Conquest of the Realms

RIP: The Speaker in Dreams
How often do you get to spend longer completing an adventure than your characters do?

At long last, the mystery that plagued the town of Blackfeather Bridge was uncovered. A mind flayer, vilest (debatably) of the creatures that haunts the subterranean world beneath Faerun known as the Underdark, had taken up residence in the town like a bloated tick. As is their nature, the alien creature had wrapped itself in layer upon layer of guile and deception, using catspaws to manipulate events in the town while using the town’s leader, Baron Euphemes II, as its own puppet ruler. After successfully dispatching the flayer’s minions in the form of a wererat gang, a mob of raiding grimlocks, and a cult of maddened psionicists, they finally drew its ire.

During the town’s own preemptive celebration of the party’s exploits, the illithid assembled a strike force created from the remains of the cult, as well as newly arrived Zhentarim reinforcements. After dispatching this assassination attempt, the party traced the mind flayer’s right-hand servant, a drider from the Underdark, back to the Baron’s own keep.

The plot thickened when the Baron made a proclamation the next morning, announcing Blackfeather Bridge to be officially under Zhent rule. Servants of Bane actively summoned devils and other creatures from Baator in order to help maintain the regime of the Speaker in Dreams. A showdown was in order, and after cleansing the Temple of Lathander of the unholy presence, they confronted the Baron and uprooted the true mastermind.

However, a final twist; before the final blow could be dealt to the aberration, a third party entered the fray. A githyanki warrior teleported onto the scene, slew the mind flayer and took its head as a trophy before quickly exiting. A githyanki? Here, in the Dalelands? More questions than answers…

But luckily there were some answers, or at least much bigger, more interesting questions. That night, the party found a map had been carefully left for them in their tavern room. It marked over 30 locations all across the Western Heartlands and mainland regions of Faerun. Traveling to the nearest of these (not far from Blackfeather Bridge), they discovered that it marked the location of an old, ruined keep, which nonetheless had shown signs of recent use by a large number of individuals, monsters, and vehicles.

Searching the premises, a hidden door was discovered, leading into the former dungeons of the keep. What they found was not empty chambers and dusty old bones, but instead a room filled with extraplanar technology. Hundreds of psionic stasis cylinders filled the halls, each one housing a young githyanki in various stages of egg, infant, and young adult development. A hatchery. Most disturbing of all, however, was the deepest dungeon, which contained twenty stasis cells. Each contains a githyanki that is somehow altered, with red-tinted skin and a curious ridge over their eyes.

What manner of devilry is this? What are the githyanki planning? What will our heroes do with the discovery of this hatchery? Stay tuned to find out!

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Defense of Tilverton: The Seige of Tilver's Keep

When last we left Maarken and Amroth, they had set out in search of the Marchioness of Tilverton, wife of the late Marquis and one of the last remaining claimants to the city’s throne. Even before her husband’s death, the Calimshan woman rarely left the keep due to the dangers made manifest by Tilverton’s Abbysal infection. However, our resident know-it-all, Algorthas, advised Maarken that she had recently retreated to a small, out-of-the-way village not far to the west— for what reason, none would say. Seeing an opportunity to remove one of his rivals while she was flushed from the coop. He rode out with Amroth and a small elite contingent of the Ilsulkim.

The party arrived to find something very wrong in the village. Wormy Fingers, an old familiar foe, was waiting with madness at his side. The forces of The Malgoth had corrupted the townsfolk, turning them into slobbering, warped versions of ol’ Wormy himself, while also animating the two windmills which flanked the hamlet, making them demonic engines of death. Maarken and his men cut through the ravenous horde to reach Wormy-Fingers, resisting his suggestive mental powers this time, while Amroth deftly lept from windmill to windmill, hacking the Malgoth’s creations apart. Finally, to his horror, Wormy was cut down for good; but, not before revealing that the Marchioness, now the Malgoth’s own, was on her way back to Tilverton even as they fought.

The Ilsulkim returning to find dusk falling over Tilverton, just in time for a confrontation between the newly arrived Marquioness and Verbane, chief War Wizard of Tilverton. The Marquioness had been transformed, like her late husband had been, into the Mouth of the Malgoth, a sorcerous avatar for that being’s evil. Each taking one of the keeps’ two towers, the archwizard and the sorceress were engaged in a magical face-off.

The arriving riders found no easy road to the keep; the Malgoth’s servants attempted to thwart their progress at every turn. The front gate was guarded by former guardsmen, transformed into undead shadows by the Mouth of the Malgoth. After that, a demon teleported into the middle of the courtyard, calling down unholy blasphemes which slew all but one of the elite Ilsulkim, a dark-eyed man named Stavos. During these fights they were aided by The servant of Lloth, Morcane, who had been battling these creatures as they appeared throughout the city in the wake of the Marchioness’s arrival.

At last the Ilsulkim reached the gates of Tilver’s Keep just in time for the Marchioness to magically reseal them with rubble. As Maarken’s men set to work clearing the rubble, they found that they were not the only army that would arrive in Tilverton today; the Malgoth had sent out a desperate call to his servants of old, the giants, and they had arrived in force at Tilverton’s gates (now open and vulnerable). As the Ilsulkim fervently raced to gain access to the keep, a defensive line was made before the gate, a line which would rain over a hundred arrows on any giants that attempted to ascend the hill which the castle sat upon.

But ascend they did.

In wave after wave, the hill giants came, hurling boulders and swinging massive tree trunks. Maarken and Amroth entered the fray first, keeping the deadly giants away from the archers. Frost giants joined the melee, and one of their frostwolf pets would have made popsicles of the diggers with its freezing breath, were it not for Amroth’s quick timing, hacking the beast’s head from its shoulders. Maarken himself slew the frost giant leader, a mighty warrior-jarl; the very same, in fact, who robbed him of his old arm and his life, so long ago.

The battle at last wound down just as the warriors began to falter; using a scroll recovered from a late kobold dragonpriest, the drow priestess was able to create a barrier of flying, animated swords to surround and protect Maarken at the last minute, simultaneous slaying the giants around him. As the last giant was slain, the magical conflict within the keep wrapped up as well in a sudden dazzling display. Verbane disappeared in a flash, reappearing face-to-face with the possessed Marchioness. The sorceress chanted, unleashing a blast of dark, abyssal cold from her hands at the enemy wizard; Verbane took the cold energy in his own hand and seemed to absorb it, the spray inverting back into its unsummoned form, and responded with his own blast of lightning. It arced out, taking the possessed woman in the chest and completely incinerating her with a demonic howl.

With the Marchioness now dead, along with the Marquis and most of the military hierarchy of Tilverton, the number of legitimate threats to Maarken’s rule is down to one: The Court Wizard Verbane. What will Maarken and Amroth do next? Will they attempt to make Verbane an ally, or an enemy? Will they finally drive the Malgoth forth and save the city? What will Tilverton’s fate be?

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