Shards of Light, Shards of Shadow

Dreams in a Jar (Session 8)
Wherein Humphrey suffers more indignation at the hands of his companions

Dreams in a Jar

Session 8

20 Far Eyre?

After their rest-that-wasn’t, the stragglers stranded in Dream set out to find their way out of this freakish Giant laboratory. Creeping up the stairs to the next level, they barely entered the hall when they were beset by more dream creatures and what appeared to be an insubstantial half-orc with maddened eyes and a wicked longbow. Fragments of dream, twisting in their shapes depending on who was looking at them, trapped the group in a hallway. But while Jak’s warhammer and Valna’s sword could make quick work out of them, their minds froze in pain for each one dropped. Even worse, a large amorphous blob of dream spewed more of these fragments for each one felled!

As Jak and Valna attempted to fight off their dazed state, the merciless fragmented dream blob appeared within the groups midsts and assaulted them all with psychic pain while extracting even more dream fragments to assault them. Zinnia as now exposed, and the creatures proximity to the drow Xenrohs both kept him from moving away and using his power. But the drow was not defenseless; an attack against him by the dream blob was mysteriously redirected at the unsuspecting Humphrey when warlock’s cloaks swirled about the drow; in addition, the dazed Zinnia’s magic were also deflected by the blob towards the put-upon hobgoblin. It did not help matters when, to protect himself, Xenhros called down darkness only he could see through. But this allowed him to reign down pain upon the blob before him, already grievously wounded by the hobgoblin’s precise strikes.

The battle was draining, especially with the mad half-orc raining down arrows upon the fray. But the group was triumphant, though the battle took more than expected. Searching about, the group found they were in a small storage area. Though much was dust and dream, Zinnia did find regents of an arcane nature and the silvery-gold residuum that is pure magic. The giants were indeed masters of the arcane.

Having no choice but to move forward, the group found another storage chamber off the main one. This one, however, was not empty. Instead, it was stocked with water and rations, some giant sized, others smaller. A hungry Jak soon discovered anything he took was magically replenished—the group had found the giant’s magical larder. But that was not all they found: Hidden in the stacks was the half-sane, insubstantial fragment of a gnomish explorer. Eager to talk, he introduced himself as Banra Greenwood, intrepid Aundarian explorer. In a roundabout manner, the gnome eventually explained that he and his fellows—a warforged warrior named Sixteen, their half-orc scout Thar One-Tusk, the Karrn warlord Vlad Voldios, and the shifter druid Redclaw—had excavated some hereto undiscovered giant ruins. There, they found the brain in the jar that now encapsulates them. He told of strange dreams that visited all but the warforged, and then the night that they all appeared here.

“We fought these dream things and found the notes explaining this place’s foul purpose and made haste on our plans to escape. But Sixteen was lost, Thar driven mad, and I separated from my fellows. I have been here for… I cannot rightly remember….”

Looking at the slowly fading gnome, the group knew his fate would be theirs if they did not escape. The “dream sickness” would claim them too.

On a tip from Banra, the group sought out what appeared to be the laboratory’s library. Ancient spellshards, malfunctioning due to age and disuse, were found. Zinnia delved into them like a demon possessed, but Jak and Xenhros had to work with her to translate the giant runes. The drow almost mistranslated a key section, but the minotaur corrected him while Humphrey and the others put together some of the more obscure pieces. It was soon discovered that the laboratory was used to research dream creatures due to an invasion of Xen’drik by the alien creatures of dream. The lab, and its founder Anabaraxus, were central in forming some sort of weapon to be used against the foul creatures. However, even more was found: Some sort of ancient dream machinery was used to create other dream weapons and to control the facilities. If this machine could be found, and the inner sanctum that controlled it breached, they might have found their way out.

Resting upon what they had found, the party formulated their plan of assault to escape the giant dream lab!

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Dreams in a Jar (Session 7)
Never let Zinnia buy anything

Dreams in a Jar

Session 7

19 Zor Eyre

Strange dreams visit the group that night. Zinnia finds herself in the Library of Arcane Studies, her entire family glaring down at her. Her uncle Bart declares that she has shown little progress, and now she must prove herself in a live-fire exercise. Enraged shifters who have been deprived of sleep and attacked by badgers are sent after the startled wizard.

Deep in the forests of Xen’drik, Xenrohs frees himself from a giant plinth that had crushed him. In the forest he hears the mocking whispers of his kin, the trick they used when honing on a target. Now they hunt him, for he has become the outsider.

Humphrey finds himself in a room of infinite mirrors, but each has a false reflection. One, a childish waif. Another, an orcish matron with a broom. In yet another, a human in working clothes and across from him a shapely half-elf with clothes that leave little to the imagination. But each chants the same phrase endlessly: “There can be only one…” They step out of the mirror and approach threateningly.

In the grasslands of Droaam, Jak finds himself surrounded by a group of creatures who all look like Ms. B. They all speak of their dissatisfaction with him, and violence soon ensues.

Finally, Valna finds herself on the storm-tossed Kraken’s Tempest, the vessel already listing. Around her are the drowned corpses of her crewmates, all blaming her for her failure. As one they lunge at her.

The dream creatures, for they but dreams, assault the group en masse. Xenrohs manages to move away from those against him, and Zinnia catches several of hers in flame. But Humphrey and Valna do not fare as well, for each touch of the dream fragments confuses them and each one that falls disorients them. They fight for their lives.

Slowly, the separate dreamscapes begin to bleed into each other. A portion of the library opens onto a Xen’drik jungle; the aft of the ship looks upon a sea of books and gnomes. As the dream creatures bring down the half-elf bosun, the gnome rushes at her side. Humphrey too falls, his life escaping until a surge of strength brings him back to his feet. Even the tough Jak is beset by the shifting creatures. But finally, wounded and shaken, the group manages to destroy their nightmares.

But they do not awaken.

Instead, they find themselves in a small stone room. Its circular walls are broken by a window into a space of rolling pink, purple, orange, and blue clouds. Lighting the color of dreams breaks the clouds. Occasionally, they see glimpses of other’s dreams: Lecturer Omrish gives a speech to a gathered body that laughs and eschews him, Professor Barrasten is impotent as a cheerful Zinnia shows stronger mastery of the arcane arts. The entire place feels wrong and only half-seen. Zinnia was sure they were not in Stormreach, but where they were… she was not sure.

The group retreat deeper into the strange building. On the other side of the observation chamber they find a wall inscribed with ancient Giant runes. Xenhros and Jak can only partially make it out. “Anabaraxus... Dream… Laboratory.” The strange words are unsettling.

Deeper in the complex, they find a small arcane study overlooking a set of closed cells. Between the two chambers is a shimmering wall, which Zinnia quickly recognizes as a psychic barrier. Shying away from the hazard, the group focuses on the arcane implements. Xenhros finds several sheafs of notes in Giant and begins rummaging through them while Valna and and Humphrey consider exploring the stairs found. Just then, the doors on the cages open. From inside step out insubstantial remnants of ancient elves and drow, apparently maddened from their imprisonment. They babble mindlessly in ancient Elven and Giant, repeating the same phrases over and over again: “Sleep! Let us sleep!”

The insane elven fragments assault the group, though most try to avoid the shimmering barrier. Dreams of arrows pierce Jak and Valna’s skin while brute drow with savage intent assault Humphrey and the warlord. As the dark dreams pass the wall, they scream in agony and somehow become more solid… more real. Humphrey slams one back through the wall, causing it to spasm again while Valna and Jak attempt to fight off the ones swarm them. Zinnia’s magics are less effective against the separated foe, but she does her best with bolts of force. Meanwhile, an unconcerned Xenhros, feeling the others that have had little to do with him, attempts to make sense of the arcane writing.

The elven figments continue their assault, arrows, swords, and raw brutality all taking their toll on the group. A heavily wounded Valna retreats behind cover while Humphrey is temporarily overrun and knocked to the ground. Perhaps know taking concern or because he found how to deactivate the wall, Xenhros shuts off the arcane barrier to the dismay of Zinnia. Then Xenhros discovers that the power of his dark masters solidified the elven figments for a short time as well. While the battle is fierce, soon the tide is turned.

The toll of the dream assaults where heavy. While Xenhros and Zinnia were still in high spirits or had taken few wounds, the battles had taken the wind out of the others. Making sure the area was safe, they took camp in the area. One oddity was immediately found: The destroyed remains of a warforged, but this one was only semi-solid, as if it had started to fade like the elves. It has a few foodstuffs, and a giant relic, but little to identify it.

As they rested, Zinnia and Xenhros begrudgingly worked together to try to decipher the strange writing they had found. The notes were from an arcane laboratory of the ancient Su’lat League giants; they were apparently examining the nature of dream. But the laboratory had turned to prisoners-the elves and drow-to be their “subjects.” The notes ended abruptly, however, and no explanation of the place’s true purpose was found. Stymied, the group began to rest.

What rest was had was a restless one; dreams were absent. In the morning, the group felt drained. Apparently, true sleep in this place was impossible. They had to find a way out… and soon.

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Unfriendly Skies (Session 6)
A Bit of Turbulence

Unfriendly Skies

Session 6

18 Wir Eyre

Captain d’Lyrandar holds a small ceremonial burial “at sea” for the lost crewmen: Bosun Miri and the Blademarks guarding the hold. Their bodies are left to the sea.

The storms over the Stormfall Peninsula become worse, and the group faces every airship captain’s worse fears: An elemental assault! Stirred up, creatures of air, cold, and lightning swarm the ship. Everyone is pressed to into the defense of the ship. Xenrohs Gilvheerr begrudgingly keeps watch and barks orders at the crew, using fear to keep them on their toes. Zinnia assists with arcane firepower, augmenting the ballista with her exuberant blasts. Meanwhile, Jak and Humphrey do their best to repel the stragglers that come aboard.

The defense is a bit tense at times, with the failure of First Mate Zorra’s voice making the operation more difficult. Wave after wave of the enraged shards swarm the ship, but with some perseverance, the Ascendant makes it through the worse of the storm and they make their way clear. The Ascendant, however, was damaged in the attack, meaning they will take more time in Stormreach than originally planned.

19 Zor Eyre

Midmorning, those aboard the Ascendant catch their first glance of Stormreach. Its size is deceiving—from afar it looks to be closer than it is in actuality due to the Giant-sized ruins. Zinnia is fascinated by the floating ruins tethered to the city bellow, and all are put off by the smell of sewage potent even from the heights.

The Ascendant sets down at Lyrandar Tower in the Marketplace. Captain Mal informs the Expedition that the University has provided them rooms in the Ship’s Cat in Southwatch for the duration of their stay. He informs them of the damage to the ship, and lets them know their take-off will be delayed. The Professor is nonplussed, indicating there is business he needs to attend to in town as well. Everyone else is given time to do as they will.

Zinnia takes the opportunity to explore the exotic wonders of the Marketplace while Humphrey takes his Master’s things directly to the Cat. Having been told to keep an eye on the others by his own master, the drow follows the hobgoblin unseen.

In the market, Zinnia drags Jak to curio after curio. She initially seeks something to prank Professor Omrish for a perceived slight (the easily agitated orc called her a stupid child), but the potent—and illegal—curse vendor frightened her off. Under the large red-striped tent, she discovered several others items of wonder: A leatherbound tome supposedly found by the famed Brelish explorer Alex Payne that drove others mad; a bowl made of the skull of the mysterious dream serpent. But her biggest find, sold to her by the hard bargaining Dr. Majestic, was the briny jar supposedly filled with the brain of Anabaraxus, supposed fire giant mage of the dreaded Su’lat League. “It will whisper its secret of fires as you sleep,” promised the gaudily dressed man. “Imaging the arcane might that awaits such a discerning mage as yourself.” Even skeptical, Zinnia could not resist the pitch.

Meanwhile, in the Harbor, Valna d’Lyrandar sat idly drinking. Her last assignment, the Kraken’s Tempest had sunk under mysterious circumstances, leaving her in Stormreach. The black mark against her family—her father had possessed similar poor luck—left few wanting to trust her. But when Mal d’Lyrandar, her more respected cousin, offered her the position of Bosun on the Storm Ascendant flagship, she could not refuse. Thus, she found herself at the Ship’s Cat, drinking some tourists under the table and waiting for the ship to become ready.

Humphrey checked Lecturer Omrish’s belongings into the inn, a bit concerned at the many cats that roamed the densewood ground—Omrish dislike the four legged felines. While he unpacked and took a bath, the waif Adria roamed the streets of the Karrn district. Here, justice was harsh: The Stormreach Guard was no where to be seen, leaving the well disciplined and violent Sword of Karrn to keep the peace. After rescuing a child who picked the wrong pocket, Adria learned of a gang of children called the Fleas that roamed the giant runs. But the little girl mistrusted the older Adria and all “Big Ones”, and scampered off before Adria could learn more about the cities underworld. Perturbed, Adria returned to her hiding place as Humphrey finished his relaxation.

Through all of this, Xandros kept watch… from the bar.

Eventually, Zinnia and Jak arrived at the Ship’s Cat, finding rooms prepared for her. Apparently, Aunt Bev was a regular guest. Humphrey took a moment to visit a local tea shop, the Blood’s Drop to get some of its famous red tea for Omrish before retiring.

And they all started dreaming…

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Unfriendly Skies (Sessions 4–5)
Piracy in the Sky!

Unfriendly Skies

Sessions 4 & 5

15 Sul Eyre

After giving the crew their rewards, Vhir wanders away without word. Having some time to themselves before the airship departs, some of the crew make last minute forays into Sharn. Humphrey makes an errand into town to find Master Omrish’s favorite boot polish. On a whim, Zinnia drags Jak along to follow, but the hobgoblin is quickly lost in the crowd. Instead, the two spend time in a fine porcelain wares shop (where Jak harms nothing) and in a bookstore in Middle Dura where Zinnia procures some discarded folios from Master Omrish and some additional reading for herself and her bodyguard.

The docks of Lyrandar Tower suffer some random pickpockets, but nothing too serious. As twilight approaches, Humphrey returns with the polish. Just in time for takeoff.

During the evening, a newcomer cloaked figure is seen on deck. Jak has a few words with in Giantish, but the dark skinned man is stand-offish. Bosun Miri is also told of the stranger by the captain, who just states “He’s with the kobold. Leave him be.”

16 Mol Eyre

The Storm Ascendant departs early in the morning, a day delayed. Midmorning, Captain d’Lyrandar gathers all the expedition together, including the formerly sleeping cloaked one, for a ship’s tour. Mal discusses the basic of the ships Unseen Servant enhanced functionality, where meals will be taken, and the basics of the lightning ballista and skiff operation.

Over the next day, the crew mingles. Humphrey loses money to (what he calls) cheating Blademarks, Lyrandar midshipmen, and their second mate Zorra. Jak discovers Cookie’s secret stash of drink and “special meats.” Zinna attempts a ritual to deaden Lecturer Omrish’s snoring which causes Humphrey consternation in the morning.

17 Zor Eyre

On the second day of the three day journey to Stormreach, the weather gets rough. Before being forced belowdecks, Jak and the cloaked one notice Professor Gourthan and Sergeant d’Deneith arguing over something. While biding time midship, the group overhears two crew members discuss the ‘bad luck’ following the expedition; one mentions the attack at the party, another mentions a pale bird he saw at night meaning death. Cookie listens interested.

Night comes, the storm unabated. The group is relaxing with some of the crew while Xandros keeps to himself in the dark part of the ship where some crewmembers are sleeping. Xandros notices a sudden ‘puff’ as a crystal globe is flung from below, but the drow resists the sleepiness that suddenly washes over him. Soon, a group of shifty invidials creep of the stair near the hidden drow, and toss two more globes at the lounge where the others sit. Miri, Humphrey, and the crewmen he was gambling with are overcome while the gnome and the tough minotaur fight it off. The battle is joined!

Jak rushes to the fore, meeting the boarders head on. The continually assault him, dazing him, but he fights back effectively. Zandros faces a few of them on his own, but they too wear cloaks and the others confuse him with one of the foes. This is driven home when Zinnia’s flaming sphere almost smashes into him! The gnome manages to awaken Miri and Humphrey who also press the attack. Soon, none of the true enemy remain, but the mistaken Jak, Zinnia, and Humphrey pursue the misidentified drow down the stairs as a foe!

Belowdecks, Xandros finds more scoundrels roaming about the stores while a half-elf performs a ritual on the vault door. One of the ruffians rush the dark one while the half-elf calls forth lightning against the drow. In addition, she fills the area with sparks that distract the warlock and make it harder to see his foes. He ducks behind some boxes just as the others make their way below and into the fray.

The group, seeing the real threat, focus on the scoundrels and the half-elf whom Miri recognizes as a renegade House Lyrandar scion named Eloshia. Knowing of the rumors of her piratical ways and the rumors of an affair with a half-orc pirate queen, the Bosun quickly realizes the intent of the attack. Eloshia too recognizes the House Livery on the Bosun, and calls lightning against her and the minotaur Jak. The battle soon turns against the renegade, and limping back to the open skiff-bay doors, she leaps into the stormy darkness. The party races to the side of the Ascendant only to see another smaller airship, now with Elosia on board, sail upwards towards the topdeck. There must be more pirates!

(Jak does warn the the ship is “taking on air” seeing the open door. No one says anything to the confused minotaur.)

Taking only a moment to catch their breath, the group rushes topside to see more brigands aboard. The mysterious warforged guarding the rear cabin has been disabled, and no other living crew is seen. Instead, five khorvar scum, a dwarf with a keen eye and a deadlier crossbow, a pirate lieutenant and Koshalla Tormsh, Half-orc Pirate Queen, roamed topside. Jak and Miri rushed at the attractive half-orc only to face her fury—her wicked blade struck at both of them as she directed her allies on the best place to strike the minotaur. Well aimed bolts from the dwarf conspired to fell the wounded minotaur, and soon Miri joined him on the red deck. Humphrey and Zinna attempted to assault the pirate queen, but their best efforts had little effect. Even after tending to Miri and Jak’s wound, the combined effort of the party was almost for naught. Though her wounds were finally catching up to her, the dread corsair managed to drop the hated Lyrandar Bosun, the minotaur defender, and the hobgoblin servant, even after the former had attempted to turn one of the mighty ballista against the pirate!

Xandros watched, having already dispatched his share of the thugs and the bolter. Desperate, he tended to the disabled warforged, brining it back to function. “The Master must be protected,” the former whispered, and the construct brute shattered the door to the luxury cabin that had been held by some alchemical substance. Only Xandros, the warforged, and the hiding Zinna saw what came next. Striding from the back room came a cloaked woman bearing two wands. With a quick flick, she hurled flame and force at the pirate, burning her and flinging her off the deck. Zinnia glanced over to see the halfork sprawled—but very much alive—on the retreating airship, Eloshia at the helm.

The cloaked figure shock her head once and spoke briefly to the well-dressed kobold that had just emerged from the back room. “Take care of this,” came the strong voice. Zinnia just managed to catch a glimpse of a House Cannith dragonmark on the woman’s cheek before the door closed again


Vhir and the Captain soon put together what had happened. Eloshia and her renegade crew had come up beneath the Ascendant, opening the skiff-bay doors from the outside somehow. Others had climbed the slick airship sides, opening the portholes and using their sleep-bombs to incapacitate the others. Then, they assaulted the topdeck, disabling the warforged and sealing the cabin doors. It was then the others attacked those midship. It was the party’s effort that saved the Ascendant.

But the cost was high. Two Blademarks belowdecks had given their life, and one Lyrandar crewman was missing, assumed dead. But the most grievous loss was that of Bosun Miri who gave her life in defense of the ship and crew.

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Unfriendly Skies (Interlude)
Wherein the group receives their just rewards

Unfriendly Skies

Interlude

14 Sol Eyre

After Lyra’s attempted sabotage, Miri and Captain d’Lyrandar search her possessions for any signs for why she did what she did. Nothing incriminating comes up, though they do get off of her person a magic throwing weapon (Distance Shuriken +1) and a fine pirate’s weapon (Parrying Falchion +1).

Late in the evening, after all have gone to rest, four persons come aboard. Only Sergeant d’Deneith and Captain d’Lyrandar are up to meet them. Peering out with his dark eyes, Xenrohs Gilvheerr gets his first glance at the Storm Ascendant, following his master Vhir aboard. The other is a warforged and a cloaked figure to whom Vhir, the Sergeant, and the Captain have some words before the drow is lead belowdecks.

15 Sul Eyre

The day the Ascendant was supposed to sail, Bosun Miri is told that they will be ashore one more day to take on replacements. Seeing to the crew, she notices that a hulking warforged now stands guard outside the luxury cabin abovedecks. Asking the Captain about it, he says, “Let’s just say our benefactor felt that we needed more protection after the attack. Oh, and if you see that pesky kobold or his drow about, pay them no mind.”

Later in the morning, Professor Barrasten is having tea with her niece served with care by the minotaur Jak. “Good work, last night, dear, though you still need practice on the third form of the incantation of flame.” She reaches into her satchel and takes out something wrapped in green felt cloth and hands it to the younger Barrasten. “I was going to save this for closer to the end of the trip, but you demonstrated that you can handle it now.” Inside is a slender wand of hardened charcoal (Flame Wand +1). “To make sure this oaf can keep you safe, he also has a new gift.” ZInnia can see the minotaurs new boots. Somehow they fit the hoofed humanoid (Boots of Adept Charging).

Throughout the day, the mysterious kobold Vhir, who everyone thought would leave after the party, finds each of the group separately. He greats them simply, business-like, and presents them, in his words, “a token of the gratitude of our Benefactor for foiling the saboteur.” Within each is a finely made item, each bearing the House Cannith seal: A Dueling Dagger +1 to Humphrey, a glistening set of Mithril Scale +1 for Miri, and a perfectly sized set of Scale (Armor of Sacrifice +1) for the minotaur. 30gp amongst the group is also distributed. The kobold answers no questions, deflecting them expertly, and continues on his way.

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Unfriendly Skies (First Three Sessions)

The Unfriendly Skies

First Three Sessions

13 Far Eyre, Sharn

As the Gourthan prepares to get underway, goblinoid dock crew continued to load supplies onto the Storm Ascendant. Observing the operations were Bosun Miri and Deneith Blademark “The Harbinger”.

Around noon, three separate groups converged on the loading bay. The first was impeccably dressed hobgoblin Humphrey securing the possessions of his august employer, Lecturer Thurg Omrish. The second was more colorful: A barely contained gnome by the name of Zinnia Elanora Barrasten (a novice wizard on “co-op” with the Expedition under the watchful eye of her Aunt Professor Barrasten and her minder the put-upon minotaur Jak. But it was the last arrival that would cause such a stir—the artificer Aldus Thunderspanner and his delivery of the mysterious Koldoran Piece.

That is when all chaos broke loose.

In the hold, a warforged suddenly broke loose from inside one of the crates and began assaulting the gathered, including the watchful Harbinger. While the Harbinger, Bosun Miri, and Jak focused on the warforged, the goblinoid porters cowered in seeming panic. However, as the warforged was felled, two surprised revelead themselves. First, the warforged was no warforged, but a changeling assuming its role. Secondly, the goblinoids were not cowering but retrieving weapons! The battle was still on!

The group worked separately against the mess. Zinnia called forth fire which scorched half of the belongings, one goblin, and the hobgoblin Humphrey. While the gnome apologized, her guard Jak was strangled by the bugbear who then used the larger minotaur as a shield against Miri’s follow-up assault. Trying to escape the mad gnome, Humphrey climbed some of the crates and rained down throwing blades done upon the goblins effectively. Finally, the last hobgoblin thug was felled, but not before something else happened.

The Koldoran Piece was stolen!

While the group fought in the hold, more goblinoids faces the artificer and his homunculi friends. He held them off with the assistance of some blademarks, but one managed to grab the Piece and abscond with it into the Sharn skies via a soarsled. As the dust settled in the hold, Sergeant d’Deneith arrived on the scene, and hearing Aldus’ protestations, ordered the Harbinger to follow the thief on one of the other soarsleds the assailants used. The impulsive Zinna followed, leaving the exasperated Jak to join as well. Miri, intent to defend the honor of her ship, also joined while the reluctant Humphrey tagged along, knowing his must or his master would be quite put out that the expedition was cancelled.

Chasing the thief through the airways of Sharn, the party weaved through open air markets, under skycabs, and in Jak’s case, through a cargo-cab with deleterious effect. An inspired Zinnia managed to tune the efficacy of her sled and careened ahead just in time to see the thief descend into an abandoned sewer in Lower Dura. In the dark, they found a cabal of House Tarkanan thugs lead by tall man with a purple-red aberrant dragonmark like a boil on his face. Battle was immediately joined!

The Harbinger implaccably approached the marked, knowing their despise for his kind. Jak and Miri also braved the sewage and were met by the ringleader’s lackeys. Humphrey tried his best to stay away from the sewage, but a failed leap soiled his fine vestments. During all of this, the meancing marked scion channeled the fell power of his mark to daze or throw-back his attackers. But the combined efforts of all, including a few well (and not so well) placed explosions from Zinnia, won the day.

The Koldoran Piece was retrieved, but upon the marked assailant (whom the captured for later questioning) was a note. It was clear that someone associated with the Expedition had arranged the attack; worse yet, it was only a distraction for some larger nefarious scheme that was left unidentified.

Someone was after the Expedition.

14 Sar Eyre, Sharn

Returning to the Ascendant, the five strangers made their separate ways. On the next day, while final preparations were made for the Morgrave University sponsored launch party, Professor Gourthan called the five together to ask them about the attack. It was clear from the interrogation of the prisoner that House Tarkanan was interested in the Koldoran Piece, but had no larger plans with regards to the Expedition. The group delivered the strange threat from the note, and Gourthan entrusted them to get to the bottom of the matter discretely. However, several of the party could not shake the notion that Gourthan was not as in charge of the Expedition as it seemed.

Someone else was in charge.

The five made separate efforts to discover what was going on. Many of the crew were absent on final shore-leave. One of the midshipmen was being tended for wounds along with a Blademark; Jak could sympathize due to a filthy disease that he had caught in the sewer. Little, it seemed, could be done before the launch party got underway.

The Gourthan Expedition Launch Party was a major social event of the season. Ambassadors, Dragonmarked scions, noted socialites and academics were all in attendance. Flitting through the crowd were the group, each keeping their eyes open. Humphrey spoke to a put out Aldus; the dwarf was certain that the Tarkanan would attack again but was more concerned with the presence of a mysterious kobold that had been associated with them in the past. The Harbinger and Miri both noted that the entertainment for the evening had been changed at the last minute—they were now dangerous drakes that would captivate the audience. But Miri noted one more thing: Midshipman Lyra Trashonen, who was responsible for the entertainment, was missing.

Just then, the cages keeping the menacing drakes fell open. Hordes of violent needlefang drakes began tearing at random party goers while flying drakes dived and pecked at those fleeing and a few larger drakes mauled anyone getting close to the access belowdecks. The group and the other members of the expedition did there best to fight the lizard menace. Professor Barrasten cooly called forth arcane force to battle back the drakes, showing up her more rambunctious niece. The Harbinger and Sergeant d’Deneith fought back-to-back, rallying the blademarks in the crowd. Lecturer Omrish did not fair as well when a swarm of the neddlefangs mauled him; but they began to fear his explosive temper as he began flinging scorched bodies over the railing left and right.

As the tide of the battle turned and crowd was clearing the decks, Miri spotted crewman Lyra slip belowdecks. Quickly following, they found themselves pressed by more hobgoblins blocking access to the artificer lab of the Ascendant. Dispatching the grunts, the Harbinger flung open the door to find Lyra and her mutated lighting guard drake protecting some sort of arcane device attacked to the elemental housing. After being hit in the neck by a dart, he also spotted out of the corner of his eye a small lizardfolk darter. The battle was tense with the darter keeping out of sight, poison knocking Humphrey down until Miri’s inspiration brought him back up. Even the Harbinger was bloodied in the fighting. But the battle seemed near winning when Jak entered the room.

Suddenly, the device on the housing flared in blue light, and flung the large minotaur against the hull. Zinnia recognized the signs: It was an arcane bomb capable of scuttling the ship! If they did not do something, the Ascendant would crash into the tower below, killing hundreds! More importantly, they’d cancel the Expedition!

The gnome rushed into the room, Jak and the Harbinger following. The latter two were able to bring down Lyra, but the lizardfolk, cursing in draconic, dropped the larger Harbinger with a well-placed stab. The next time the bomb flared, it flung Zinna and the Harbinger into the wall next to Jak. But the electrical shock was enough.

The Harbinger was dead.

Working against time, Humphrey managed to hold himself down while the bomb arced electricity long enough to disable it. As the others from above decks finally saw the scene, the four remaining party breathed a sigh of relief and began to mourn their recent companion.

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