Nearly two years ago, I gathered a group of players from this site, and beyond. The group grew, shrank, shifted, grew, shrank, grew again. I currently have 7 players, which is more than my ideal, but I like the people I have and we make it work with so many.
It's been an interesting road for the heroes, and I thought I'd give as brief a summary here as I could, while including all the important details - for anyone curious how the story has developed. I will leave off character specifics that are not known to the general party yet.
It all began at the annual festival celebrating the Unification of the northern-most, snowy province of Ebongarde. People of all races and creeds traveled from all over the continent of Amaranta to attend the week-long revel and get as stinking drunk as they could while participating in contests of physical prowess. The events are held to honor King Hadvar Lionborne following his brutal campaign to bring the scattered cities and towns into line with his rule - he had been seen as weaker than both his late father and his elder sister and so his influence beyond his home city quickly waned at the beginning of his rule.
Ten years later, the new capital he had claimed was a gathering place of dignitaries and representatives of cities and countries who sought his favor at the annual festival. This is where the member of the group first met. They competed against each other and members of the gathered revelry for glory and monetary rewards.
A Human from the bread-basket of Ebongarde's central southern city witnessed these up-in-coming heroes as they bested the best around in races and logging, lifting and chasing. Then he saw a local hero fall to a poisoned dart. He investigated the attack and, with the help of a very knowledgeable Elf, found it was a poison known to be used by the orcs of the snowy lands and that this was simply the latest of dozens of small harms the orcs had dealt the city over the last year. He stood before the King and asked leave to help the city by rooting out the problem, in exchange for only the provisions he would need to accomplish it.
The Elf and Human went to the others they'd been watching in the tournament, feeling they had what it would take to fight potentially hordes of Orcs. Reluctantly, these others agreed.
Vendar, Human Rogue and Noble son to a well-known merchant in the Neighboring nation of Aspara, wanted simply to see the world and experience the festival. He was happily besting many of Ebongarde's local champions.
Raiken, Dragonborn Paladin of Kord, had traveled to Ebongarde from the island nation of Arkhosia - the ancestral home of the Dragonborn and not destroyed in my world.
Bruenor, Dwarven Fighter from the small neighboring nation of Vaardev'Tan, was heavy into the alcohol of the event but could not be slaked.
Cayde, Elven Wizard and scholar from the distant and secretive island of Sol Sarakas, brought his vast knowledge to bear in service to Aerys as he formed this warband.
Aerys, Human representative of the Elven family that holds the farmlands of Southern Ebongarde, gathered these men and arranged for their equipment from the King's armory before departing.
Together they ventured into the woods, the bulk of their survival gear tied to two mountain goats given the range they scrambled about in. They fought many orcs, and on the first night they ran afoul of a small scouting group from the Underdark. They slew all the orcs in their path, gathering what info they could from what they carried and following their tracks back to scattered camps among the trees.
On the second day, an orc caught them offguard and rendered Cayde unconscious with an unexpected lightning bolt spell. They killed the others in the raiding party and bound the old magic-caster. Urag carried a journal and a staff. The journal contained the two spells he knew how to cast and several pages written in Draconic that expounded on his distaste for being made to serve the new Chieftan in her vain attempt to break the city of Dragon's Hearth.
The group forced him to lead them to his home - a walled collective of Orcs called The Contingent.
Fighting their way trough the woods for several more days, they finally came to the gate of the community only to find it near empty. Only elders, youths, and some necessary skilled orcwomen remained. All warriors had been shepherded through a portal the day before. With Urag's help the group convinced the couple spell-casting Orcs who remained to open the portal for them.
They appeared within the mines beneath the City of Dragon's Hearth and found the place in the middle of an Orc invasion. They worked their way out of the mines, freeing dwarves as they went, through the town to the palace dungeons. Here they found King Lionborne and his Honor Guards disarmed and imprisoned. Freeing these, they followed King Lionborne as he explained that his own sister, returned from exile, had led the host of Orcs into his city and dethroned him. They faced off with Fulbrehe Lionborne, and they defeated her, though the cost was great and it was a near thing. She was a skilled Evoker and laid waste to the room with Cone of Cold - dropping all but her brother and two members of the party. At the moment of her fall, Fulbrehe opened another portal and removed herself to parts unknown, swearing vengeance.
After their victory, King Lionborne declared an extension to the revelry in honor of the heroes who saved the city and helped to broker an alliance with one of the tribes of Orcs beyond the walls, led by Urag himself in the absence of Fulbrehe, the Orcthane. A great victory for Ebongarde.
Near the end of the extended celebrations, word came through town that a man from the Draconic empire had been brought to the healers and was asking for Raiken by name. Raiken found his uncle gasping for breath and choking on scorched lungs in the healer's bed. He had been badly poisoned in a miasma which he claimed had been spread over Arkhosia by a horde of green dragons and at their head was an Ancient evil. Stories told of the oldest of Green Dragons, nearly forgotten to time, Bala. Her might and the strength of her brood saw the end of the shining city of Magic, the Seat of Bahamut (in the common tongue).
Fearing for his home and his family, Raiken relayed this information to the group and they requested one final favor of the King. Ebongarde had no sea route to Arkhosia, they were very distant and not direct allies. Magic came to Ebongarde from Arkhosia very sparingly throught Vaardev'tan. The King agreed to give them horses that would be theirs upon completion of a task for him. They were to help settle a brewing Border Dispute between the distant neighbor Aspara and the province beyond them, Bromdor. Lionborne hoped to gain favor as an ally to Aspara.
He reinstated laws protecting the formation of mercenary companies within Ebongarde. A practice that had been banned since his father's time on the throne. Theirs would be the first official Mercenary Company and as a special dispensation, upon completion of their task to King, they would be free to serve any contract in any province they pleased. Other bands formed thereafter would be beholden only to Ebongarde.
The group selected a new member from hundreds of hopefuls among the revelers who witnessed their deeds. Enter Notam, Human Barbarian from the distant, though still northern, land of Thanendir. He sought to make a name as a hero for himself, and help those of the world he could with his strength.
The group traveled south, disbanded a Thieves' Guild operating in the coastal trade-town of Melthea, then passed on to Gateway. Gateway was named for the passage through the mountains that it guarded. The Mountain range was tall and wide and spanned the entire width of the continent, completely separating Ebongarde from provinces to the south. This was the only breech large enough to let caravans pass and it was incomparably smooth and straight. None remain who know how it was formed.
Prior to passing through Gateway, the group ran afoul of assassins. Upon defeating them, the group gained a wagon/cart that the were able to harness their horses to once they purchased the equipment in gateway. They also learned that the assassins had been given their description and been paid to kill them by the survivors of the disassembled Thieves' Guild. It was at this time that the group's valiant leader, Aerys, was called back to his home city to see to a political affair there.
The remaining group tricked out the cart for the journey through the harsh lands of vaardev'tan. Here they faced storms that were so strong and passed so frequently that no loose soil lay on the ground. The land was hard, bare stone with roads cut by long hard years of travel and water flow. In these dwarven lands, where it is safer to be below ground than above, they helped the locals by hunting Giants on their way through. They weathered a terrible storm, needing to chain their wagon to the ground and hide their horses in a nearby culvert. They were nearly destroyed by Raiken, who had taken a cursed sword from the treasury of the Thieves' Guild and told no one when it began speaking in his mind.
Finally they crossed a great bridge over a virile river, they left the barren wind-swept lands behind them. Ahead, lay the green fields and rolling hills and deep forests of Aspara. It was a land of plenty and they past vast farms as their wagon rolled along the road eastward. But all was not well. Before spending the night in a small farming town, they bid farewell to Cayde as griffon-riding elves from Sol Sarakas came to collect him as he was needed back at the university. The next morning, they met a small, young Half-elf named Lia, who approached them as they breakfasted.
Lia was an orphan from the northeastern coastal town of Watchtower Point. She'd been ostracized by the overwhelmingly xenophobic Human population there and had befriended an entity that offered her the power to protect herself and forge her own path through life, taking up the mantle of a young Warlock. She left Ebongarde, following the stories of a group of great heroes that preceded her. She, too, wished to become a great and storied hero.
Together, they helped the villagers fight several raised corpses. They went to ask the Cleric at the village's Temple to the Raven Queen about the zombies. A doddering old man told them that zombies hadn't plagued this area in centuries, long before he'd taken up the cloth, but perhaps they would be served investigating the lore of the Temple's library and the graveyard outside. The group set the old cleric to the task of exploring the tomes while they checked out the graveyard.
They learned that Zombies can be raised by corrupt Clerics or Wizards often in service to one of the evil lords of Undeath and in direct opposition to the merciful Raven Queen, goddess of the cycle of Death. Searching the graveyard, they found several disturbed mounds and a trail that led into the woods. They spent hours following the tracks of a host of zombies, until the signs were lost to a mounting rain storm.
By chance, they found a large camp in the woods and it was patrolled by the living dead. They dispatched these and searched the tents. They found many books and scrolls and ingredients for necromantic rituals. Upon leaving the tents, they were chided by a disembodied voice that swore to depose the Raven Queen and cover the world in moving corpses. Hoping to stop the problem at its root, they ventured further into the wood, seeking the Necromancer responsible. In the waning light of day, they spotted smoke from a campfire and approached with caution.
Two elven hunters, a married couple, greeted them and bade them sup at their fire. The group obliged and plied the pair with questions regarding the woods and its inhabitants and events of late, guiding the conversation toward talk of zombies. The hunters admitted that their game had been scarce lately and that the animals seem to have been displaced or dismembered - perhaps it was the work of Zombies afterall?
The group asked to stay at the Elves' camp that night as it was many hours walking lost in the dark woods to return to the Temple. The Elves agreed, but told the men they must stay outside the tent, offering them an oilblanket to protect them from the rain. The young lady Lia was invited into the tent and away from the smelly, rowdy men.
Halfway through the night, while the group was taking turns on watch, the camp was assaulted by giant Undead snakes. The skeletons bit and constricted and even cast spells. The party was victorious, but wondered why the Elf husband who'd run to the tent to fetch his wife to help fight the things had not reappeared. Worried, Notam and Raiken ran to the tent and found one of the Elves smoldering, burned to death. Lia was chasing the other out of the tent, as she fled toward the trees. Seeing a ceremonial dagger in the hand of the burned corpse, and rope still wrapped around Lia's arms, Tam and Raiken chased down and felled the other Elf.
As soon as both Elves had been killed, the camp suddenly changed. The traps and game and carving instruments of normal hunters morphed and twisted and became the nasty ingredients, occult instruments, and Infernal-text adorned trappings of Necromancers. The place now very much resembled the encampment the group had raided during the daylight. Lia explained that she'd awoken as the Elves had been about to sacrifice her for some ritual. She then set fire to the tent and the surrounding instruments.
The group found a cart with no animals hooked up that contained more scrolls and a portrait of what they guessed was the god the Necromancers were serving. They muddled their way through the woods and returned to the Temple of the Raven Queen.
When they arrived, they found the cart and horses they'd tied up out front was missing. Kicking in the door to the Temple, they met a young man in plate armor that would have shined if not for the layers of gore all over it. They demanded to know where their wagon, horses, and the old man Cleric had gone.
Cleric Christopher Crimsonplain looked at them with suspicion, confusion, and anger. He explained that he had no knowledge of a wagon, horses, or old man cleric. Christopher was the only cleric of the Raven Queen at this temple or anywhere for miles around, and he'd only just returned from several days away slaying Zombies in the surrounding farmland.
Slowly, the group came to the realization that the Old Man had tricked them, and had likely stolen their horses and wagon. Christopher realized that someone had stolen some very dangerous books on Necromancy from the Temple's library and demanded the party take him to this Old Man to retrieve them.
The group chased stories of an Old Man on a wagon pulled by several horses through a few towns. They were again attacked by members of the Assassins' Guild who this time kidnapped Lia and Tam, promising to return them only once the party had done the guild's job and assassinated several residents of the next town. Instead, the group gathered several members of the city Guard and raided the Assassins' camp, recovering their allies mostly unharmed. They were ambushed by bandits on the road and were nearly defeated by the archers hiding in the trees. Livid, Vendar demanded the party take them out non-lethally so he could personally make them suffer.
The group disagreed with torturing the bandits but chose to leave rather than stop or stay and watch Vendar commit his cruel act. After the others left, Christopher asked Vendar about this rage. As a Cleric of the Raven Queen, he had little issue with killing. Speed people on to their happy ending and their god. But suffering was something he could not abide. They chatted, discussed, argued, Vendar told Chris about his anger issue and his family life, and Chris listened and offered what he could of consolation and reprimand for wanting to torture these men. He helped Vendar kill them painlessly. At first Vendar resented the cleric stopping his vengeance, later Vendar would reflect that the concern he'd been shown really felt good and helped stop him doing something terrible.
Finally, the group came to Elezan, the last town on the road west of Aspara's capital city of Everwatch. The town was overrun. The streets were jammed with beggars, soldiers, noblemen and women, children, people from all over. They went to the Lord's mansion, the overseer or mayor of the city. They learned that the city had become crowded with refugees from towns east and south of Elezan when Bromdor had invaded, pushing for the capital. Vendar bought a pet ferret, and was roped into a plot against his father by a former Asparan soldier who had idolized Vendar's brother before the brother was lost to the Bromdoran attack. Vendar had no love for his father, and promised to meet with the soldier to discuss the offer further later.
Here also, Lia informed the party that she had an errand to speak with the head of the Temple of Pelor from her patron. Supposedly the man was sympathetic to the cause of her patron and she was to mediate his assistance. Lia, Vendar, and Bruenor went to the Temple, while Raiken and Tam were out exploring the city and picking up provisions for their journey to Everwatch. When the three arrived and explained their purpose, the Heirophant blanched and called his Paladins to stop the assassins; the Temple of Pelor would not lose more members to these attacks.
Bewildered by this response, the group defended themselves, poorly at first, but eventually Raiken found his way to the Temple and nothing would stop him from bringing honor to Kord in a brawl. He proved the superiority of his god, besting the paladins and Clerics of Pelor. Sadly, during the fight, one of the group had been blinded and so could not pull their punch when they struck one of the clerics, killing him in a grisly fashion with a maul. At least once the members of the temple were revived from unconsciousness and would not accept that the group had not been sent to kill them and tried to flee to summon the city Guard. Finally, the four decided they had no way to protect their image accept to leave no witnesses and craft the story that Necromancers had snuck into the city, murdered the members of the Temple of Pelor and fled in disguise before the group had visited the building.
Luckily, they were well enough trusted and the evidence they had created was believable enough that no one questioned the veracity of their story. Cleric Christopher parted with them citing a great need to get to this Necromancer before he could perform any of the dark rituals in the books he had stolen; the group had been tasked by the Lord of Elezan with finding and protecting the Empress of Aspara. They left the city of Elezan quickly and headed for Everwatch. They found downed trees on the road accompanied by a sign that indicated a recent storm had blown them down and they would be cleared away by royal decree soon. Turned out a couple of the trees were mimics which attacked the party when they tried to climb over. They met a pair of Tieflings who had fled from Everwatch in light of the siege and were headed to Elezan. Vendar gave them a letter to pass on to the Soldier he'd met along with his family signet ring to prove it was from him.
They fought patrols of Bromdoran soldiers including a paladin of Pelor, sealing the group's confidence that Pelor and his followers were bad eggs. When they came to the walls of Everwatch, they found that not only was a full-blown invasion/siege underway, but also that the walls had yet to be breached because they lay in the middle of a vast river and very high and thick. A massive army bivouacked on the fields south of what appeared to be the city gates, though no bridge to connect them to land existed. Notam insisted that the party's job was to break the siege and this could be accomplished with guerrilla tactics, thinning them one patrol at a time. He did not agree that trapping themselves within the besieged city was a viable option. So they parted ways as Tam vanished into the woods nearby to carry out his attacks.
The party located a giant grate that covered a water-collecting pit at the river's edge. They'd been told about a magical aqueduct system to provided clean constant water to the capital. This must be the entrance. They climbed or slid down into the darkness, led by their everburning (Continual Flame) weapons as the watery shaft leveled off and slowly filled as they progressed toward the city. Two things in this wet tunnel struck them: 1) the Filter system which consisted of a trapped Gelatinous Cube disintegrating any biological matter that came down from the river above, and 2) the clockwork bucket system that hauled water up the immense distance from well under ground to the top of the mountainous island upon which the city was built.
After nearly being disintegrated, then nearly drowning, the party was finally arrested upon leaving the water source building at the height of the city. They were brought before Empress Catarina Belgren who demanded to know their business breaking into her city during a siege and claiming not to be soldiers or spies of Bromdor. They tried to present the writs they'd been issued by King Lionborne, but those had been destroyed during their swim in the Aqueduct. Belgren was able to identify Vendar as son of the Noble lord formerly housed in her own city. Lord Drakner had relocated to Elezan as soon as hostility from Bromdor became apparent.
The group was issued new writs swearing them to Empress Belgren's service with the task of ending the war with Bromdor and saving her Nation's freedom. They signed on the dotted line and were given rooms in the palace to start on their task in the morning. The next day, they exchanged their vast number of gold and silver coins for more transportable platinum. Here they were assailed by a Drow named Roen. He begged the party to help him dismantle the Assassins' Guild of which he had been a part his whole life and, failing that, take him away from Everwatch with them.
Roen, the Drow Monk, had been trained from youth as a cutpurse and then an assassin by the greatest masters of the shadows in the world. He'd never known another Drow as he'd been born on the surface as a half-breed and promptly abandoned, but he soon learned that killing was distasteful to him. He'd spent years doing it, though, because he had nowhere else to go and feared the wrath of the Guild if he fled with their training.
The group determined the fastest end to the war between nations would be brought by a common enemy. They decided to travel immediately to Arkhosia, find proof of the world-wide threat of Bala the Ancient Green Dragon, and help Empress Belgren present it to the Bromdorans and broker a truce. Together, with Roen, the group contracted the Archmage of Aspara, housed near the palace, to teleport them to the capital of Arkhosia.
They appeared in a wide central square. Beautiful, even, perfectly cut and laid paving stones formed the crest of the Platinum Dragon, Bahamut, before the doors of the Arkhosian palace and the mighty Temple to its patron. No sound could be heard, save for a single lute crying softly in the empty gathering place of commerce.
Shiva, the High Elf Bard from Sol Sarakas, was traveling across Arkhosia to reach the mainland of Amaranta, seeking her parents in Aspara. She wished to travel the long roads and collect songs and stories from the people of the world before joining the Archmages of Everwatch. She'd found little besides fear and death since the second day of her trek across the large island nation.
The party explained their purpose to the troubadour and offered that she join them for they intended to return to Everwatch quickly. She agreed immediately, happy to see another living soul in the dead city. Happy, until she laid eyes on the Drow who accompanied them, that is.
The city was void of life, but there were no bodies laying about. The streets were dark and empty, many runes carved into the walls which would normally bring light to the surrounding area were dark. Inside the buildings, the party found either desiccated Dragonborn corpses or mounds of Green Dragon eggs. Looking for survivors, they found only recent hatchlings crying for a meal. They slew many baby and young dragons that day. When a much larger dragon descended upon them from above, they fled through the buildings too small for it to pass. Sneaking through windows and alleyways, the group evaded death and sought out anything that might help them collect evidence of the threat of Bala and escape the city.
They found an apothecary and purposed to take any useful elixirs or potions that may lie within. To their surprise they found the alchemist owner alive and well. Well...alive anyway. The horror of the attack, the loss of everyone she knew or loved, and the loneliness surviving in her small house living on her alchemical ingredients for over a month had driven her quite mad. The Dragonborn, Paulina (chosen Human name for doing business with merchants from the mainland), shifted wildly between personalities, each seemingly set at a different time in her life and each bearing a different level of understanding of the current situation. When she was lucid and calculating, she insisted that she wanted the party to help her relocate to the mainland as their was nothing left for her here. She informed the party that she'd survived the initial miasma poured over the city by the dragons because of a magic pedant her late husband had given her decades earlier.
The party gathered potions, poisons, and alchemist's fire from her shop and smuggled her out into the city. They fought more dragons, Raiken was nearly killed when he fell from the back of one of the beasts far up in the air where he wrestled it. Paulina saved him with a potion and wept over him, calling him by her husband's name, clearly confused. Eventually, the group made it to the Palace.
Here they discovered several things: The palace teasury (an armory of magical weapons and armor) had been looted, the Patriarch and the royal counselors (Raiken's Parents) had been killed - but not by dragons, the ancient artifacts of the Scion of Arkhosia kept in the palace foyer had been stolen. Well, at least the sword and shield had. The armor lay in scattered pieces, but was all there.
Arkhosia, home of the Dragonborn for the last one thousand years - ever since the Scion had led them there from the distant lands of Torolas on the east coast of Amaranta after the Ancient Black Dragon Shasharin had tried to destroy the children of her hated enemy, Bahamut, and been driven back - was a source of Arcane magic as dragons are progenitors of this power. Magical items and artifacts found their way here for study and safe-keeping from all over, and many more were created here. Few outside of the Dragonborn clans would be allowed to know the wonder of the magics and items of this place, even the merchants who frequented her shores.
The party gained several powerful magical items here, including artifact weapons which had signified the trust and friendship of Arkhosia with the Dwarven nation of Vaardev'tan and the Elven nation of Silvanus. With all residents of the city dead or driven off, the party saw no reason to let such powerful tools molder here.
After burying the Patriarch and Raiken's parents in the palace garden, the group fled through the secret tunnels from the palace to the docks. At the end of these tunnels, they fought Drow and Driders which had broken into the tunnels from the Underdark - a vast network of caverns that twist to unseen depths and connect all places in the world - filled with the most malevolent and distasteful of creatures consigned to the eternal darkness. Bursting onto the docks chased by four Driders, the party met a Pilgrim.
Yukikaze, Frost Dragonborn Fighter from the desert of Torolas, was visiting the ancient city as the first step of his quest to earn Bahamut's favor in leading his tribe when his father steps down. A rivalry between Raiken and Yukikaze began immediately. Yukikaze is an impressive speciment, standing a threatening 7'7" tall and dual-wielding long swords which he seems to be able to enchant with his in-born frost breath, he scaled one of the buildings on the dock in a single bound to take on the two driders atop it alone.
After driving back the Drow invaders, the group began readying an ownerless merchant vessel to depart. Lia disappeared at this time and the group spread out to look for her. They converged on the largest ship in port, a galleon of mighty proportions. As they approached, hoping to find Lia, she appeared on the top deck, headed for the gangway. Just as she reached it, the whole vessel bucked and she was thrown to the pier far below. Raiken managed to catch her as they watched a massive adult dragon soar from the far side of the ship's hull - the cause of the bucking - and circle high in the air to bear down on them.
They ran for the top of the pier, seeking refuge among the warehouses along the jetty, but as they did so, a solemn Paulina strode past them, resolute. Roen tried to stop her, but she simply smiled at him and told him that the young must live on and her time was past. She offered herself up to the dragon, calling out heinous insults and cursing it in the name of her husband, as the party ran for the boat they'd prepared. The huge dragon scooped her up in its menacing jaws and soared over the party. She was smiling as she was carried over their heads. A fireball with the force of thunder engulfed the dragon's head and its lifeless body careened through several storage buildings on the docks with an echoing crash. The party later found that all the Alchemist's Fire jars they'd salvaged from Paulina's shop were gone, replaced by a hand-written note on a portrait of Paulina and her husband that explained her need for death.
The group sailed their stolen boat away from the Seat of Bahamut, learning to sail as they went. They weathered a terrible storm and landed in a tiny fishing village on the edge of a thick, prehistoric forest within the borders of Bromdor. Here they met the village elder and a High Elf named Laromendis. The Elder demanded they take their story and their evidence (the heads of several green dragons, and the ancient necklace of the ruler of Arkhosia) to the ruler of Bromdor, Lord Erkhan Siven. It was agreed that Laromendis would accompany them to the capital to both obtain the audience with Lord Siven and ensure that the same story the Elder had been told was passed on to the ruler there. During these talks, Shiva had it out with Roen about her hatred for Drow which he had difficulty understanding until that point since he'd never met another Drow or been told about them - having lived a relatively safe life in the floating capital of Aspara. Exasperated, Shiva departed the group, unable to trust the Drow despite his protest.
They sailed several more days, fighting off sea monsters as they traveled the dangerous coast of Bromdor, before landing in the capital city, Volinar. Here they met the Archmagus, an Eladrin named Nalia. She listened to their story, witnessed their evidence and helped them come up with a strategy for presenting it all to Lord Siven. She then arranged an audience with him for them the next day. The group then learned that Nalia had been contracted by the Temple of Kord in Volinar to help them locate a long lost artifact, the Armor of Kord. Wanting every advantage in serving his god, Raiken jumped on board to help locate and recover the item. Many were confused by his passion, as he stood before them wearing the artifact Armor of Bahamut.
They presented their case to Siven the next day, completely forgetting the talking points Nalia had helped them work out, and resorting to having her open a teleportation circle to the Seat of Bahamut and sending several Royal Guards through to verify their claim. Luckily this worked, when told along side the visual evidence of the dragon heads and the Symbol of the Patriarch. Siven agreed to meet with Empress Belgren on neutral ground and work out a cease-fire in light of the apocalyptic threat that Bala poses.
The party returned to Aspara via a secret teleportation circle that Nalia arranged for them, and they reported to the Empress who thanked them for their help in securing Aspara's safety and released them from their contract to her. Upon their return, they were informed of several things that happened in the time they spent in Arkhosia and Bromdor:
1. Vendar's father had been killed in an attack on his house in Elezan, and Vendar's sister - who was courting the Empress' son - had been moved back to Everwatch to live in the palace prior to her wedding into the royal family.
2. Christopher Crimsonplain, Cleric of the Raven Queen, had continued his pursuit of the Necromancer and was well on his way to the border with the eastern nation of Thanendir. He wanted help as he had realized the necromancer was still raising Zombies as he went and his growing army was rolling over small towns and destroying and desecrating any Temples to the Raven Queen on their path.
3. No further news of the designs of Bala had traveled this far north, despite the party not running afoul of her on Arkhosia.
4. The Assassins' Guild, at least the branch located beneath the streets of Everwatch, was beholden to the Empress and she would see what she could do in loosening the contract for the party's life from their grip.
Vendar went to visit his sister and, in the most beautiful display of over-sharing ever, told her he had been part of the plot to kill their father and had given his signet ring to the murderer. He then refused her request to travel to Elezan and help their mother with the estate in their father's absence, claiming he had to be the one to deal with the necromancer and Bala despite that the armies of two nations would be gathering against at least Bala.
Chagrined, the party departed Everwatch across the massive bridge that the archmages raised from the bed of the river, and passed among the Bromdoran soldiers that were still camped on the fields to the south. They traveled east for the border with Thanendir, hoping to meet up with Christopher before he got in over his head. They stopped in a small village along the road that claimed to have lost all its men to an army of walking corpses several days earlier. They asked the group to help with wild animals that were normally kept at bay by the missing men. The party was about to refuse, claiming pressing deadlines when they heard a shriek. They broke and saved a young woman from the jaws of several wolves that had dragged her through the woods before all becoming entangled in the webs of giant spiders.
In thanks for their heroic rescue, the defacto leader of the village, a young woman named Catherine, told them about a visitor that had preceded the Zombie horde. A pale old man driving a wagon pulled by several horses who asked after a place called Shatterstone Keep. The group thanked her for the information and rode on.
Eventually, evening settled upon them as they approached a waystop at a crossroads. The Wanderer's Respite is a well known Adventurers' tavern in eastern Aspara and the group paid for rooms and a good meal, then sat down to listen to the songs of the bard. They were assailed and plied for information by armed men claiming to be from a few different adventuring companies, some came with invitations to join and share in the spoils.
Lia took to the stage and met Trugzar the Gilded Tongue, Half-Orc Bard from Kalavar (a tiny break-away nation split from Torolas about 10 years earlier) and member of the Sons of the Imminent Dawn - an adventuring guild that operates between Torolas, Kalavar, Thanendir, and Aspara helping where they can, for a price.
The party was plagued with dreams that night, many believed them premonitions, some believed them nerves, others believed them to have been sent by a malevolent power to drive them from their course.
They decided to hire on the Sons of the Imminent Dawn to help them fight the army of Zombies, stop the Necromancer from causing another cataclysmic event (like summoning Orcus to the Material Plane), and save Cleric Christopher Crimsonplain.
They headed off after breakfast and soon came upon a Temple of the Raven Queen. Within they a found disturbing sight. Ruin and Desecration, the place had been Unhallowed by a powerful spell and was cursed with darkness. Lifting the spell, the group found the inside a ruin covered in old, dry blood which had been painted on the walls into Infernal script, slogans praising Orcus and reviling the Raven Queen. Investigation revealed an old, coded message from Christopher letting the party know, should they be following, that he was still in pursuit and he would be in touch as he could be.
Further on down the road, the group caught up with some shambling Zombies, but it turned out to be a trap and as soon as they destroyed the eight on the road, a horde swarmed out from nearby trees, nearly 50 in all. Just as the group thought the worst of their problems was being surrounded by gnashing mouths - and they were - the ground nearby erupted and several rotting corpses vanished into disgusting misshapen maws.
Large, engorged cadavers wavered before the group, their chest split down the middle in a horrific vertical mouth lined with tooth-like ribs. Hands, feet, and guts dangled and dripped from the rent flesh, they were devouring the corpses and zombies and adding them to their mass. As they staggered across the road toward the group, they scooped up more corpses, both active and destroyed zombies, and began launching nasty, disease-ridden body parts at long range at the warriors.
As though this weren't bad enough, when the group finally felled one of the Carrion Cannons, it was devoured by the remaining one, which grew to monstrous proportion and became an even greater threat as it repaired its nasty body with parts from those it devoured.
As of the latest session, the group has just defeated the Carrion Cannons and intends to continue East to Thanendir, and their hirelings, the Sons of the Imminent Dawn, are demanding an increase in their pay based on the newly realized scope of their danger.
I hope whoever reads this enjoys this fast-forwarded tale of woe and is rooting for the party as they continue their perilous journey.