots a speck on the horizon, drawing nearer. Within moments, they realize with horror what they are hearing: the heavy beating of a massive pair of wings. The dragon that is barreling toward them is easily a hundred feet from wingtip to wingtip, and twice that from snout to tail.

They take refuge in the abandoned building, cringing behind it’s splintered and cracking walls, as the beast flies overhead. In seconds, the beast is beyond the town, and disappears on the horizon. Breathing a sigh of panicked relief, the group relaxes a bit, only to be assaulted by an intense screeching sound that penetrates to their very cores. Clamping their hands over their ears, trying desperately to retain their sanity, they are forced to their knees, and they see, through the missing roof, black streaks of lightning crisscrossing the blue sky before they squeeze their eyes shut, sure they will be dead in moments from the endless, piercing shriek.

All at once, the shrieking stops, and all is silent. Slowly opening their eyes, and carefully uncovering their ears, the group finds themselves in the middle of a nicely appointed, if slightly dated, welcome center, with an elderly man and woman gawking at them. The room is lit by gentle sunlight streaming through the windows, and not a mote of dust lingers in the air.

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