Friday, 7 March 2014

PotS 1x02 - Whispered Secrets

These posts are from our DnD group's latest game. The current adventure is a return to the world of Eberron, and specifically Xen'drik. The pirate crew have taken to the land, and are trying to make their way to the Watchtower that looms overhead atop the gulf's cliffs. But before them are some trees...many trees!

The foreboding forest loomed overhead, it's dark branches thick with webs. A path had already been cut through sections of webbing and brambles, presumably by those who had camped at its edge before them. There were no signs of Galinndan, who had vanished at some point in the night.

The party moved into the wooded area, cutting through webbing far too thick to be the work of regular spiders. Regdar found a relatively clean tree, and climbed to the top. From there, he gained enough knowledge to direct their paths more clearly, eventually leading them out of the spider-infested trees. However, even as they left, there were surprises remaining to be found: bodies of three giant spiders sagged in trees and lay cut apart across their path; the floor of the forest was littered with dozens of smaller (but still overly large) hatchlings. All were quite dead; crushed, stabbed, even scalded by magic. And not only the arachnids showed the signs of battle - trees had lost leaves and branches amidst the skirmish. But once again, the mysterious party had not left enough to identify themselves.

The Budding Feyspire
By about midday, the party had made it to what felt like the heart of the forest. Trees stood around them as far as any could see, and though the dark tower loomed ever waiting in the far north, they didn't feel quite as unnerved by it as they had done earlier. But this grove was not just a safe-haven - it held a pond, and from the pond protruded a strange object. The grove was filled with a strange magic...and, as they grew aware of their surroundings, a number of eladrin, too.

The leader turned on them sharply, demanding answers from the dwarves, but his companion stilled his hostilities. "No, Berrian," Galinndan spoke calmly. "They are not the ones you saw earlier - they are...with me."

Once introductions were made, the eladrins explained their own presence. Sir Berrian and his sister Analastra had been searching for their father, Zandrian Velfarren, for a significant period of time. They had travelled far, and been lost in the chaotic jungles of Xen'drik more often than not, but had finally found traces of him here. The pool had a budding feyspire, a growing eladrin tower, that their father had hoped would one day become a castle enchanted with fey magic, and provide a way back to their lands. But neither had actually found their father. And Analastra had gone missing during a routine scouting operation... Kami and her crew begrudgingly agreed to join the scouting effort.

Of Beasts and Maidens
The short bell-tower was falling apart, decades (if not centuries) of neglect had allowed the surrounding forest to reclaim much of the area about it. But still, the touch of the feywild had changed the place. Analastra was found, running, nearby the ruined tower; the feybeasts catching and throwing her to the ground as the party charged in to her defence. The displacer beasts were tough, sneaky and quick, but the rugged dwarves fought on, and slew them both before the elf was lost to her other enemy - a pair of stirges. The dire bloodsuckers had been awoken from their nest within the bell-tower, and happily shifted their attention to the meals-on-legs that the dwarves offered, but eventually even they were disposed.

When she could sit and speak again, Analastra explained why she had been trying to fight the beasts. She had found a cottage that she assumed was her fathers. Within it would be magics and enchantments that would help them defend and grow the spire, but a pair of owlbears had taken up residence. Knowing the owlbear's dislike for displacer beasts (the scents sent them running), she had foolishly tried to heard them in that direction. But now, perhaps there would be an easier task?

Regdar and Urquilla helped skin and de-gland the beasts, before "preparing" the dwarves with the musks of the creatures. Tentacles were slung across shoulders like elaborate scarves, and a few extra glands were handed across as short-ranged splash weapons.  Then, the pair helped Analastra back to the fey camp.

The dwarves had been surprisingly stealthy upon their approach to the hut.  They had even practised their mimicry of the beasts well beforehand, and felt confident in their calls.  But still, mistakes happened, roofs were collapsed, and a little too much displacer-gland was sprayed on the wrong individual.  They managed to get one owlbear to flee; the second, they had to kill (after using Hassan as live bait).

Secret Revelations 
There was one further task that the Velfarrens asked of Kami and her crew - to search for any further sign of their father.  Even more begrudgingly than last time, they accepted, and spent the better part of their afternoon combing a section of woods for any further information.  The only thing they came across was a grove of nymphs.  Well, that might have been enough for some folk, but Kami, Tvennr and Hassan?  No, they did not like it, not one bit.  They put up with them, in the hopes of information.  They listened to their singing, they obliged their music, and much of the rest of their little 'games' session may well never be told again.  In the end, the nymphs promised knowledge in return for secrets, and so, one by one, the three dwarves eventually gave of themselves in order to learn more.

Tvennr revealed a personal shame.  He liked the seas, and he thoroughly enjoyed sky-ships...what lurked behind the dwarf's tough, rough exterior was a fear, however.  Though born to the mountain caves, the ranger found himself prone to claustrophobia, especially in naturally-forming caves. For a dwarf, this was pretty grave indeed.  In return, one nymph told him about the dragons, how they flew in from Argonnessen, attracted to the raw magical power of the artefact, and had decimated the nearby town when they first arrived.  They would allow nothing to come between them and their riches...though that dark tower still had them paused.  For now, they lurked on the eastern side of the gulf, and on a few of the islands in between, watching and snapping at anyone who looked to be a threat to their increased wealth and power.

Eager to learn more about the tower, Kami offered one of her less desirable past experiences.  Her first "First Mate" role was not given to her purely based upon her talent as a sailor, but rather because she slept with the captain.  Nothing more about the captain was said; that was incriminating enough.  Nodding, one nymph stepped up to tell the trio of the black Watchtower, which had stood central to the downfall of the area.  It was a place used to keep the cove, and the settlement within it, in security and safety, until it was linked to Xoriat, the Realm of Madness.  For almost 9,000 years, the realm had been locked away, after Daelkyr had crossed over and caused the downfall of the golinoid Dhakaani Empire.  Druids and dragons had worked alongside then, barely managing to stop the chaotic forces from destroying all life on Eberron.  This time, the Watchtower had been the battleground, and it was the cork that stopped the madness leaking into our world.

Still with no answer to the whereabouts of Analastra and Berrian's father, Hassan stepped forward with his own revelation to give.  All knew of his hate of elvenkind; many had heard rumours of childhood complications with the fey people; but none had known who had started his vendetta.  None, until today, when he uttered four simple words..."It was a girl..."  Nothing more would be said, but the nymphs, perhaps sensing something deeper, or knowing something left unsaid, nodded solemnly. "Zandrian Velfarren was last seen defending the Watchtower. He never left. He can be found there, still."

After hearing about the nymphs advice, Galinndan decided to visit them.  He had struggled with this secret long enough - it was time for him to share it with another...and gain from the experience.  As it turned out, heights were his weakness; he is fine on a ship, but secretly dreads ever completing his mission, and managing to get one to actually fly.  With a knowing smile, the closest nymph nodded her head, and offered up a riddle - "Cards collect atop towers, and with commanders of companies."  Simple enough, Galinndan thought, and perhaps that is why the nymph had given it as such - was that a wink that had passed between her and the eladrin?

Ominously as it sounded, the dwarves' actions did not change. They were headed to the Watchtower before; now, there was but another reason to head there. Circling back to alert Urquilla and Regdar of their plans and to let the Velfarrens know of their learning, Kami's crew marched out of the forest, killed a few extra spiders on their way, and started their trek to the cliff walls, and the base of the dark Watchtower.

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