THE CONTINUED ADVENTURES OF AMBROSE
aka: The Campaign moves to Eberron, 11 years after their return.
Eleven years after Ambrose and Angelina, et al had returned back to their world, they were still happily settled in their estate in
. Ambrose was a duke, captain of the musketeers and advisor to the king. The country knew of his lycanthropy and his status – and the fact that it was not a secret – protected him. Angelina was now his wife and a duchess in her own rights. They had two children – Chase, now 9, and Luna, only 4. For the most part, they were happy. Even in the position he was in, however, things were slower; compared to Ravenloft, his position was viertually a retirement. France
But…. It was not to last uninterrupted.
One night while Ambrose and Angelina were sound asleep in their bed, Ambrose’s dream took a turn for the worse. Angelina was pried from his arms by a strange shadowy woman, the background falling away from them into darkness. As hard as he tried to chase her, she spirited her away….
When he woke up… Ambrose was no longer home in bed… the scent of blood and meat accosted his nose and the warm figure in his arms was no Angelina. He bolted to his feet to find himself on a misty battlefield strewn with corpses. Though the corpses did not appear, for the most part, to have died from their injuries. Many of them lay dead without a scratch on them. Many others bore fresh wounds, but not a wound that should have been lethal. Fear crept over Ambrose as he feared the worst – that they were back in Ravenloft – somehow.
The warm body that he had awoken next to was a blessing and a curse – it was Jerrard, an old companion from his stay in Ravenloft – and someone who had not traveled “back” with them (and who was originally from there). While a friendly reunion, it was one stricken by the bleak, fearful setting. Jerrard offered no additional input to their locale…. But Jerrard was not the only one there – Zita was nearby as well… as was Soren. And none of them had arrived clothed.
Quickly salvaging clothing from the bodies, they tried to make sense of the situation. Zita had been on a ship and had just fallen overboard – miles and miles from
. Soren… mystery solved – had still been trapped in the book that they had brought back with them from Ravenloft – living out each story and fairy tale contained within – from 1001 Arabian Nights to Fairy tales – taking the part of a different figure each time. He was ecstatic to be free from his prison that Arman had never devised how to release him from. Jerrard had launched a campaign against the tyrant Drakov from Falcovnia – raised an army to stand against him and warred on him for years…. Only to suffer massive casualities. The war lasted five years and many men were lost and no ground was gained. The curse of the lands was that the rulers in place were protected by the dark powers of the land itself – crippling good forces in the land. Eventually, Jerrard saw that more good lives were being lost to the war than Drakov’s reign and he gave up… or at least went to regroup, claiming a castle in a different domain. France
After salvaging what they could from the things around them – as disturbing as the scene was, they began to move in hopes of finding some sort of key as to what they were doing there…
After some travel, they noticed movement – a figure amidst the bodies… but when they approached they were greeted with a monstrous construct – spires on its back impaling corpses and a lumbering, gorilla-like build. When they were spotted, it charged them. And… the characters quickly realized that even with their equipment gone, they were not quite the same as they had been before. ((*coughs* The characters were reset back to 8th level when most of them had been in the epic levels previously)). The battle was arduous, and Soren was knocked unconscious not far into the battle. And even Jerrard and Ambrose could barely damage the monstrosity. A strange cloaked figure showed up mid battle to aid them – shouting a warning to keep away from the machine – blasting it with arcane energy – only to be KO’d himself. Finally, they were able to overcome it by outsmarting it – luring it over the side of a ledge. Then, hauling the unconscious… being that had aided them, they began to travel in an arbitrary direction. The mysterious assistant looked to be part machine himself – an artificial man.
Eventually, they reached a small hut after the battlefield was left behind. Inside lived an old man, eccentric to put it nicely. He explained some basic principles of where they were – the former nation of Cyre – now called the “Mournlands”. The continent had been at war for 100 years over a contested inheritance after a monarch’s death. Cyre’s queen had been the rightful heir of the crown, but her siblings had other opinions. The war had finally ended six years ago… and while no nation really “won” the war – Cyre lost. Some strange magical attack was launched from an unknown source that wiped out anyone living in the country at the time. Ever since then, the land was cursed. Strangely, however, the curse was limited to the political border of the country. The machine that attacked them was called a “Cadaver Collector” and its original purpose had been to collect bodies from the battlefield – now entirely twisted. The battlefield they woke in was full of men wiped out by the magic – and had not even begun to rot in all that time. He went on to say that his family was in Cyre during the attack – he had been in another nation. He returned home to find them dead, and stayed there, having nothing else to live for. He went on to say that people who stayed there too long supposedly went crazy, “But I’ve seen no proof of that”… The characters mutually decided not to stay any longer than necessary.
But, the man also knew how to repair the automation that had assisted them. It woke, and introduced “him”self as Khallas – a ‘warforged’ – one of many artificial but sentient soldiers made for the war by mages. Now that the war had ended, the soldiers had been granted freedom.
It was about this time that Angelina just about literally showed up on the doorstep of the house. Ambrose was incredibly relieved to be reunited with her… but they shared a mutual concern for their children. Were they there… somewhere? Were they back at home, alone without explanation to their parents’ departure?
Now, with the exception of Arman, the key players from their previous adventures had been recollected… and it could not be a coincidence. Ambrose theorized that the magical wards that Arman had been building for years may have kept him from whatever force drew them out.
They got directions from the old man to the nearest neighboring country, and quickly set off together. Khallas joined them, expressing that he had wish to leave Cyre – that there was a group of Warforged led by one calling himself the “Master of Blades” – a warforged angry at humanity for their enslavement and continued degredation – often treated like second class citizens at best. Khallas had no desire to affiliate himself with them and they did not take kindly to that stance.
Also en route, Ambrose noticed something the first night outside… the lands, that Khallas and the old man had called Ebberon – had not one but twelve moons in the sky. And Ambrose quickly learned that when any one of them was full that he was forced to change forms.
On their way out of the country, they were ambushed by a group of warforged who were allied with the master of blades. They were defeated, but Khallas was doubly incented to get the hell out of dodge.
They traveled long and hard for days until they finally reached the edge of Cyre, and almost immediately noticed a thinning of the foreboding mists. It was not long from there to a small, Podunk border town.
Ambrose was quite eager – looking forward to a real bed, to a bath, regardless of how small the inn was.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Ambrose was quickly introduced to another stumbling block and complication of this world. When they went into the inn, suspicious eyes were turned towards both Ambrose and the warforged, and they were refused admittance. Apparently, there was a race of people in this world called “Shifters” – decended from lycanthropes (and with whom Ambrose shared similar characteristics). These people were not favored in the general community – 2nd class citizens especially in backwoods communities and stigmatized as rude, savage and bestial. The Warforged told Ambrose more of their reputation, and that long ago in the primary continent, Lycanthropes had been all but wiped out by the primary religion. With the twelve moons, it made it difficult for them to hide. Shifters were sometimes included in the inquisition, but in the end they were spared the genocide. But that in all, it was better to be assumed to be a shifter than to reveal that he was a lycanthrope – that old stigmas remained, especially among those who followed the religion of the Church of the Silver Flame. This stigma was just the beginning that Ambrose would experience – the closest thing he would receive to a compliment from most was that he was well spoken, “For a Shifter” . Even when given the time to primp and groom and shave/pluck, he was generally viewed as one trying to live above their status, a novel charade or attempt. Ambrose was frustrated, longed to return home where he had status and respect due to the captain of the musketeers and a personal advisor to the king. Where he didn’t have to hide what he was – while he might have to deal with whispers, no one questioned his position or his competence or nobility.
So, indignant, Ambrose camped outside of town with Angelina and Khallas.
Switching to outline format. Easier for me to write ^^;
- Bloodsucking bugs and Angelina’s dragonmark
- Angelina and Ambrose are attacked by undead bloodsucking bugs. Angelina is swarmed and Ambrose can’t do much to fend them off. Then, suddenly, a pattern (at first the simpler version) appears on her left side, near her waist and flares to life. The bugs cease attacking. It’s a dragonmark – Khallas appears to be hesitant about it where he has been forthcoming up to this point. Khallas cautions Angelina that she shouldn’t show anyone the dragonmark. Despite most dragonmarks only appearing on certain members of noble houses, he clammed up when it came to hers – at least for the moment.
- Undead on the road
- They continue on towards Sharn, the biggest city in the continent. On the way to the city where they can take a lightning rail (equivalent of a train). On the road, however, they come across a cart traveling in the opposite direction. When it gets to them, however, they find that the cart is manned by several skeletons in armor. They get out enough that they were sent to find the group, and move to attack. Angelina does the same thing again, and some skeletons flee, the remainder cowers – but not much information is gleaned. But the mere fact that they had only been in this world for a short period of time and someone knew they were there was enough to get the group suspicious and the unspoken question of whether whoever sent the skeletons was somehow responsible. Angelina’s control over the undead on top of that didn’t seem coincidental.
- Lord Drake and the Lightning rail
- Eventually the group makes it to a mid-sized city that has a stop on the lightning rail. They sell of a few items in order to book passage
- During their stay in the city, however, they meet a half-elven nobleman from one of the dragonmarked houses, Lord Drake. Lord Drake immediately takes a fancy to Angelina’s exotic elven appearance, but appears to be most helpful at the beginning, describing a good local inn to stay at that caters to shifters, etc.
- Finally, Ambrose was able to get access to a shower and a fresh bed. And their stay in town would be long enough to allow them to refresh themselves.
- While out shopping, Ambrose ran into Lord Drake again. At first, he was pleased to see him – he was one of the few pleasant individuals that they had run into. Ambrose inquired to where he could purchase some magically-woven clothing ((so that he wouldn’t have to replace clothing every time he shapeshifted)) and Lord Drake commented that he knew just the thing, and set up a meeting. When they met, Lord Drake presented him with an elegant Green and Gold suit. Drake said that it was clothing of mending – that it was magical, and once a day would fully repair itself if damaged. Ambrose was certainly interested, but when he inquired the price… Drake responded with a night with Angelina. Ambrose was insulted and furious. Despite Drake’s assurances that it was an innocent request – he wished to wine and dine her – to converse with her but nothing sordid, Ambrose would still hear none of it. She was his wife, “shifter” or no. Drake left the standing offer of meeting him at a fine restaurant that afternoon.
- Ambrose returned to the inn, fuming at Drake’s presumptions. Angelina was flattered, and smoothed Ambrose’s rankled ire. Ambrose was frustrated as being treated by everyone as some pitiable, lowly creature that wasn’t deserving of Angelina. It was an ironic reversal of roles considering their upbringings, but Ambrose was peeved.
- In order to try to prove himself, Ambrose dressed in some of the non-magical fineries that had been purchased, primped, and decided to take Angelina out himself for a fine dinner…. Indignantly, Ambrose went with Angelina to the restaurant that Drake was going to be at, determined to show him up and show Angelina off. Unfortunately, Ambrose was stopped at the door – the fine restaurant not welcoming to “his kind” However, the insulted fit Ambrose threw drew Lord Drake’s attention from within…
- Lord Drake graciously offered to have the pair of them join him at his table – eager to hear the stories that the lady would offer, and to buy her dinner. Angelina again smoothed Ambrose’s indignance, and after conferring with him, accepted. During the dinner, she played up her affection for her husband, despite the only marginally hidden insults towards Ambrose’s heritage that Drake threw. But the years in the courts had trained Angelina with a sharp tongue and a flaire for the court backtalking, and she kept up with his remarks, turning them around. And Drake made a show out of his wealth, ordering the most expensive of meals and wines – magically enhanced spices, aged wines from across the continent. It was truly a meal like no other. By the time it was over, Ambrose insisted on paying his own way – and he was only barely able to afford it with the share of the money. He had wished to cover Angelina’s as well to prove a point…. But alas, Drake showed him up there.
- Ambrose did end up getting the suit out of the bargain, and Angelina was flattered, insisting to Ambrose that they had gotten away with taking advantage of his wealth and arrogance, though the situation never sat quite well with Ambrose.
- Meanwhile, most of the group struck up a bargain with the conductors of the lightning rail – in order to help save money on the expensive thousand mile trip to Sharn, they offered to work : Angelina on waitstaff, the rest in loading and unloading Cargo. Ambrose, unfortunately bound by the 12 moons, would be riding in cargo. He purchased a fine cage, and went in wolf-form to prevent a worse fiasco.
- Ironically, Lord Drake was also to be riding to Sharn. As soon as he heard that Angelina was working on waitstaff, he insisted on paying her way to get her out of her responsibilities. Ambrose was stuck in the cargo and unable to interfere. Again, he insisted on treating her – presenting her with an elegant dress and a fine meal…. And slipped a drug into her drink.
- Angelina woke in a private cabin with Lord Drake standing over her. He had a strange bell that he had rung, and she was bound. Lord Drake himself was dragonmarked, from a house that prided themselves with their investigation skills, and he put them to use to this curious woman – forcing her to give him truthful answers to his questions. While she was able to circularly talk around most of the direct questions by answering not with what he was looking for – he was able to glean that she was from a very different place… and that Ambrose was not a shifter… Fortunately for Angelina, when he tried to erase her memory of the proceedings at the end, he failed that one step and she remembered, though feigned ignorance.
- Meanwhile, in the cargo hold, Ambrose was privy to an attempted robber. Zita had been keeping him company, playing bones with him when four men disguised as security guards commanded Zita leave. Then, their visages shifted to strange, pale, almost featureless faces as they cracked into a vault containing silver bars. Ambrose howled, raising the alarm and Zita rushed in to stop them. Ambrose joined the scuffle when it became apparent that Zita needed the assistance, and Jerrard was close enough to hear her scream. Together, they defeated the robbers, but not the dragonmarked sorcerer that seemed to be orchestrating the affair – and also the man who should have been conducting the lightning rail. Unfortunately, that one escaped with the bulk of the money… Lord Drake’s money.
- Eventually the group made it to the hailed city of
– a massive city of spirialing towers. Sharn is built in layers – literally those with less money living closer to the ground – those of wealth living in the tall spires or even on floating segments of the city. And unlike the places they had been before, items containing powerful magics were amazingly common – able to be purchased in the extensive markets. They got rooms in an inn, and set about starting to familiarize themselves with the city and formulating a plan of action. Sharn
- House D and Jerrard
- Angelina was not the only one in the group of mislocated individuals who had a mark appear on their body. During the travel, a similiarly colored mark appeared on Jerrard’s neck. This one, Khallas informed them, was the mark of the sentinel – the mark that was associated with House Deneith, a group of men who both enforced the laws across the many nations as well as would hire out for mercenary work.
- Additionally, Khallas finally elaborated on Angelina’s mark. There are two kinds of dragonmarks: the marks of the houses which were a bluish-green in color, and the aberrant dragonmarks, which appeared in various colors. Hers was the color of a true mark, but not any that he knew. Which meant one thing. It had to be from the lost 13th house: the House of Vol. The bearers of the Mark of Death.
- The Mark of Death Reference images (least and lesser)
- The mark of death was rumored to be more powerful than the other marks, its domain over life and death itself. They commanded undead creatures, and powerful members had the ability to draw the life from people. But they had been destroyed long ago.
- Jerrard decided to go visit House Deneith to see them himself and what they would have to offer him.
- Soren the changeling
- Soren also experienced an event that tied him more to this world and its people. As it turned out, one of the rings that he had picked up in the Mournlands in Cyre was cursed. One morning while washing his face, it seemed to wash right off – leaving him pale and with only the simplest of features. He seemed to have become a changeling like Ambrose had seen on the train. And like on, appeared to be able to mimic the appearances of others. Soren, however, was none too thrilled and quite shaken by this development.
- So while Jerrard went off to learn of his house, Soren sought out a mage. Ambrose accompanied him.
- The Mage Fillimin – The Tale of fall of the House of Vol & the lich queen
- After some inquiries, the pair was referred to a mage by the name of Fillimin who lived in the upper eschelons of the city.
- They traveled to his house, and the doors swung open to admit them to a lavish manor in the city. Items of all sorts of design, exotic heads of fantastic creatures mounted on the walls and so forth. They were called upstairs by a voice to meet Fillimin himself – a surprisingly young-looking wizard in his laboratory.
- Introductions were made, and the friendly, charismatic wizard surprised Soren by overhearing his snide comments to Ambrose that he looked rather young to be a wizard. Ambrose commented back that perhaps he was just that powerful. Fillimin confirmed that indeed – he had been alive for hundreds of years.
- Soren inquired about his recent… change. And Filiman ran several magical tests on him – narrowing down the cause of the rather permanent change to be his ring that was cursed. Apparently it had exchanged properties with the owner, absorbing something of Soren’s luckiness, making the process difficult if not impossible to reverse. The ring was also unable to be removed.
- However, while there, Ambrose asked Filiman about what might have caused them to arrive in this world – being honest about being from another place altogether. And how they might return. This seemed to be the first individual they encountered with enough knowledge to perhaps help them get back home, and to their children.
- Fillimin then turned more serious. He said that if they wanted honesty from him in this subject, that he first needed their honesty. He tipped his hand, saying that he knew of Ambrose’s true lycanthropic nature – that the spells and wards that he had up on his house told him a great deal about all who set foot inside – and also their intentions. That Ambrose seemed to be a good, trustworthy man, but that he would need details.
- Soren spoke up when Ambrose hesitated, and gave him details of their arrival, and that the mark of death had appeared on one of the party.
- Fillimin said that at the time of their arrival, the world had been close to the plane of Chaos – which might account for the sudden arrival of one, but the fact that many people spanning worlds who all had a previous connection arrived at the same time seemed counter to that being an explanation. He did not know of a method that could bring them here – other planes were known, but they were elemental planes, not worlds.
- He researched into his books, and told them of the House of Vol. They were slaughtered over two thousand years ago by the elves of Aeranel when they participated in a forbidden crossbreeding experiment between their elven members and dragons. The dragonmarks’ purpose, in addition to granting abilities to the bearers, supposedly are pieces to a great prophecy that the dragons (and a few other mortal scholars) study intently. The House of Vol attempted to crossbreed their races in order to somehow manipulate this prophecy and subsequently pissed off both the dragons and the other elves. Only one member survived, the half-dragon daughter of the queen, who turned her into a lich. This made her dragonmark useless, but saved her life… (unlife)? The house of Vol itself was destroyed, and the daughter (who later began to be known as simply “Vol”) could never re-enter – no longer bearing an active mark. Rumors had it that she sought ways to bring back the house to its former glory. She since started a religion, The Blood of Vol, and for a while established its base of operations in the country of Karrnath. The same country whose uniform the undead who attacked the group on the road bore. During the war, Karrnath was low on men, and allied with Vol in order to increase their ranks. After the war, this was no longer necessary and the alliance was severed. But, this tie supported the suspicion that Vol had something to do personally with their arrival in this world, and Angelina’s dragonmark.
- Additionally, the House of Vol had remained sealed for over two thousand years and required someone with the Mark of Death to open it. It was likely that Vol would require Angelina to do this task for her, and might be why she was somehow brought here. The House likely contained a great deal of lost knowledge. It was Vol’s birthright. And if they did not go, they may be forced to. And perhaps, they could use the information to find a way home – to give to her to have her return them. The house had been lost for centuries, and the only map to the ruins was possessed by the library of the gnomes in the country of Zilargo. But they prized rare information and had refused to let anyone take it from them. People could see it, but it had some sort of magical property to it that would not transcribe to a copy.
- He also expressed an interest in what would be found in the crypt. He said that the information he had given them that day was valuable – both to Soren and in regards to the house. In exchange he asked for knowledge from the crypt… and a sample of Ambrose’s blood. When asked why he wanted the knowledge, he told them something of himself:
- Fillimin had once been on an expedition to the underground of Xendrik and encountered a fabled spring of immortality. However, the spring did not provide eternal youth, only eternal life. After years of study, and bargains, he found a way to return himself to the state of a young man, from which he would begin aging. However, when he did, he forgot much of the knowledge that he had learned in the interim… and it was infuriating. He sought a way to retain that knowledge, or to stop aging altogether. As the house of Vol was a house that wielded powers over life and death itself, if that knowledge was anywhere, it might very well lie somewhere in the secret libraries of the house.
- The pair left, and went to discuss and share the information with the rest of the party.
- Angelina was hesitant to want to open the crypt- understandably. If this is what they were summoned by the Lich to do, why should they do it? It surely boasted no good. Zita, remarkably, provided the logical answer. If they didn’t do it willingly, there were already enough people in the know to force their hands. This lich queen had already sent skeletons after them – she knew they were there. If they didn’t all go willingly, Angelina might be kidnapped and forced to open the doors on Vol’s… or someone entirely different’s terms.
- Deal with the house of D
- Eventually, Jerrard returned from his house, lauding them with praise. How honorable they were, how wonderful they were for remaining a neutral, law-enforcement force across the many nations. They did hire out, sometimes, but it was primarily guard work, not mercenaries or assassins. And how this made them more trustworthy than any other house. When he heard about the information from the mage, he recommended that they take this knowledge instead to the house. That if there was a great knowledge, that they should police it – not an individual. That they would be tolerant of the group, and helpful. Jerrard did have selfish motivations, in that he wished to earn the favor of the house to earn an esteemed position in the house and thus in the continent. However, Jerrard was still an excellent judge of character, and despite Fillimin’s charisma, Ambrose was himself hesitant. So the group agreed to meet with a representative from the house.
- Master S(something) also made a good impression on the group. Ambrose had the opportunity to use the formal, court interactions and impress the lord of the house. He was introduced by Jerrard as the duke that he was, and the interactions were fairly open, there being no secret about their origins from a separate world. The house expressed an interest in the contents of the house of Vol, and volunteered to pay them, as well as fund their expedition in exchange for knowledge they found inside. They said that they would research possibilities for their travel back to their world.
- They were very much neutral as far as the houses and the countries were concerned. They were the closest thing that the lands had to an international police force. And they would represent the information to the council of houses to see that it was shared and not used as a tool for one individual. So they said, at least.
- Ambrose inquired the house of the reputation of Fillimin, seeking an outside opinion. He had been long known as a powerful wizard. While they didn’t have any particular intelligence against him – he was a man of close secrets and powerful magics. But they didn’t trust him. He had been banned from enlisting men from the house when one expedition he hired two guards, one didn’t come back and the other came back no longer able to speak.
- The decision made, the group decided to take the house’s patronage for their expedition. The house agreed that they would need to first travel to Zilargo… however they likewise had not been able to bribe the map from the gnomes. And said that they would not be formally represented during this mission – that they would need to work by themselves and the house would disavow all connections for their purposes.
- Zilargo Gnomes & their esteemed library
- So the group traveled to Zilargo, all expenses paid by house Deneith. When they arrived, much as the descriptions said, it was to a country mostly populated by gnomes that barely reached most of the party’s knees. It was disorienting, and kind of flattering. And everyone was exceedingly friendly. They found an inn without a problem that catered to their size. Everyone smiled, everyone was polite. And they already began to feel guilty about what it was that they had come to do. The food was exquisite. But after retiring to their rooms, they discussed a plan of action, and Khallas informed them more on the state of things in Zilargo. While the surface was a utopia, Zilargo was a military state without any real head. There was a secret group of enforcers. There was no jail; lawbreakers were merely… dealt with. Everyone was so outwardly happy and polite because they treated every conversation as if it might be with one of those enforcers, or being observed by them. Even enforcers may not know who their bretheren were and were in and of themselves not above the rules. It had been that way for a very long time, and very difficult to change, because most of the gnomes didn’t want it to change. People were friendly…
- Attempted deal above the law. The group first wanted to try to deal above the law if at all possible (most of the group at least). They visited the famed library of Zilargo – and it was massive. Housed in several buildings, each many stories tall, and each packed with books. They were organized by colleges, and the tour took half a day. Ambrose and several others experienced a sinking feeling with the tour specifically included the map, behind a thick pane of glass, rope, and those that could see magic could tell at least some of the traps placed around it. It was a gem of their collection of rare knowledge. They tried to bargain with the curator. They offered him otherworldy knowledge, anything else that they might persuade him with – and to only borrow the map. But they kept hitting dead ends. He was scared for his life even if he would have wanted to help them. They asked about a superior to go to – but each channel was balanced by some sort of check that would never allow the map to leave the library.
- When all else fails…
- Plan B. As much as (at least Ambrose and Jerrard) loathed to have to resort to it, Soren and Zita were charged with surveiling the building and forming a plan to break in and steal the map. After all… if they didn’t do it…. Someone else might, right? And someone else might not be above kidnapping Angelina to get what they wanted.
- So surveil they did, and eventually a plan of attack was formed. The group pre-arranged spaces on a ship that was persuaded to leave the harbor that night, and broke into the library under the cover of night. After disabling some traps, trying to quietly deal with a few guards (Ambrose and Jerrard thought that they were KO’d… except for a disturbing display as Angelina’s dragonmark flared to life and drained the last breath of life from one of the three. Ambrose began a process of denying the creepiness that was starting to settle over Angelina. The rest of the two were left alive, but Zita finished the job behind the group’s back.)
- Finally, they made it to the map – or more specifically, the other side of the wall from the map. The wall was cut out, the map pulled off the piece of wall after disabling the last few traps… and then a powerful ooze-guardian descended on them. After a difficult battle, it was dispatched, and the party fled….
- But once again, Zita acted rashly without disregard to others. Charged by Soren to help make a distraction for their escape, she did just that – in the form of setting fire to the floor of the library. It… did serve as a distraction, helping the group get away unstopped to the ship. But the rest of the group was mortified and furious with Zita. If there had been any chance to repair relations with the gnomes by the later return of the map, things had just gotten MUCH more complicated. Not to mention the knowledge destroyed by the fire before it could be put out.
- Fleeing to Sharn – The group fled back to sharn to report to House D and to lie low for a little bit. House D was furious as well. To try to help with reparations, Zita was detained for a time. But even then she escaped prematurely to later catch up with the group.
- Travel to Aerenal – The group, minus Zita, then traveled to the
, the ancestral home of the elves. During the journal, Angelina’s dragonmark unveiled a set of instructions on the map – that it had to be first taken to Aerenal, and then the map would only be revealed on the skin of the dead… Aerenal Island
Aerenal itself was a subdued country, even the capital city in which they arrived was quiet. People spoke in hushed voices, and despite the flashy, elegant garb of elves in the cities in the rest of the nation, in Aerenal clothing was also subdued and more plain. The Aerenal elves had begun a practice long ago of unnaturally prolonging the already lengthy lives of particularly revered and productive members of their society. In an ultimate form of ancestor-worship, those ancestors in question still walked amongst the people. While not undead (or at least the elves would never call them undead) – they did appear to be - withered, husks of their former selves, but dry and leathery looking – like a mummy in extreme cases. But supposedly, unlike most undead which were corpses with or without the soul still bound to the body that was animated by dark, necromantic magics, these elves had not truly died, merely had their lives prolonged unnaturally by the sort of magic behind curing spells. But… of course the magics could only do so much as far as the preservation of the body itself.
- The Map – So, while the rest of the party stayed behind at an inn, Angelina with Soren, for the sake of a quiet endeavor, snuck off to a cemetery to try to get the map to work. Things were complicated by the fact that the cemetery was a massive building at the center of the city – people would often visit with passed loved ones and family members who had not joined the undying. Spells were in place to allow for facilitated “speak with dead” spells to still communicate, in a fashion, with them.
- Finding a body was not difficult, Even placing the map on its chest and casting the appropriate spell was not difficult. The searing smell of burning flesh as the map began to be etched into its dead skin did rouse attention…. That was dealt with quickly and lethally.
- Not talking about the complications, Angelina and Soren returned to the group with the piece of the skin that bore the map.
- Travel through the haunted wood and the Ruins of The House of Vol
- The map pointed towards the other side of the rather large island, and so the group rented horses, and set off. The travel up to the woods wherein the house was supposedly contained was uneventful. The woods themselves were rumored to be haunted, and it seemed they had found the proper place. The woods were very thick – too thick to bring the horses.
- Indeed, after only a few hours of travel… zombies began to be spotted. However they walked listlessly, purposelessly and didn’t even seem to notice the group. As they traveled closer to the direction the map pointed, they became more and more prevalent. Finally, they found an ancient building in ruin - they had found the ruins of the house of Vol.
- But the ruins were not completely uninhabited. While the lower quarters were sealed away, a group of hyeana-like people ((gnolls) had taken up residence in the halls and were not very enthusiastic about visitors. The group tried to communicate – Ambrose taking negotiator position in hybrid form. But language barriers were still present, and the creatures were defensive. Basic universal sign language expressed that they wished to travel through their area, but they would not have it. Angelina showed her mark – which was engraved all over the ruins, and their only solution was for her to come alone, tied up. When the group said they would all come, things got heated and a fight broke out.
- Near the end of a long battle with the majority of the war-like tribe, one more individual showed up, fighting on their side. A tall, rather scaly man who bore a striking resemblance to a dragon himself. After the battle was over, he introduced himself as Ropa – a servant of the dragon kings. And despite appearances, was not a halfbreed but an … “enlightened” ex-half-elf. He said that he meant them no harm, but the dragons in their wisdom had heard of the potential resurfacing of the 13th dragonmark and he had been sent to oversee and bear witness to the event. The dragons were keenly interested in seeing what happened – both for the sake of their prophecy and to see how the house would stand.
- Entrance below –
- After they had rested, the group found the sealed door to the underbelly of the house. It responded to Angelina’s mark, and opened.
- The patient servant Belbar – In the entryway of the keep below, they soon encountered a rather prim undead elven man by the name of Belbar. He was overjoyed to see Angelina. Apparently, he had been locked away in the keep below to wait for the return of his masters, members of the house bearing the dragonmark. He was unaware of the details of the neigh total extermination, but was well aware that he had been waiting far too long. He explained that he had been down there alone longer than he could remember, but was happy to see his mistress and her other “servants”. He said that unfortunately the other guardians below had lost their mind due to the time that they had been trapped below, and many of the areas of the keep were unsafe. He had been tasked to watch the libraries, and so he had. But the book of the family history was trapped behind a door – dropped when he ran across an unpleasant fellow. He knew that the treasure of the keep was in the vaults far below, but guarded by an undead dragon, likewise maddened by its confinement.
- Clearing out the house of Vol – And so the party set out, following Belbar’s lead, to clear out the beings that had gone mad with age, finally putting them to a more permanent rest. There were unpleasantries such as some ghasts, a putrid water elemental, swarms of tiny undead insects, and a hulking undead brute covered in infectious swellings (the creature that Belbar had dropped the book near). They opted to wait before deciding whether or not to tackle the dragon. They asked Belbar what the treasure was, but he could not recall. Many things were foggy to Belbar’s recollection, thanks to his time below. While they cleared things out, they got to a small storage room of minor magical items and the library which contained a good many books, though many were so old that they were all but destroyed. They packed up what they could.
- The book of the family and Vol’s mother, Minara – They recovered the book of family history, inscribed with powerful magic wards that prevented all but Angelina from touching it. When she picked it up and opened the cover, a ghostly apparition appeared that appeared to be of an elven woman. She introduced herself as Minara, Erandis’s mother ((the woman who had become to be known simply as “Vol’”). She explained a good many things, and answered many of the party’s questions. While she did not know all of the specifics of what had happened to her daughter since the door to the house was resealed, she did know a great deal:
- History of the Bloodline and the House – She told them more of the house’s fall, the specifics, and that the dragon that guarded the treasure below was the green dragon that had assisted the family in Erandis’s creation ((Ie, her lover/Erandis’s father)). He too had been killed in the slaughter of the family, and tied to the house to further its protection. Not all dragons were of one mind with the prophecy, and the House of Vol was one of the oldest houses bearing the oldest dragonmarks. The treasure it protected was an ancient device….
- The history of the elves on Eberron – The elves of Eberron were created ages ago when the land was ruled by Giants. They sought a slave people to rule over and thus the elves served this purpose. They drew forth beings from the feyrealm to serve this purpose – creatures with lifespans as long as their own. The first incarnations of these beings were longer lived and more feytouched in nature. But eventually through the generations they became more bound by the earthly plane they resided in, becoming what became generally known as elves. Eventually, the elves along with other races rebelled against the giants and overthrew them with assistances… however, before then the giants created a device intended on being able to allow them to traverse other worlds. It is theoried that this device was used to spread the elves across the worlds – to places like Ravenloft, and perhaps might explain Angelina’s birthright – to a common ancestor to the elves that eventually became the house of Vol. However, there was a great cost to the energy required to power the device – namely the life energy of all beings of whatever race activated the device in a very large range… the details are unspecified, due to the fact that the device had not been used in a very, very long time. The House of Vol had taken it upon themselves to guard the device.
- Angelina is a magical nexus! Yaaay… So why Angelina, they posed to the woman. Why were they brought here? The answer was not quite to the liking of many of the party members. Angelina, so it seemed, was a sort of magical nexus. While she did apparently have ancestry with the elves – perhaps from her unknown father – she was a nexus point for magical energy. Her presence on the ship was very likely a reason that it was targeted and pulled into Ravenloft. Her status was one reason that she – and likely other individuals around her – were easily influenced in either awakening their own potentials to magic or a different race when exposed to magic, and she herself was so mutable in their journey to Ravenloft until she settled into her final incarnation. She was always fey touched, and that nature awoke not long after going to ravenloft – the swanmey were a fey organization and she was chosen to bear the cloak. Her mutable form to different fey creatures was her settling into her destiny. That nature was also targeted by Gwydion and either corrupted or awakened when he took influence over her and she became a shadow-fey. However, given that she apparently had the potential to bear the mark of death when brought to Eberron, it is possible that that darker, shadow-fey nature resided in her all along to some degree. And as far as her being brought to Eberron and why the rest were there as well, it was likely that whatever spell Vol used to bring her there was general in seeking the mark of death – and so it brought her as well as those lives that were the closest to her.
- The children… If that was the case, then where were the children? They had been brought as well. This came as a shock to the group – they had been traveling the land for three months seeking a way to return to them. While there were servants that likely would care for their needs back home, Ambrose, and Angelina especially were desperate to get back to return to them… This piece of news was not well-received. Beyond that, they were in the care of Erandis d’Vol herself. This information, to say the least, was NOT well received.
- Tampering with the door and a week’s wait – The characters rested for the night. When they awoke, Ropa was gone and the door into the tomb was sabotaged, ensuring that it could not be relocked. The characters were less than pleased. They then decided what to try to do. They were pretty certain the Vol had intended for them to unlock the tomb to grant her access, probably to the device hidden in the treasure room and guarded by the dragon. She had their children. Now that the tomb could not be relocked, they couldn’t exactly just leave the device in the care of the building any longer. They figured that if they had a chance to defeat the dragon, than Vol certainly did – not to mention the blood relation would probably make things easier. So leaving it in its care was not safe. If they retrieved it themselves, perhaps they could use it as a bargaining chip. Or, perhaps they could hide it somewhere safe or take it to House Deneith. Many of the characters were in disagreement. Finally, they agreed to try to wait. They stayed in the tomb outside the door that led to the dragon’s room for a week, hoping that perhaps Vol herself would show up and they might have a chance to deal with her personally. The week came and went with no sign of the woman. Only Zita, who had managed to escape from the prison and caught up with the group. So they were forced to make a decision.
- The ghost dragon guardian Jordanix, aka "The Emerald Claw"
- Finally, they decided to attempt to defeat the dragon themselves and to decide then what to do with the “Treasure”. They entered the room to find nothing except a massive room with a door on the far side. Hesitant, and worried that Vol might somehow have come and gotten around their security, they took a long time and took down the magic barrier on the far door. Inside was a treasure room…. And as soon as the door was open a ghostly dragon manifested. Reasoning with the dragon failed – it was maddened with the wait, and Angelina showing him her mark only infuriated it further. It was a difficult battle, but the group was ultimately successful ((in DEFEATING the dragon... not necessarily permanently destroying it)). However, the treasure room – a sort of pocket space behind the door – began to crumble as soon as the dragon was defeated, and they were only able to get out a limited amount of the treasure of the household before it collapsed – leaving only the massive device – an egg-shaped device about the size of a cart with runes all over it, a large gem, and a cart-structure built around it with the mark of death and wheels. The wheeled it out of the treasure unit along with what they could salvage, and began to debate on what to do. But even if the device was returned to Vol to try to bargain back the children, what if she used it against her ancient elven enemies? Even if she could get them home with it, at what cost? And was House Deneith even trustworthy if they brought it to them? They were just one house, regardless of how neutral they were – and was that sort of power trustworthy in the hands of one organization? If they tried to hide it, wouldn’t Vol (who knew of its existence and was only stopped by the warding that only allowed the mark of death to enter) just go get it wherever else they tried to hide it… or anyone else that might be less trustworthy?
- Vol herself had long been hidden – the mage and House Deneith had already said that no one, not even the other houses, knew where she hid. She had centuries to build up wards to protect her location. However, the center of her church used to be in Karrnath. Ultimately, they wanted to use the device as a bargaining chip… so they lugged the device to the entrance of the tomb, taking Belbar with them, who was eager to serve his mistress, the surviving member of the house, once again.
- Contact with Vol – In a way, as soon as they exited, one of their problems was solved. A ghostly visage of Vol manifested before the group – a spell to communicate with them. She seemed pleased, but said that she cared very little about the device: she boasted that she could get it whenever she liked. But that they had proved their usefulness and how far they would be willing to go… She confirmed that she had their children, that they were “safe”, and she would be giving them instructions “later.” She refused to answer any other questions, her image disappating.
- Argument on what to do
- The group was frustrated. Ambrose and Angelina in particular – their hands were tied, their children were kidnapped and they didn’t even have a bargaining chip or even know what the “kidnapper” wanted of them. They had already been separated from them for three months, and lord knew what this lich queen was doing to them. What brainwashing or other hideous things that could be done to them in their absence. Or what they thought was going on – not to mention missing out on vital times in childrearing.
- And that still left the device. Vol showed no interest in it, so it couldn’t even be a bargaining chip. House Deneith expressed interest in whatever they found, and seemed neutral enough, but again with the issue of trustworthiness and the power of this device in the hands of a single organization. Jerrard argued to bring it to them, but he was biased – he knew that bringing the device would garnish him a great deal of favor. But hiding the device only seemed to beg for someone of lesser worth to stumble on it. Discussions were made to present it to “The Twelve” – a council of representatives of each of the houses… but that council only met for business purposes – to construct such devices as the Lightning rail that required magics from all the houses, and was more of a business conglomerate than a ruling government. Eventually, agreements were reached to just bring it to House Deneith. They had promised to initiate investigations into a way home for the group, something which even Vol seemed reticent to deal with. So, while it may not have been an ideal solution, it seemed the best plausible.
- Back to Sharn and House Deneith – So they met with a ship from House Deneith, and with the device illusioned as a mere large chest until they were once again in the presence of the lord of the Sharn branch of Deneith, they returned. They told him of what had happened, of the device, and presented it to him. He swore to keep it safe, and to continue with investigations into a way home for Ambrose and Angelina. He would meet with Jerrard about initiation into the upper eschelons. And they decided to “anonymously” donate many of the books and ancient works of artwork recovered from the House of Vol, along with the return of the map, to the Gnomes of Zilargo as some attempt at reparations. The group also agreed to take the value of the books from Zita’s share, as she was the one responsible for the fire. It would be up to Soren to meet with Fillimin and try to smooth things out with him. Meanwhile, the House D paid the group and told them that they would probably be sitting on their hands for a while – encouraged them to buy or rent property in Sharn until a plan of action could be devised to assist them with finding their children.
- Reluctantly, Ambrose and Angelina rented a property in a nice district of the city, with Belbar as a live-in servant. And waited anxiously for an opportunity or word from Vol on how to recover their children. In the meantime, they familiarized themselves more with the world that they had found themselves in. Ambrose was nostalgic for home, and of course the children. A place where he had a position of power and respect instead of being looked down upon as a “shifter” in a massive, confusing new world.
- Zita and Soren made more permanent arrangements, certainly more happy in this location than anywhere in Ravenloft! Jerrard took up residence in House Deneith.
TO BE CONTINUED.