Chapter 01: Fiends & Favours

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Session Number: 90
Date: Sunday 13 March 2011
Venue: Fergus'
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr8 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren Rog9 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal9 (Craig) (kills: none)
Tomen Rgr9 (Ash) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz9 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBC

Fergus assumes the role of DM for the following part…

Rowaine, Arrian, Feren and Tomen are in Follyhall. A messenger summons Rowaine to K'at's laboratory. The others look at Rowaine. "Come," she says. "This could be it."

The group are led to the large hall that K'at has been using for his research. Rowaine opens the twenty foot wide double doors. She has not been into this building for many days now and its interior has changed. K'at has assembled his equipment near the middle of the space, dominated by a circular, glowing fence-like structure forty feet across. The vertical 'palings' are the source of the light, a score of metal rods six feet tall and three inches wide. They are fairly widely spaced, wide enough so Rowaine can see an object within. It is the black rod.

"Yes, come in," K'at says. "I am ready for you now."

"Where shall I stand?" Rowaine asks.

"Anywhere you like, just don't come too close to the circle." Rowaine stands just behind the elf, noticing that the gap between the rods is wider here. The others remain near the door.

K'at starts chanting. The rod that forms the left side of the opening into the circle dims progressively until it is dark. Its neighbour follows suit. One by one, the rods slowly extinguish in clockwise order. K'at's chanting becomes louder as the ritual progresses, echoing around the walls. Halfway around, Rowaine steals a glance at the sage. He is sweating.

The last rod starts to dim. As it darkens an ethereal ball of light grows in the circle's centre, expanding to a seven-foot diameter as the light from the last rod dies. The ball flashes brightly for an instant before receding. At the ball's centre is a figure, spinning in space, screaming the name of Moradin. It bears a hammer in one hand and a shield in the other, and is covered in blood. It is Krag.

K'at finishes chanting and falls to the floor, spent. "Krag!" Rowaine yells, running through the gap in the ring of now-dark bars. Krag gradually stops spinning and looks around, spotting the figure approaching him. He growls savagely and runs forwards, his hammer poised.

Tomen runs to the circle's entrance, behind Rowaine. Krag's hammer strikes Rowaine's side. She expects to hear a metallic ring from her armour but she isn't wearing it. The blow is heavy.

"Krag!" Rowaine says, gasping. "It's me, Rowaine!" Krag recognises her and checks his next strike. The heavy weapon pulls him around. He looks at Rowaine, speechless. Rowaine jumps on him in an embrace. "Ro…" Krag says over and over, holding Rowaine very tightly. Both Tomen and Feren recognise that danger has passed.

"Is it really you?" Rowaine asks, looking Krag over. It certainly looks like him… Any yet it doesn't. Rowaine could swear that he looks older, not the adolescent she remembers. He smells like he hasn't seen rest for a very long time.

"Are you alright, Krag?" Rowaine asks. "Are you wounded?"

"I'm fine."

"Is this your blood?"

"Not all of it." Krag slumps to ground in tears. Rowaine inspects her friend for wounds. He bears many.

"You need help, Rowaine?" Arrian asks from outside the circle.

"Look after K'at," Rowaine replies, not taking her gaze off Krag. "See if he's alright." She hears Arrian and K'at talking quietly as she appraises Krag's wounds. Beneath the fresh trauma are many scars. Many old scars. She clasps her hands to Krag's shoulders and whispers a prayer to Moradin. She feels the welcome tingle of her deity's touch. Krag's breathing catches and then his body relaxes. She continues praying until the tingling recedes. Krag's wounds are still present, but much improved.

"Krag, what happened?" Rowaine asks. "Where have you been? What are all these scars from?"

Krag stands up, looking around. "Rowaine, where are we?"

"The elven kingdom, north by northwest of the monastery."

"Is that a long way away from where I disappeared?"

"Quite a long way, yes," Rowaine replies. "Many days' journey."

"Then we have some time. Rowaine, I can't stay here."

"Why? What's happening?"

"There was a bargain struck that even Moradin is bound by, and I cannot be here. Even now the ruelock will be coming."

"The what?"

"The ruelock. The one I changed places with. Much has happened, Rowaine. It has been years for me."

"We will fight this thing together," Rowaine says. "Is it after you?"

"Wait." Krag begins chanting, raises Moradin's holy symbol in one large hand. His face beams. Rowaine does not recognise the spell but later recognises the intent; Krag was trying to contact his beloved patron after a long walk in the wilderness.

A shaft of light envelops Krag. He speaks inaudibly. Rowaine stands back and waits for him to finish.

K'at stands up, frowning. Arrian calls for Rowaine.

"Yes?" Rowaine replies, not looking behind. "Is this thing about to go off? Should I get out of the circle? What's going on? Help, here!"

"Something is coming," K'at explains. "I feel it against my wards!"

"Krag, what are you doing?" Rowaine says. What needs to be done?" Krag does not react. Half a minute later he stops talking and the light surrounding him fades.

"Krag, something's coming!"

"It's the ruelock and I cannot stay."

"Is it after you?"

"Something must be in the container," Krag explains. "That is the bargain that is made. With me out of the container, the ruelock is drawn within. It is being drawn to the container now."

"That seems like a good thing," Rowaine says.

"It would be a good thing, if there was no one for a mile around it."

"Can the container capture it again?"

"It would be captured, but I fear for all life around here before it is."

"How long have we got?"

K'at lets out an involuntary yip of pain, as if he has been struck.

"Arrian!" Rowaine yells.

"I have to go, Ro," Krag says, "but this time I will not go alone. I have been isolated from Moradin for five years but I have his promise that this time I do not go alone. You are not yet ready to face the ruelock, but the ruelock must die before I can be free on this plane."

There is a loud cracking noise from one of the hall's corners, overlaid by a scream of pain from K'at. "My wards are failing!" he yells.

"I must part," Krag says and he starts chanting. "I will do this as quickly as possible." Rowaine yanks off her holy symbol and hands it to Krag. "To remember me!" she yells. Krag takes the gift, continuing to chant. Seconds later, a suit of armour and a shield appear at his feet. He bends down, places one hand on the armour and the other on the black rod, issuing the last word of the incantation. As his material body fades away, he says "Ro, you are not ready yet, but you will be, and you will see me before you are." With that, he disappears. The rod lies on the floor. Rowaine turns towards K'at. He appears as if in great pain.

"What do we do?" yells Rowaine. K'at screams, his eyes eyes roll inside his head and he disappears just as the building quakes, struck by something very large. A crack appears in the wall. Feren walks towards it, Lucrecia's rapier drawn. He sees oily smoke spilling through the fissure.

Rowaine summons Harley outside the circle, grabs the rod and moves towards the circle's exit. She sees strangely coalescent black smoke stream past Feren, who makes no move either towards or away from it. Moments after she understands why as a cold wave of enmity pervades her will and her muscles and joints fuse. The smoke drifts closer to Rowaine; she can see that the others are similarly stricken. She senses Harley's panic and realises that she has succumbed also. "At least I have it in my power to save you, dear one," Rowaine thinks as she empathises love to her mount while dismissing her.

The smoky tendril closes upon the helpless Rowaine, her eyes unable to track its progress as it disappears beyond her peripheral vision. Once more she screams at her muscles to respond but they steadfastly refuse to obey. Her hand that holds the rod is enveloped in a damp, insistent grasp. Warm agony wracks her hand. The oily, sinuous smoke streams back towards the breached wall and passes through. It is gone.

As the pain slowy recedes Rowaine realises that the rod is no longer in her hand.

Ten minutes pass and the paralysis finally wears off. Rowaine gingerly looks at her hand. The skin is badly blistered - an acid burn. The rod is gone. Arrian tends to the wound; the elves' patron deity restores Rowaine's hand to health.

"Where's K'at?" Rowaine asks, leaving the circle.

"He disappeared," Arrian replies.

"What the f%$< just happened?" Rowaine exclaims.

"I don't know," Arrian says. "I don't think K'at went into the container. He didn't disappear like Krag did. I think he went somewhere else."

"What was he doing?"


Feren quietly leaves, somewhat rattled by his experience. He heads to his quarters.

Time for some elven tea.

It seems K'at's ritual was successful in defeating the prison, but not the terms of the imprisonment. Indeed, it appears that even Moradin himself is unable to intervene. Something has to be in the container…

As best they can determine, the group believe that Krag has voluntarily returned to his confinement to prevent an even greater catastrophe - possibly this ruelock struggling against the power of the rod. None in the party have heard of the creature. They can only presume that the oily black manifestation they saw was the ruelock. If so, it is now in possession of the rod that holds Krag captive. Krag had been trapped for scarce months, and yet Krag said his ordeal had lasted five years. A day of Rowaine's freedom… A week of imprisonment for Krag? Despair threatens to wash over Rowaine. She then remembers Krag's words that Moradin is now with him, sustaining him, and that she will see him again when she is a match for this ruelock. That the creature must be vanquished for Krag to ever be truly free of the bargain he entered into. Rowaine remembers the words and takes heart. Words that seem surprisingly coherent for her friend…

Yeran takes over.

Rowaine and Arrian talk to the queen about the situation. She takes the news surprisingly calmly and expresses concern over K'at's disappearance, pointing out that others probably will not. She despatches some of her people to scout places he is known to frequent. Rowaine asks whether the queen knows of a creature called a ruelock, describing it as tendril-shaped, insubstantial, oily coherent smoke. The queen does not, but suggests that some of her people's scholars may possess that knowledge.

"I suspect you are safe, your highness," Rowaine says, "but to be safer I think we should leave."

"Perhaps Troll could help?" Arrian says. Rowaine nods. "Then that is our destination. Your highness, if you could relay anything you might find out about this ruelock to Trina? Be sure that I will do the same." They leave the queen.

Arrian and Rowaine gather Tomen, but Feren is missing. There is a note in his room saying that he has been called away and will return in the morning. With Troll in the grove, Ethalyn en route there already after the argument with her mother and Feren away, the party have no easy means of entering Trina's grove. They decide to spend one last night in Follyhall, waiting for Feren to return. Rowaine and Arrian spend the rest of the day tracking down a sage to question about the ruelock. They eventually find one, but he has not heard of the creature. He recommends that the group direct their inquiries to scholars in the capital, or K'at.

The following morning, Feren joins the others at breakfast. He has visited Elysia and has been asked to return a favour for Prince Dimaan of Ashhope, Prince Arthur's younger brother. The party learn that the city of Ashhope goes by another name locally: Aghome, the human kingdom's capital city, on the coast south of Carthenage.

Rowaine invites Feren to travel together, at least as far as Trina. Feren is not opposed to having the others journey with him to Ashhope.

"It wouldn't do to keep a prince waiting if he has summoned you," says Rowaine. "You should go. We need you for our first waypoint, and we might be of assistance for yours, so it seems we shall again share the trail. For how long, I do not know. I am not sure of my priorities, it all happened way too fast. I shall not make a decision until we get to Trina. Perhaps we shall learn more there."

The five travel to Trina's grove. Feren allows entrance inside and they reunite with Troll and his new wife. Ethalyn has been busy planning the formation of an armed 'secret society' to support the towers.

Arrian asks Troll whether he has heard of a ruelock. He has not. Rowaine approaches Trina with the same question.

"I have heard of a ruelock," Trina says. "A vast time ago one of my allies came to me fleeing a ruelock, a creature of darkness against which it had no defence. This ally would not ordinarily fear much in the natural world. Sadly, they are not seen today. All he was able to tell me was something about darkness and laughter. This happened near a branch that no longer lives, on a different continent to the southwest."

"There must be someone that knows something about this thing," Troll says.

"Perhaps Prince Dimaan does," Rowaine says. "Or someone in his city. Perhaps Abbey or Elondel knows?"

"I believe Master Troll's father was looking for a ruelock," Elondel says when asked. "I know that he was researching a ruelock, he didn't share his research with me. but I know that at one point he left for a tower based in the southwestern continent. At the end of his life, for a number of years it seemed to be an important topic that he was researching."

"So a ruelock was important to the Roulae family?" Rowaine asks.

"I don't know if it was important to the family, or just to him. Certainly his wife didn't seem to have the same obsession."

"He didn't share this information with any of the other Roulae?"

"Not that I am aware of. He did however keep extensive notes in his chambers." Chambers that the party have as yet been unable to access.

Rowaine returns and relays her conversation with Elondel. "We need information," she concludes.

"…and the capital seems a good place to seek it," Arrian says.

The party travel to Abbey and restock their equipment, returning their imithrium rapiers to Abbey's inventory. Neither Abbey nor Elondel has yet completed a replacement backpack. Abbey says that hers will be ready in around a month. Rowaine travels to Kharag Monastery and visits Sir Veketh, requesting a replacement holy symbol. The venerable dwarf hands her an image of a hammer and anvil, crafted in silver.

"What happened to your last one?"

"I gave it to Krag." She explains their brief reunion. Rowaine spends the night at the monastery; Troll and the others stay at Elondel.

The following day everyone gathers at Elondel. Troll asks for the party to be transported two hundred miles to the northeast. Tomen assesses their location and quickly finds the toad to Korenheim. They walk into the town just before midday. They find an upmarket inn called the Sea Cucumber. Troll arranges five rooms for the night, including a hearty dinner and breakfast. Arrian asks the innkeeper whether Korenheim has a local library. The innkeeper provides directions.

At the library, the party are introduced to a local sage. Rowaine describes the ruelock in great detail. The sage says that it sounds similar to a class of insubstantial magical beings he is familiar with, although he does not know this particular specimen. He infers that while this library contains excellent collections of local knowledge, that the libraries in Ashhope and Carthenage might be better sources of information. The party give their thanks, leave the library and spend an uneventful night at the inn. The meals are uncommonly good.

Several days later the party enter Ashhope. Feren points out the inn that they will be staying - the Smiling Monkey. He then departs to present himself to the prince, saying he will return tomorrow morning. The others head to Ashhope's library. They provide a detailed description of the ruelock to a local sage, who promises to begin research straight away. Rowaine leaves her contact details.

The following day, Feren returns after breakfast. He has met with the prince who has outlined the nature of the favour he wishes carried out. Ten days ago, an artifact was stolen from Ashhope's museum, a hammer that once belonged to a warrior hero of the people. The local guard found evidence that suggested the identity of the thief, a local lad, barely out of his teens, with connections to the thieves' guild. Three days ago the suspected criminal was found in a nearby village, dead. His body bore no wounds and the guard are unsure how he died. They have no more leads to follow up, hence the prince's summons to Feren.

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