Eberron Nights

A Scavenger Hunt Begins

Weeks after the tournament, there are still some rivalries and unfinished business left between students and houses. With that in mind, the professors announce the students will now have a chance to team up on a group project, a scavenger hunt. While not directly fighting other groups, they are all racing to the same goal, so it is still a competitive event. The professors were unable to give any clues to the purpose or goal of the hunt but for the scroll they gave to each house in the morning:

“Shape of pig, taste of sap; both skins contain knowledge.”

The riddle eventually led the party to the gardens where the living guardian topiary roamed in the form of boar. Approaching a group of them, they carefully looked for those ambulatory instead of simple bushes, and soon brought down two tree-boars. Deep within their branches was the next clue of their hunt, a parchment with a cypher of numbers and letters. Isis realized they were a call number to a specific book in the library, even a page within that book.

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Dueling Platform

After returning from their semi-authorized adventure into the supposed lich’s dungeon, the professors announced an upcoming dueling tournament, pitting student against student in direct single competition. The goal of this tournament was simply to knock one’s opponent from the long narrow platform, whether by shoving, charming, tricking, or simply knocking out and tossing.

Each student had some tricks up their sleeve, with degrees of success depending on their opponents’ own strengths. The ratfolk alchemist threw a poisoned dagger at Ari, the shepherd diviner of Wolpertinger. With just enough strength before falling unconscious, however, he was able to grab and flip the rat from the platform with supernatural insight, then immediately falling unconscious himself.

Nyan faced a gnome of house Aboleth, who spent his preparatory time extolling the advantages of the study of enchantment. Whatever is point, however, it didn’t seem to stick as the tibbit vanished, then erupted with a shriek in his ear before setting him aflame and tossing him off the platform.

The gnome artificer faced off with a wild looking shifter, also from house Aboleth, who summoned a small dragon and huge tree rodent to double team him. Their quick, relentless team onslaught finally drove him back and off the platform, unable to push back.

Isis stood against a half-elf girl of the Hellcats, and apparently prematurely white-haired. When the battle began, however, that hair flipped out to whip and grab at the illusionist until the gnome managed to knock her out with some dazzling spells.

Finally Cuali the Coatl summoner transformed into his larger serpent spirit to face the house Bulette Warforged. With a battle of strength and spells, Cuali managed to finally trip up the living construct and toss him down.

Finishing the tournament, the professors congratulated the winners, reminding everyone that win or lose, one must learn all he can about his own strengths and weaknesses, and how those can be best leveraged against an opponent, especially one of vastly different skill sets. If one does not pursue academics exclusively, an adventuring wizard has to be able to deal with many different challenges normally outside his expertise.

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Meeting the Dragon

After their encounter with the Bulette house students, the gnome illusionist Isis again succumbed to the strain the fight on her mind, lapsing back into a stupor. Temarith alone had the strength to carry her back to the school infirmary, and wished the party luck as they continued. Exploring the alcove the Bulette students came from, they party found another gnome and a small ratfolk tied up and gagged. Freeing them, they revealed themselves to be another pair from Wolpertinger trying to uncover the secret of the Lich’s tomb. Deciding to join forces, the group of students took another look at the puzzle facing them.

Examining the chess set, the party could infer it had something to do with the mural spanning Eberron’s world history of cataclysm and war. The mural concluded with the Day of Mourning, destruction of Cyre, and the emergence of the five figures depicted on the chess board: a queen, a skeletal knight, a bear, bishop, and warforged. Each figurine was carved from a different type of stone, suggesting their opposing factions, and seemed to represent Aundair, Karrnath, Breland, Thrane, and former Cyre, now the Mournland. Each figure had at least one other in check. Experimenting with positioning, the adventurers found that moving them all away, with nobody threatened, the massive iron door behind the column opened on its own.

Stepping inside, they were greeted by a colossal dragonICN_Colossal_Red_Dragon.jpg! After a moment’s hesitation, they determined it was stone, and not any type of dragon they could recognize from study. There were features of every type of dragon they’d heard of, with forward-swept horns of a black, the frontal horn of a blue, the whiskers of a gold, the crest of a brass, etc. The sheer scale and detail of it suggested magical creation, but it radiated no further enchantment.

Surrounding the dragon was a massive orrery of thirteen moons, each also linked to the thirteen planes that orbit Eberron. Surrounding the statue were five chests as well. As one student opened a chest, a distinct click was heard as one of the moons came loose to swing down nearby. Missing any bodies, it continued swinging through the central brazier, lighting it, and causing it to spread a thick black smoke as it swung and bounced around the room. The party hit the floor, hid behind the statue, or fled the room while waiting for the flaming thurible to burn out and come to rest. Just a minute later, as the moon came to a stop, the students collected themselves and examined the bounty they found in the chests. There was a silver shortsword with a wolf head crossguard and etched moon, a wicked looking greatsword inscribed with celestial, a broad serrated dagger that always balanced on its tip, a quarterstaff constructed half of white ash and half darkwood, then the final chest at the dragon’s feet held a jeweled ring and a golden scaled egg still hot from the enchantment that was suddenly evident inside the chest. With these mysterious items, the party found themselves at the end of the lich’s dungeon with no sign of an undead wizard, or any other true owner at all.

With nothing else for it, the party took their treasures and made the long trek back to the village Arcanix. Sneaking into the hippogriff stables, they managed to coax a couple mounts into giving them a ride up to the floating towers, where Professor Shadowell quietly waited in the dark. Unsurprised by their return to campus, he simply checked their names off a ready list and shooed them off to the infirmary and their residence as he waited for other groups to come trickling in.

Cuali stumbled to the infirmary, where Isis was already under the care of the school cleric, being brought back to relative sanity with the blessing of Aureon. The next morning, the party of students was called to a classroom, along with several other groups of students from various houses. Their advisors were all there, explaining that every year, rumors spread of a dungeon or tomb of lost magical knowledge and treasure among the second year students, and that it was as much a test of knowledge and skill as their classes and exams were. It was even the responsibility of upperclassmen to maintain and restore the dungeon and its traps for the next class to discover. Not being caught was also just as much part of the test, however, and they were all given various chores to complete as part of their discovery.

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Dungeon Delve

At the start of sophmore year, the students were given access to the laboratory to sew enchantments into their own student robes. With some coaching and practice, they learned more about the crafting of magic items, as well as protecting themselves from accidents around the school.

Rumor also began, that long ago, in the old kingdom of Galifar or even before, a ancient and wicked lich made his lair nearby, and that it lay undiscovered even since his own destruction, and that anyone who found it would have unknown magical knowledge, power, and wealth. The students went into a flurry of activity, gossiping and researching what they could. The Wolpertingers followed suit, conducting their own research, questioning other students, and even sabotaging their efforts as they left on a head start in the morning.

cavefisher.jpgTheir research led them to where they believed the lair should be. Unfortunately, Lake Galifar seemed to have risen above the entrance, and they were forced to dive down to find it. There was a cave, however, and it quickly became apparent it was constructed by an intelligent hand. It was not uninhabited, however, and the party was set upon by cave fishers, which attempted to entangle and drag away some morsels to eat. After a vicious attack in a blind rage, the students managed to beat them off, recovering from their wounds somewhat with home made potions.

bad_nightmare_horse_by_justlittlething-d4p8e6l.jpgExploring deeper in the dungeon, the students found it to be old, though not without some sort of life. In an old library, some haunt slammed the door, rapping and frightening them. After their escape, they saw flames leading them to the old kitchen, whose fireplace burst on, sending red-hot pokers after them. Finding a library and living quarters, there was the first sign of intelligent residents: a barricade before the doors. Finding an empty corridor, they tried that, but a cold spot sucked the strength from Isis, leaving her weak and shaken. Storming the barricade, an alarm went off, alerting the goblins camped out. The party kept their attention while Isis summoned (an image of) their most terrible and hated foe: the common horse. Defeating the squatters, the party was low on energy and resources, and decided to rest in the fortified bedquarters formerly claimed by the goblins.

Continuing through the lich’s dungeon, they came to a bridge over a pool of dirty water. Ten feet down, there appeared to be a glittering pile of treasure. Diving in, Temarith was overcome with vertigo, seemingly much deeper than he expected, and being tugged at as it felt like he was stuck in molasses. Even his light armor seemed to be pulled, attracted to the bottom of the pool before he finally burst out panting onto the bridge. Leaving the deceptive trap behind, the Wolpertingers came to a cave-in with two side-passages. The walls were covered in historic murals, almost distracting one from the delicate glowing crystals. Isis idendified them as mnemonic crystals: very dangerous for spellcasters, as they could absorb their potential magic energy, making them lose their spells. The murals seemed to depict the ancient history of Eberron, starting even at the creation by the three dragons, but before they could study in more detail, the walls started to moan and ooze with blood, sending Isis and Cualli running terrified. They then tripped over the mnemonic crystals, sending bursts of spell energy through their minds, overwhelming them with a cacophony of ideas and images. In the end, Isis was knocked out with the terror and overwhelming information, with Cualli barely able to hold himself upright.

Nyan managed to coax Isis awake before they heard the commotion of three house Bulette students entering from a far door. The dwarf, orc, and warforged challenged the Wolpertingers for the salvage of the dungeon, trusting their relative strength and toughness to wipe up some limp-wristed wizard students. Temarith was able to hold the line against their steel and fire, while the rest of the Wolpertingers dazzled them with their magic, knocking out another group of rivals.

Finally able to catch their breath, the students could see the murals led through the creation and history of Eberron, all the way through to the Last War, culminating with a columnar chessboard holding five incongruous figures: a queen, a skeletal knight, a bear, bishop, and warforged. What this told of the lich’s lair was another mystery to be solved.

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Convocation

A new group of potential students of the arcane arrived at the village of Arcanix. They gathered before their host, Raulo ir’Trannic, a human wizard in charge of the admission of new students. First, they gathered in a large room for a written test (skill check), and then each student presented themselves individually for a practical demonstration. With most students at least proving themselves academically or practically proficient, they were given the brown robes of students and admitted to the school. They were carried up in hippogriff-drawn carriages to the White Arch of Glarehold Tower. Passing through a courtyard of animated boar topiaries, they were gathered and assigned to their various student houses. Some were assigned to house Aboleth, Hellcat, Bulette, or, like the members of the party, Wolpertinger.

Setting up their residences, the party met a few other students of their hosehold, Ari, Chantal, Maril, Jubb, and Gavrin, all from various regions following their own magical paths. They were soon introduced to their various professors, each also the faculty adviser over the houses: Poshmetn d’Sivis, of house Aboleth, Taniss Shadowell of house Hellcat, Bokk Romhaar of house Bulette, and Erben Kendig of house Wolpertinger.

Soon after orientation, several students were dismayed to find their familiars missing. The new students banded together to track down where they might have went, following the trail back to Hellcat house. The Wolpertingers confronted the Hellcats, leading to an altercation in the hallway, leaving the offending students lying defeated. When Professor Shadowell came to stop the commotion, he reprimanded his students and ordered the return of the familiars, which were a bit shaken, but no worse for the hazing.

After classes began and became more routine, there was a call for volunteers to go down to Arcanix to resupply their spell components. Some materials had become scare after the Last War, and were not always on hand. The Wolpertingers took the opportunity for a field trip off school grounds, and took a feather-fall life preserver off the edge of the White Arch. Landing in Arcanix, they found the streets deserted and homes shut tight. There was evidence of some sort of trouble, which they soon found in the form of animal attacks. Not only had various shops been attacked by dire rats, fire beetles, and vipers, but they all seemed to be summoned fiends. Having collected most of their materials and defeated the creatures, the students were directed to the local caves for the grave earth and mercury. Necromancy students often used the cave to practice their craft.

In the caves, the Wolpertingers had to fight off a few goblins and skeletons, finding a man using the focus circle at the end of the cave. It was the way a student could control the various undead creatures in the cave, which he directed to attack the students. The Wolpertingers struck him down, however, and brought his body back for identification. It seemed he was a applicant to the school last year, but had failed his entrance examination. He had a stolen spellbook on him, however, as well as some wands and scrolls he had taken to take matters into his own hands.

With their admission into the school and the defeat of an embittered rival, the Wolpertingers completed their freshman year at the floating towers.

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Kidnappings, Krakens, and Khyber Konclusions

After exploring the sewers, battling rival gangs of goblins and drow, following a child assassin back to it’s monster orphanage, the party finally found a lead at Morgrave University. They were led down to a secret meeting of like-minded peoples interested in a transcendent theology: a cult of the Blood of Vol. After spying on their warehouse, who is seen but Marcus, the vampire they met in the Frostfell. Confronting him, however, he attempted to kidnap Kaya again, though only just escaped with his own hide. Their investigations led them to follow Marcus east, to Karrnath.

They brought the airship to Atur, the City of Night, almost constantly under the shade of the Ashen Spires and mist of Karrn Falls, and also coming to life at night, when the markets and streets were most busy. With some investigation in the Crimson Monastery, the imposing red temple to the Blood of Vol, the party found that Marcus would be arriving here as well.

The party was later lured outside the city, though, and this time, with the help of a fiendish servant, Marcus was able to dominate and fell enough adventurers to recover Kaya for his mistress and escape. The party quickly made to follow him, into caves near Irontown. Inside, the party found a peculiar alliance between knights of the Emerald Claw, and some Riedran agents before a tall egg-shaped monolith bursting from the Khyber crystals around it. There was talk of lunar and planar alignments, and summoning a great monster to bring ruin; whatever the case, the cave wall began to crack as massive tentacles burst forth to strike out at adventurers and knights alike. Surprisingly, Kylaear arrived to help battle the foes while Rin entered the monolith, discovering a strange psionic array, presumably a way to operate the structure. With magical experience and some luck, he was able to set it to self-destruct, and the party teleported outside the caverns before they were buried in stone and most of Lake Dark.

The party had apparently put and end to at least one facet of a disturbingly long-term plan made by the cooperation of the Emerald Claw and the foreign manipulators of Riedra. What the full implications were, is still being discovered. And the fate of Kaya, apparently a bearer of the Dragonmark of Death, is unknown.

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Sewer rats

Moving down the strata of neighborhoods in Sharn was easy. There were many patrols up above, and gate guards at each neighborhood. Lower and lower, there were less patrols, until the slums had only a barracks and some guards at the way down to the cogs. The party was warned that down there, there were no more patrols or guards, and that they were basically on their own.

Passing through Khyber’s Gate, the party finds the largest tavern of the area: Shamukaar. A combination slaughterhouse, butcher, restaurant, and tavern, the place is teeming with “monsters.” Ogres, gnolls, harpies, minotaurs, all are served a variety of questionable dishes by the goblin cooks. The smell and distinct taste in the air is sickening, but it is the best place to find information down here. They eventually are led to a cloaked figure in a corner booth, their hood up to cover their features.

“Yesss, the killerss of thosse humanss and elvesss, I know of them. You are looking for thosse of the aberrant mark, thosse that were almosst desstroyed. ‘Housse’ Tarkanan gathered the aberrant and mixed markss fifteen hundred yearss ago, in thiss very ccity. They were bessieged, and in their dessperation, Tarkanan and the Lady of Plague desstroyed the ccity and themsselves. But the aberrant markss ssurvive, and grow, down in the ssewerss…” The figure pauses as a goblin brings a plate out, some sizzling steak of something, which the informant begins slicing into small parts. Many snakes start poking out of the hood and swallowing chunks of meat.

Finding their way to a sewer entrance, the party begins their search for the aberrant killers. There are many groups and individuals desperate enough to make the sewers their home, but they are in obvious, well-traveled areas. Going down more disused, out-of-the-way tunnels, the party comes to a large cellpool intersection. Picking their way through, a giant mound of filth begins to shift, then slide as a large, tentacled mass emerges. An otyugh whips its spiny tentacles at the party, taking bites with its huge, filthy, diseased maw. They are able to defeat it, and move on to tunnels with no other access.

Spying ahead, the lizardman and Varele discover a small group of squat, malformed people. It was unclear whether they were human, orc, dwarf, or any other common race. But it was clear they had aberrant marks upon them. The mongrelfolk were at their relative ease, cooking, working, and were caught completely by surprise when the vampire and lizardfolk began their ambush. The rest of the party charged in to help clean up, taking one man alive for questioning. He revealed quite a bit.

The mongrelfolk, as they were called, were shunned by all, even the other sewer-dwellers, so they lived back here, with their otyugh between them and the rest of the world. They did have aberrant marks, a twisted curse of their mixed heritage, but they kept to themselves. The man did know what the party may be looking for, however. There were strangers here in the sewers, those that did not reside here, but shady figures that made their lair. He led them out to a particular branch in the maze of tunnels, saying that he saw them enter and leave from here, but never ventured any closer before.

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Piracy and Murder

Over a week later, the party is approaching Sharn again. Only now, another airship quickly moves on an interception course! Pirates swing over to board, while their ballista fires on the ship, attempting to cripple them. It takes the party’s teamwork to keep the ship together, on course, and to defend themselves from being overrun. Defeating the sky pirates, Walter’s ship limps to a dock. They are told the pirates have been a reoccurring nuisance to the city, and they are entitled to a reward for their defeat and capture. Unfortunately, their own airship was damaged in the battle, and they require high-end materials to repair it.

Fortunately, the party has a contact within House Cannith, the Lady Elaydren, their patron for jobs in the past, including recovering a schema from the Emerald Claw in the giant’s ruins of Xen’drik. Coming to her tower, the party petitions her for soarwood to repair their ship. “I remember your help with many quests of my house. Soarwood is guarded very jealously by the Aerenal, and they do not part with it easily. I can get what you need, if you can help us with a little problem…”

She goes on to explain there have been a series of murders in the city. While murders in such a large crowded metropolis are unfortunately not unheard of, this appears to be a connected series. They came to greater attention when members of the merchant houses started being targeted, with low-ranking family members disappearing. Then bodies started being discovered, grisly, and placed specifically for public discovery, each more creative than the last: knifing, poison, garrote, fire, acid, and one somehow plummeted to his death, despite the many magical safeguards against such a fate in Sharn. They were often mutilated, with their ears cut off and eyes removed. There were a few connections: first, all the victims were human or elf. While the most prominent were of dragonmarked houses and families, there seemed to be no distinguishing between them: Tharask, Vadalis, Cannith, Orien, Deneith, Phiarlan, or Thuranni. The other common factor, the bodies were all scarred with the same twisted symbol. Earlier bodies just had it carved somewhere, like an afterthought, but later, it became large and prominent, across the bare chest, back, or face.

“What we know is that these ritual killing started lower in the city, in the slums and cogs. They moved up to the merchant and noble neighborhoods later. There must be a group behind this, there have been too many killings, to organized for a lone murderer. And they’re close-knit. We suspect they’re hiding out in the sewers. I would suggest you go down to the cogs and ask around. I would like you all, outsiders, specifically for this, because we can’t risk our own people being seen, or targeted, for that matter.

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Conflict and Betrayal

Walter has found the party at the tower and pulls up to a balcony for all to board. When all are together and ready to leave, there is some discussion of what they have just learned, and what the next step is. Obviously, many powerful factions have designs on Kaya, even fighting over her. Vuulaytherus alone seems to have no interest in taking over her fate.

Delivering the elf to the Ice Queen does not seem to be the default plan any more, but would they give her over to any group? Garrett and Varra seemed to think that, as a revival of the mark and house of Death, Kaya was too dangerous to live. Wasting no time about it, the half-orc picks up the girl, much to everyone’s surprise, and carries her bodily to the rail. Kaya attempts to defend herself, her dragonmark sputtering in vain as she is tossed over to plummet to the ground. Immediately, Rin leaps down and grabs her. Varele transforms into a great bat to join them, carrying them back up to the ship. Garrett and Varra defend their actions, repeating their determination to see Kaya and the House of Vol dead. Unable to be persuaded, the party is forced to leave them behind with Vuulaytherus and Muroni on Argonnessen as they begin their return journey to Khorvaire.

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An Old Friend

With the previous tunnel collapsed behind them, and no other apparent way out, the party flew up the volcano’s aperture. While speaking with Kaya and discussing their next steps, some spy an armored figure slowly trudging up the volcano-mountain, directly towards the party. It did not make any attempt to remain hidden, and as the figure drew nearer, some could recognize Muroni, the elven oracle that joined and observed the party’s quest to recover the warforged creation pattern from the Order of the Emerald Claw. After greeting Zrill and Varele, Muroni explained that her master had detected their presence on Argonessen, and that a meeting might be to everyone’s mutual benefit and enlightenment. Her master’s tower lair was deep in the mountain range, however, and not traversable by foot.

Employing Varele’s experience with dinosaurs, the party managed to wrangle some glidewings to ride to the lonesome tower. They could see large steel balls orbiting the structure, apparently held aloft by the cackling rings of energy surrounding each of them. Landing on a gigantic outer balcony, the party dismounted and entered. Muroni explained that she hadn’t been to see her master for a decade, so she didn’t know what state the tower would be in. Coming into a rather bare stone chamber with only a large aperture int the ceiling, the party nearly walked into a giant gelatinous cube. They tore it to pieces to avoid being digested themselves, then flew or climbed up through the ceiling. Coming out of the small chamber they found themselves in, they came to a relaxing fountain area with several large dragon statues decorating the area. They all appeared to depict not only a silver dragon, but the same particular model, most likely the resident. As they approached, however, the fountain erupted as a huge elemental burst up, sucking a few into its vortex. Simultaneously, the statues shook themselves free of their bases and charged the party as well, biting and clawing to defend the tower. The party defeated them as well, allowing them to continue up the tower. Expecting more obstacles, the party was greeted by a chilly air, finding the next level covered in frost, with several ice statues standing at the ready. Predictably, they too stood in the party’s way, even as the area was frozen with arctic blasts.

The party finally overcame the tower’s defenses to come to the dragon’s orrery. The walls were covered from floor to ceiling in carved notes, seemingly scratched in draconic shorthand by the massive silver dragon pondering the hovering spheres. One might discern that the orrery inside matched the spheres that orbited the tower outside, and could further guess that the large levers and machinations might be linked to controlling the models.

Only after Muroni loudly and repeatedly introduced their presence that the dragon managed to rouse himself from his reverie. “Oh, Muroni, back already? That was quick.” “It’s been ten years, master.” “Hmm, yes……”

After some more introduction, the dragon is finally able to explain the connection between his studies of the draconic prophesy, his orrery, and the party’s mission to recover Kaya for the Ice Queen. The orbiting spheres represented the thirteen moons (one historical and now missing), the thirteen planes (one, Dal’Quor, now permanently remote from Eberron), and the thirteen dragonmarks. This last revelation was the most surprising of all, as most people knew of only the twelve dragonmarks. The silver dragon asked/commanded Kaya to reveal what she had been concealing, and she reluctantly sloughed off the shoulder of her dress to reveal a blue-green dragonmark on her collarbone. It was none that anyone could recognize, and one would assume it to be some sort of aberrant mark, but the dragon murmured in recognition: “The mark of Death has resurfaced…”

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