Fallen

Murder in Crux
The (Un)Lucky Lam

The morning after the fire at the Woodworkers Guild should have been relaxed and uneventful. Instead they were approached by Veritas and the Innkeeper, Flederoth, who together asked the group to investigate a murder in the Lucky Lam. Reluctantly they agreed, persuaded by the promise of even more unnecessary gold to line their already over-full pockets. The body was discovered in a room next to Sendrina's, earlier that morning by one of the Inn's maids, Ashinn.

Investigating the room turned up some interesting facts. The body was stuffed in a large trunk, which had all its inside surfaces covered with blood. The murder weapon, a dagger, was found next to the bodies hand, and the body was covered in cuts and slashes. Saggy could see the berk had been dead for a few days, almost a week, and the wounds looked self-inflicted. It was as if the victim had climbed into the trunk and then sliced himself open.

Fleddy was able to identify the body as one Renik, a businessman from Ysgard that had been in town for a few weeks looking to set up some sort of business. When told he had been dead a week Freddy was in disbelief, he had seen Renik the previous evening returning to his room! Feeling there was more than a simple suicide going on the adventurers continued their search of the room. They soon found Renik's journal, which had entries of people around Crux he wanted to meet. The last entry was a meeting with the toolmaker, Torgas Yid, almost a week ago.

Meeting Torgas was easy enough, he was in his store starting the day. He had indeed met Renik the week before and had set another meeting for two days ago to discuss the details of the deal. He was still annoyed that Renik had not showed to the meeting, but he had seen him this morning heading towards Highpoint. Torgas had called out but Renik had simply ignored him. The adventurers made their way to Highpoint and queried the guards their if they had seen Renik. Luckily one of them had, he remembered him going through the portal to Ranais earlier this morning. With no other leads the party stepped through the portal to Ranais, if for no other reason than to head back to Sigil for a bit.

Ranais was a bleak world, the portal opening to an ancient ruined city where it seemed nothing lived. They could see this seemed to be a funerary city, a place where the living revered the dead and prepared for their own end. There was a well worn path leading into the ruins, and so the party set out into the cold, dim, night to find Renik. A few hours in the sun finally came up, a small, white orb that barely gave any heat or light. A few more hours in they came to the largest standing building in the city, a temple over half a mile long that exuded an aura of disquiet.

Unable to resist such fine stonework the party, except for Sendrina, entered the temple and made their way to the altar. As much as they tried the part could not identify who the temple had been consecrated to, but could tell it was millennia since anyone had been here. Sitting outside Sendrina heard a chilling scream, and rushed to rejoin her friends. It was not a moment too soon as a group of wraiths surrounded them and attacked. They fought well, but were no match for the seasoned adventurers.

Continuing on they finally came to the portal to Sigil, which they sadly needed a key for. Although they did come up with some ingenious methods to find white leather they came up empty handed. With no other choice they set up camp and waited for a passing caravan. Finally in the night one came led by a Sigil merchant, Philip. He was not unsympathetic to the party's plight, and offered to sell the appropriate piece of white leather for a paltry 100gp. Sendrina was in the mood to simply kill him but luckily Saggy and Argos paid so they could enter Sigil without bloodshed.

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Getting to the Crux of Matters
Don't Fork This Up

Trying to interpret Jacobi's letter the adventurers spend the morning exploring Crux, trying to get a feel for anything that may be happening in town. Saggy deems it fit to purchase a riding goat, Gurt, while Bruce and Talvec opt for giant beetles, Lennon and Sgt. Pepper. Sendrina and Argos inspect a few stores in the market and finally the Woodworkers Guild, here the Guild Leader, Marlus, speaks of her concerns around the state of the World Ash. She is concerned that something is wrong, the Ratatosks have been acting strange, and she wishes the adventurers to look into it for her. She mentions there has been some trouble around town and to perhaps speak to Veridis Mov, the towns defacto leader.

Veridis confirms the talk of trouble, mentioning a murdered Ratatosk some weeks before as well as the general 'strangeness' of their behaviour. He is hoping the party can venture out onto the branches and see what is troubling the large rodents. He does speak rather obtusely, so much so that Sendrina storms off before getting some information vital to the task at hand. With a mystery to solve the adventurers regroup and depart in the direction of a Ratatosk nest.

The journey is simple enough, a quick encounter with a giant boring worm before encountering some Ratatosk who guide the party to their lair. Inside they find two fascinating things; the Ratatosk Shaman, Glittereye, and a mind-altering sap that sends a few of them into a very happy place. Glittereye is deeply disturbed, something has happened to the Tree that has affected his mind. When the adventurers make it clear they are here to help Glittereye takes them to show what he thinks is causing the problem.

He leads them along several new branches, growing more and more agitated as he goes along and his escorts growing more concerned. Finally they arrive at a place of darkness, a black expanding ripple in the wood, as if something evil had touched the the tree and the wood had recoiled. Seemingly overcome by the proximity Glittereye launched himself at the party, his escorts looked on in shock unsure of what to do. Luckily Talvec was able to defuse the situation with a well placed stunning blow. In a second act of restraint in as many days Sendrina does not slaughter everyone, instead the Ratatosk are allowed to take Glittereye and leave.

Unable to discern much from the Warpwood they return to Crux. Sendrina heads straight for the pub to recover from showing mercy, while the others notice smoke and screams coming from the Woodworkers Guild. They investigate to find the building on fire with people obviously trapped inside. Thinking quickly Saggy creates rain above the building, which immediately begins to contain the fire. Saggy and Talvec climb to the second floor and enter a window, while Bruce enters the ground floor to search for survivors. 

Saggy continues creating water to quell the flames as they move through the building, and together they encounter the survivors huddled at the rear of the main hall. Marlus stands over them, a torch in one hand and her sickle in the other, she has the same look in her eyes that Glittereye had and launches into a mad tirade. Again Talvec was able to defuse the situation with his a stunning blow, and the survivors were carried out as Saggy continued to douse the flames.

Outside the town guard had gathered a bucket line, which they soon realised was not needed. But Veridis was extremely thankful for the adventurers help. Marlus and the other Woodworkers were taken to Highpoint for treatment, and the party retired for the night into the Lucky Lam. It seems the madness caused by the Warpwood had, for the moment, passed.

 

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A Letter From Jacobi
(Some) Truths Revealed

(Delivered to you all the first morning at the Lucky Lam)

Taking a seat at his usual table Jacobi took in the new faces at the Sword & Buckler. Over the last few weeks his contacts had grown strangely quiet, until only Nitru and his newest ‘graduates’ had been able to provide any new chant. Given their recent successes he felt it was time to give them some form of explanation, and so he set pen to parchment:

Adventurers,

“Since the return of my Master I had felt something was wrong. After the death of Tyr Sarus had departed on a quest to find meaning, seemingly driven by a desire to rediscover what Justice still remained in the multiverse. On his return, decades ago, Sarus seemed set on finding revenge rather than justice. His familiar calm and balanced demeanour replaced by a cold and immovable malevolence.

The Second Sundering should have brought peace to Sarus’ troubled mind. Tyr had returned to life and once more sat on his throne in Ysgard, his power restored and his worshipper’s prayers being answered again. But with the return of Tyr Sarus simply disappeared again, protesting that resetting the multiverse did not count as justice for the slain Tyr. Sarus returned from his pilgrimage a changed being, at times I even thought it was not the same person.

Sarus gave instructions to not just myself but to all his Angels: seek out mortal servants, test them and select them, and finally set them on tasks as he so desired. He was beginning to build a mortal army; his only stipulations were they must be Primes and they must not know what they were being tested for. It mattered not which Material Plane they called home, just that they were not native Planars. Sarus laid out the tests they were to complete, the planes they were to visit, and were they would be expected to fight and if needed, die. So I set to work finding mortal recruiters such as Braastan to identify and screen mortal adventurers. These recruiters used any means they could to move the Mortals to their destination, sometimes they even resorted to trickery.

Cheelast was one such place, and the location that I had finally suspected a deeper truth. Sarus had set him to destroy a vampire incursion, using as many Mortals as necessary. After loosing too many to Cheelast I sought another way, finding an ally in Nitru of the Shadar’kai. Together we found that the vampires had been expecting the Mortals, using them to reinforce their forces in the city. Seeking to cease the slaughter Nitru was able to finally guide some adventurers to victory, finally freeing Cheelast.

Seeking even more allies, I used the battle of Cheelast as cover to wander the Planes in search of more allies. Finally I found the assistance we had sought, a Baatezu willing to provide information and troops. Knowing Sarus would sense any betrayal I used the minions of the Baatezu to move my best Mortals, such as yourselves, to Sigil through Baator. Knowing a Power such as Sarus could not step into Sigil it was the perfect location to begin our quest for answers.

So I have begun to send you, my Mortal wards, into the Planes on quests for answers, and hopefully the truth. I have received word of your victory against the Khaasta but that was only the beginning. Continue as you see fit, find what you can, and above all: we must stop the twisted Justice of my Master.”

Jacobi

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Naphraks Conquered
and the Khaasta were Shattered

With mere moments to spare the adventurers retreated behind the slave pen, leaving the Khaasta to round up the escaped slaves and begin to clear the bodies of their kin. Realising the tower was most likely to hold their objective, the adventurers used Talvec's monkish abilities to sneak across to behind the stables. Finally deciding some intel would be good, Talvec climbed the outside of the tower but was unable to determine what was inside, except that it was a tower. 

On returning to their hiding place behind the stables the adventurers noticed that the Khaasta were dragging the corpses towards them, it seemed the dead became food for the riding lizards. In a moment of uncharacteristic genius, Saggy got everyone to stand back as he cast Shatter on the stables. The carnage was immediate and complete. Several dozen riding lizards smashed through the stable wall and into the remaining Khaasta. Within moments the lizards had stampeded through the Khaasta, their barracks, and the slave pen. 

Amid the death and chaos the adventurers were able to enter the tower undetected, into the indoor jungle the toil-master had established. Although willing to parlay he was ruthlessly attacked, forcing him to call reinforcements and take refuge in his water pools. They fought bravely in defence of their master, but it was for nought. Although Sendrina fell she was quickly revived and rejoined the fight. 

With the Khaasta defeated the adventurers began looting…exploring the tower. On the throne Sendrina found the Thief of Charms (the Ugly Stick), but the rest of the room was bare. Upstairs they found myriad magic items and treasure, as well as dozens of bottles of Circean Embers. They also discovered the Wise One: an old, blind Khaasta shaman. In an act of unbridled mercy Sendrina allowed him to not only leave, but to accompany them out of Naphraks.

Laden down with gold and loot the adventurers left the demi-plane and made their way to Crux, nestled against Yggdrasil's trunk at the junction of two mighty branches. Settling in to the Lucky Lam tavern they finally got a well earned rest.

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Can't See The Forest For The Tree
Going out on a limb

Continuing on for several more days the terrain finally changed from the undulating planes so prevalent  around Ironridge to a more forested realm cut with many small creeks and ravines. Early on the third day they finally reached the Norn forest, a seemingly impenetrable wall of trees and brush stretching hundreds of miles in either direction. In a stroke of pure luck they decided to enter the forest with caution and respect, and found the foliage seemed to flow around them allowing them smooth passage through.

Pushing into the forest the party soon noticed the trees becoming larger, some soaring seemingly endlessly into the sky. Eventually they reached one that was hundreds of feet across and fallen over to form a ramp leading up into the canopy. Quickly checking they found that the Khaasta tracks continued up the trunk. Along its length they came across another portal, this one revealing itself as leading to Yggdrasil, the World Tree.

Yggdrasil was all encompassing. Everything the adventurers could see was the Tree. The ground was a branch hundreds of yards across, the sky was nothing but giant leaves, and the air was filled with the sounds of nature. Another days march across the natural but stark landscape brought them towards the trunk of Yggdrasil. They could see another branch next to theirs that joined the trunk to form a fork, with what looked like small city nestled against the trunk where they met. Before it however they came across a knot in the wood, and by climbing in they found another portal that the Khaasta had used.

The journey through the portal was…interesting, and deposited the party in a demi-plane some that looked like a black dome some thousand yards across and home to the Khaasta. There did not seem to be much here, a few buildings, a tower, and a slave pen. Seeking allies the party made for the slave pen. Here they took a good-cop, bad-cop, sensible-cop approach; Saggy created food and water for the slaves, Bruce set the fence on fire, and Sendrina opened the gate. Somehow in the confusion the slaves began to escape and the Khaasta took an interest in the commotion.

Almost twenty Khaasta ran to intercept the escaping slaves, and instead ran into the steel and fire of some well-armed adventurers. Although fighting bravely the Khaasta were overrun, but not before eliminating at least a score of the slaves. As the last of the Khaasta fell the adventurers paused to take stock, and saw another few dozen Khaasta pouring from their barracks.

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Circean Embers
The Peril's of Bottled Beauty

Entering Ironridge the party was greeted to a small, yet quite successful, settlement. Populated by a roughly even mix of Humans and Dwarfs sustained by trade with Planar travelers and some nearby Dwarven kingdoms. Weary from their travel and battles the party simply wanted to find a tavern and rest. Of course they heard a disturbance down a side street, and of course they went to investigate.

The scene was confusing to way the least, a dozen or so commoners fighting bitterly over an elderly man and woman lying on the ground. Thinking quickly Darkness and Sleep were cast on the melee, with most of the combatants succumbing to the spell. With the commoners subdued the adventurers were able to investigate what had happened. Talvec's eye was drawn to the unconscious woman on the street, and he knew he had to have her for himself. Moving quickly he scooped her up and made way to the nearest tavern, the Redmarch Inn. Here he sat comfortably with his prize while he waited for the others.

Argos and Sendrina were left to sort out the rest of the fights remains. Both lay eyes on the elderly man in the center of the bodies and both immediately knew what they wanted. They were both overcome with a desire to possess the man, they knew they needed to have him by any means necessary. With the desire so great they turned on each other, unleashing their martial and arcane powers.

Saggy meanwhile was enjoying his ale at the Inn with everyone else when Talvec's 'companion wakes up. She reveals the cause of the trouble, she and her husband had traded some Circean Embers from the Khaasta and had immediately partook of them in the street. Their newfound beauty had caused to people to riot in an attempt to have them. Thinking quickly Saggy cast Dispel Magic on the woman which removed the Ember's effect. Realising why his companions had not returned Saggy ran to find them, arriving just in time to Dispel Magic on the old man. Thus ending the fight between Sendrina and Argos.

Battered and embarrassed they all return to the Redmarch Inn for a well earned rest. The following day Balin and Kris, the couple that caused all the trouble, treated the party to breakfast and all the information they had. They had traded ale for some Circean Embers, as they had done in the past, but this time they couldn't resist and drank it all at once. The addiction had become too much for them, it was only the spell cast by Saggy that seemed to free them from the curse. The Khaasta came through every few weeks, always trading for supplies but not always using the Embers. When they did the price always went up. The Khaasta did not live in the Outlands, but traveled Spireward to the Norn forest where there was a portal to their actual home.

The party spent some time shopping and selling harvested monster parts before departing to continue hunting the Khaasta. On the second day out they encountered several Nycaloths, which did little but delay them an hour or two. The journey continues…

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The Plane of Concordant Opposition

Jack is less than pleased. He expected the party to complete their mission, not to decide it was too hard and return for further instructions. He at least provides a small item that can reveal how to use the portal the Khaasta used, but he expects them to put a stop to the Toilmaster's shenanigans post haste. Soon enough the adventurers find they need a Silver Arcadian Dovehawk Feather, and spend some time at the Bazaar to purchase one. Feather in hand they make way to the portal and to what they assume is the Outlands on the other side. 

Stepping through they find themselves on a blasted plain, what was once a pit mine now a muddy, windswept gravel pit nestled in a wide mountain valley. Quickly locating the Khaasta's trail they set out in pursuit. Soon they encountered a sunken building, ancient and worn and clearly older than the mine they were still in. Although the track's went around the party could smell loot and went in for a look. Before reaching the temple an Illithid came running from the temple, quickly followed by another. Barely taking the time to react the two creatures attacked.

The fight was almost the adventurers final one. Taking out the first Illithid had taken its toll, and the second was gaining the upper hand. Copious use of a Psychic Blast hampered the party's efforts to fight effectively. Saggy had been caught by the Illithid, his brain about to be extracted, when the Illithid chose to turn and blast the others. It knew that even if it took Saggy's brain it would die moments later. The last ditch Psychic Blast stunned everyone, allowing the Illithid a moment to recover but it wasn't enough. By itself the Mindflayer could not resist the party's sustained attacks.

Shaken by the Illithid's ferocious attack the party took a moment to rest, while debating if they should investigate the sunken temple before them. Although full of doubt the party advanced and entered the temple, the floor at a strange angle and the entrance now at ground level. As they approached they heard a voice scream into their heads, full of sorrow and rage, announcing that the god Maanzecorian had been slain and all his secrets lost. Entering the temple revealed another Illithid, but this one was already dead slumped over the central Dias. The far side of the Temple appeared to be a portal, with tracks indicating it was where the Ilithid had come from. It seemed they were fleeing in terror.

Pondering the portal the party was suddenly bombarded by information seemingly beamed directly into their heads. Random tidbits and facts that by themselves seemed to hold no meaning, as if the multiverse was spewing random information into the planes for anyone to discover. Confused, but unharmed, the party used their Ring of Warp Sense to discover the portal was a one-way from Gehenna, there was no way they could go through it from here. Disheartened they continued following the Khaasta's tracks.

At some point a Beholder attacked them, but we don't talk about it anymore, before finally coming to the small settlement of Ironridge. Here they could rest, recover, and resupply.

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Old Faces & New Places
Don't Khassta the First Stone

Reeling from the apparent desertion of Rynn the remaining adventurers are quick to welcome the Sensate member Talvec into their ranks. It is almost as if they can't tell elven monks apart. At the behest of Jack they journey across Sigil into the Lower Ward, seeking any sign of the trouble that Jack had mentioned. Soon enough they found a young half-elf, hideously disfigured and hard to look at, stumbling through the streets. Before they had a chance to ignore him a human woman, Tiandra, approached the boy and sought aid from the party.

Tiandra was similarly afflicted as the boy, although not ugly it was as if all her beauty was taken away. She gives the dark as she sees it: a group of Khaasta, lizardfolk, have been porting in to the Lower Ward and using some sort of device to steal cutter's beauty. There are dozens now that have been left devoid of any spark of attractiveness, and there seems to be no end in sight. She doesn't know where they come from but does know they patrol around anti-peak, which would be a good time to try and stop them.

Several hours and many ales later, the adventurers finally leave the Red Pony and begin their own patrol of the Lower Ward streets. They soon encounter a lone Githzerai down an alley, begging for help to save his daughter trapped in a nearby house. Being thoroughly paranoid Sendrina runs him through and sends Talvec into the house to investigate. Proving Sendrina right he finds a pit trap hidden by a rug, and sadly no loot to be seen.

Another hour and another alley they overhear a scuffle and the sound of many booted feet running. Investigating they find an unconscious bariaur who seems to have had his beauty taken. Quickly following the footsteps they find a dozen Khaasta beginning to use a portal to leave Sigil, the largest and meanest looking carrying a suspicious looking wand orders a few of his soldiers to stay, and then departs. 

The fight is short and relatively painless, with the adventurers capturing two of the Khaasta, Zar and Krut. Deciding torture is the best course of action they return to the Githzerai's trap house, place them in the pit trap, and begin to rain down insults upon them. The two Khaasta are more than happy to talk, revealing that their boss, the Toilmaster, has a wand that can steal beauty. They come to Sigil, collect some, and return home through the Outlands before selling the beauty to any interested party. With no reason to doubt their story the Khaasta are released, and the adventurers return to the Sword and Buckler. Seemingly under the impression their task is done.

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New Faces & Old Places
Beauty is fleeting

Exhausted from battling the Mercykillers the adventurers quickly looted before looking to return to their stakeout of the Church. As they looted however they noticed their usual elvish monk had been supplanted by a different elvish monk. The newcomer introduced himself as Talvec, an agent of the Sensate also sent to investigate the Church. Together they moved to a storehouse across the road from the Church to continue investigations.

Unable to travel by rooftop due to the infamous blades and spikes of Sigil they needed another plan of attack. Sandrina and Talvec maxed out their stealth and made their way to the rear of the Church. In the alley they found a small hole in the stonework covered by Razorvine, which was easily cut away allowing ingress to the Church interior. Inside they found a shell of a building, no internal walls or structures just the outside walls and the collapsed dome. The only things out of palce were the five giant standing stones that once held up the dome.

Unable to interpret what was going on Sandrina took a rubbing of the stones markings and returned to the rest of the party. They were also unable to make sense of the markings and decided they needed to see the stones for themselves. Using Talvec's skills they were all able to sneak down the alley and enter the Church. Even Saggy was unable to identify the stone used, so instead he dug down to the bottom of one stone which sadly revealed any new information. Having collected all they could the group returned to Jacobi and gave him the chant.

After resting for the night the party returned to the Lower Ward to complete Jack's second task, to get to the bottom of rumours of disturbance deep in the Ward. On the way they dropped into the Wayfarer to try to find Rynn and follow up on Hulester. Sadly he had vanished after his 'date', and Rynn had left a note stating she had a lead on where her Silver Dragon was and had left to find him. 

 

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An Ancient Secret
What's in the church??!

Leaving Jack in the Sword & Buckler the party traveled deeper into the Lower Ward, having decided to investigate the trouble at the old Church first. Although they still looked like outsiders, and clearly were still Clueless, the crowds of the Lower Ward paid them little attention. As soon as the party reached the area of the Church they formulated a plan to find out everything they could about it.

An initial recon resulted in a visit to Skamos' Bookstore, one of few shops still active in the area. The old Tiefling had no magical books, much to Argos' chagrin, rather a vast collection of reference books. With such a varied range the party was able to find several very useful books on the nature of the planes, Sigil, and factions. (That was an Oxford comma, and a very useful one at that.)

Further along Nickle Road Sandrina found Kruthar's Import/Export Emporium. Here she was able to get quite a bit of information off of the helpful half-orc. He was so helpful that Sandrina offered her services as a porter but was quickly forced to stop due to her inability to lift. Next came some subtle walk-bys of the Church revealing the Athar guards on the door were vigilant and seemingly loyal to their cause. Having found what they could here the group moved on the the Ubiquitous Wayfarer.

Only a few blocks away the Wayfarer promised to reveal even more secrets of the Old Church. It did not take long for the party to pick out Hulester, an agent of the Athar that was tasked with watching the Wayfarer for anyone getting too interested in the Church. He was drinking quietly looking quite depressed and not willing to talk to anyone. Luckily Sandrina was able to determine that he had a crush on the Wayfarer's barkeep, Riaen. Through smoothtalking and out-right lying she was able to get Hulester to open up. While getting a 'haircut' from Bruce and some dating advice from Sandrina Hulester revealed everything he knew about the situation at the Church. 

Hulester reveals that a Harmonium member owned the church and surrounding land, he desired to demolish it all and build some investment properties on the site. Soon after demolition began the crew disappeared inside the Church. Soon after a Harmonium investigation team vanished looking for the crew. In response the Athar sealed off the Church, forbidding anyone from entering. For some reason the Signers had taken an interest in the Church and also wanted to get in there, but he didn't know why.

Meanwhile downstairs a confused human called Phol was puzzling over the riddle statue that occupied the center of the tavern. Somehow Rynn was able to solve it for him and in gratitude Phol had some extra information. He had overheard some Signers discussing a plan to get into the Church. Their leader seemed to be an Elf called Elchis that could be found at the Faction HQ, the Shattered Temple.

Buoyed by their now found knowledge the group, minus Rynn, made their way to scout around the Church again. Saggy and Bruce created a distraction involving vomit to allow Sandrina to sneak into a nearby storehouse. Suitably purged they continued around the Church and onto Nickle St. Here they ran into an old friend, a Mercykiller Knight and several of his friends. Frantically calling Sandrina and Argos for help the party fought for their lives against the Red Death. 

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