For the Glory of the Empire!

All things

At last
I saw the wrath descend –
I saw the end.
I gazed upon the Earth,
And all the withered world was chaos,
A swirling, putrid chaos,
A putrid, purple chaos,
Just as it had been
Before the world began.

― Norman C. Habel, Unknown Book 1900776

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Several Endings

After defeating the Travellers in the basilica, several of the Broken Talon guild went to greet and warn the incoming occupying force. Count Julius Arethir lead the legion taking control of Milasylla. He agreed that the palace district should be off limits to most people, and assigned a company of Jueryani to assist the guild in sweeping the palace.

The guild made its way to the throne room. There, the Regent was slumped on his throne. He was alive, but unresponsive. There were four scars on his head, and tentacles leading into the base of his skull. A squid-like thing was attached to his back, presumably relaying signals between his brain and spinal chord. Count Arethir was sent for, and he sanctioned the removal of the creature from the Regent’s body. The regent did not survive.

The Temple of Ollatuan was called in to make an accounting of the treasures, both of the city and those stolen from the temples. The Guild was offered a generous bounty for the Regent. The guild teleported to Athela to report to the emperor the victory at Milasylla. They collected the bounty on the dead Traveller, as well as a further award for their actions in the taking of the city. The emperor also offered them a favor.

The guild returned to Oganis Ford to figure out what favor they wanted from the Emperor and what items they wanted from the temple. Mirimmae went to the mages’ tower, determined to remain until she had cleansed herself of wild magic. While they were making lists, Damien received a message. His face lost all its color. He burned the letter, talked briefly to Telios, and teleported away.

A couple of hours later, a messenger came running for Telios. Damien had returned. He was curled upon the ground, twitching and mostly unconscious. He was wrapped in necromantic magic that Telios could not remove. Damien clutched a dagger and Grimskull’s mask.

During the next day or so, they found out what had happened. Damien had received a summons from his father, who had assassinated Duke Duren and trapped his soul in a dagger. Damien went. He was able to kill Grimskull. In the process, however, his sword lost its false personality. Damien was wielding the Sword of Death. Through a combination of willpower and magic, he freed himself from the grasp of the sword. Damien has retired to the mages’ tower to recover.

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Have Fun Storming The Castle!
If only we had a wheelbarrow, that would be something!

The guild departed for the military encampment outside of Milasylla. The ritual was slated to start the next day, and would take nine hours to complete. Jonar and Cedric left to do a little recon, while the rest of the guild sorted out watches.

Jonar and Cedric took a little detour to the estate of House Lyril, where they caught the head of the house with his pants down, literally. They captured him and brought him near to the camp. Jonar was about to kill him when Cedric noticed that he had an amulet around his neck, similar to those that Traveller-controlled Jueyani had been wearing in Moyarit. They summoned the rest of the guild to ask some questions of Kilian Lyril.

The first set of revelations were more on the personal side. Kilian was Cedric’s brother and had framed him for the murder of their father. (Cedric, incidentally, is really named Eron.)

The second set of answers was more disturbing. He had been given the amulet by an adviser to the Regent, as had other people of importance in the court. The Regent had not been seen in some time. While the adviser had a full set of hair, the high priest of the church of Millona was completely hairless, and the acolytes in the church had started shaving their heads in imitation.

Worse, the city had been importing large amounts of various metals and magical supplies for quite some time. Kilian did not know what they were used for, though the guild anticipated an unpleasant surprise when they entered the city. They took Kilian to the camp and left him tied up and secure.

During the night, a commotion erupted by the commander’s tent. Most of the guild rushed over. Duke Duren Kanhilas had been assassinated, and his head was missing. Telios sent a message to Berim in Karad, asking that diamond dust be sent to the camp in the morning. It was. Unfortunately, Telios’s attempt to resurrect the Duke failed. The magic users in the group considered that the Duke’s soul had been trapped somehow and could not be brought back to his body.

Leadership of the army went to the head of one of the Legions. Despite the loss of Duke Duren, the ritual and attack would go as planned. It was not long after the ritual started that cheering could be heard from the city. Jonar and Sak went to see what was happening. The crowds were gathered, but nothing could be seen. Suspecting that whatever it was might be invisible, Jonar used a Qual’s feather token to create a tree in front of the main gate. Something unseen tore it from the ground. Jonar and Sak raced to the front lines to inform the guild and the legions that something big, bad and invisible was headed their way.

It was actually a little worse. It was not just one big creature, but over two dozen animated statues. The guild worked quickly to take them down, but the statues slaughtered about 700 soldiers before they all had been dealt with.

Upon further examination, the guild realized that the golems had been created from the statues in the city—the same statues with the mind-affecting crystals that their ritual was working to subvert. The guild and soldiers worked to free the crystals from the statues. Jonar, using wind walk, crept into the city and replaced the crystals around town.

After the ritual was completed, the Broken Talons entered the city. The ritual had worked—almost everyone was sitting or lying down, unmindful and uncaring of what was going on around them. The group headed for the basilica. Most of the guild ignored the bald-headed priests who didn’t notice their presence. On the second floor, the guild found what they sought. A bald-headed priest and two guards were alert and waiting for them.

Battle was joined. Swords slashed; spells crashed, and in the end, one of the Travellers lay dead and the other two fled.

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Return to Grimskull Island

After surviving the trap that Grimskull laid for them, the guild teleported back to Oganis Ford. Well, most of the guild. When they arrived, they discovered that Damien had remained behind. Jonar, Cedric, Sak, and the head Kithlanan scout were teleported by Talia Arzhaelnos back to Grimskull Island. Cedric was to guard Talia while the others looked for Damien.

The scouts headed for the ruins. There was a path leading down to a depression in the ground with half-buried obelisks and pyramids made of seamless dark stone. The path lead to an opening in one of the pyramids. Three sets of footprints lead into the ruin; seven led out. The group quietly wafted down the hallway leading into the ruin. The hallway ended in a small chamber. Two very crude statues of hooded figures, carved out of the same black rock, carried torches of blue flame. There was writing on the back, which Jonar copied. Jonar also heard whispers, which he attempted to memorize to repeat back to Telios or Talia later. On the far end of the chamber was a stairwell headed down. The scout team decided that they’d explored far enough and returned to Cedric and Talia.

Jonar showed the copied writing to Talia. She stated that they needed to leave, now. Sak and Jonar wanted to take a quick look around the tower, so Talia reluctantly agreed to leave in 15 minutes. The reconnaissance of the tower proved what the guild suspected—that it was empty. The scouting group returned to Oganis Ford.

The next day, Telios, Cedric and Jonar went to Karad. Telios petitioned and received space inside the temple of Frendila to return Araceli from the dead. Telios managed to convince Araceli that she had been dead for three months, during which time the Dark Lord Damien had wreaked havoc. Cedric, Jonar, and Telios were having a hearty laugh at Araceli when Damien himself appeared.

As he later said, he had stayed overnight on Grimskull Island and explored the outside of the ruins the day after the scouting party had been there. He and Telios had come to a similar conclusion about the ruins: they were remains of an ancient, humanoid civilization Vauljuran, “The Dead Souls.” Damien had further discovered that sorcerers had entered Vauljuran ruins. Three of them emerged, later to become the sorcerer-kings who forged the Swords of the Deathsong. Other Vauljuran ruins had been sacked, but the one on Grimskull Island looked to be in better shape. The guild determined that they would explore the ruins to see what they could find out about the swords and how to destroy them.

As they remembered that the research for the ritual for the siege of Milsylla was to be completed the next day, they further decided to put off the exploration until Milsylla had fallen.

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The Attack on Grimskull Island
It's cool--we got this.

here

Or not.

After much arguing and agonizing, the Broken Talons jury rigged a plan to take on Grimskull Island and Damien’s father. They’d get within range of wind walk, float on over to the island, blow a hole in the wall, and take out anyone dumb enough to stand in their way.

Using Jonar’s contacts, they found a ship captain crazy enough to take them to the pirate-infested waters of the Jerdan Isles. More importantly, they found a ship captain crazy enough to take them to the pirate-infested waters of the Jerdan Isles who wouldn’t attempt to sell them out. After a quiet couple of weeks, the guild was dropped off with a rowboat at a predetermined spot and left to make their own way. They wind-walked to Grimskull Island.

On the way to the tower, the guild passed over a set of ruins. A sense of evil and dread was palpable from them, although Damien could not recall anything like that emanating from the ruins before. The guild decided to investigate the tower first, and come back to the ruins later.

There were a few patrols there, but nothing much. The guard around the tower itself seemed light. The group floated over the main wall and into the courtyard. After rematerializing, Araceli used a couple of spells to blow a hole in the wall of the keep. As the group entered the kitchen area, they heard the alarm being raised. Someone shouted, “Protect the heart of the keep!” Damien thought that this was rumored to be in the catacombs, so the guild headed upstairs first.

They met no resistance. The place appeared to be empty, except for one, large, undead guard at the entrance to Grimskull’s study. The guard let them by. The guild was rather unsettled by this point, and this was before Jonar noticed that things were quite appearing right as he was searching Grimskull’s study for valuable and before Telios noticed that the books in the library were filled with gibberish and the “pages” turned in big clumps. The tower was obviously empty, and it was likely that everything they were now seeing was illusion.

After some debate, the Broken Talons decided to search the catacombs before travelling on to the ruins. Near the start of the catacombs, a secret door was found. Inside the chamber was a large, glowing crystal ball that radiated illusion magic. Everyone except Jonar stepped into the room. With the tacit consent of the others, Cedric swung his hammer and shattered the ball.

A brilliant flash of light exploded, blinding most of the guild members. The door to the hallway sealed shut. Runes began to glow around the room, blocking all teleportation and other extra dimensional travel. And two large statues raised from the floor. Grimskull’s voice began to speak. He sneered at Damien for falling into his trap, and said it was going to be a pleasure to kill him. As there came no response to Damien’s questions, this too was an illusion.

Unfortunately, what was not an illusion was the transformation of the statues into two angels of decay. Everyone but Cedric, Mirimmae and Quentin were still blinded when the angels completed their transformation. Jonar was still on the outside of the trap, with no way in.

The first part of the fight was long and hard. Fortunately, the blindness wore off shortly after combat began. The angels dealt a steady amount of damage, along with their terrible stench. The guild settled in for a fatiguing time whittling away at the tough undead creatures. The ground shook every now and again.

After more rumbling, the ground opened up near one of the walls. A nightmare creature emerged—a huge worm with a black chitinous exoskeleton and nasty looking teeth. It grabbed Araceli and swallowed her. Quentin was next on the menu.

Things did not look good. Damien used a scroll to open a doorway back to the hall. Mirimmae decided upon a more desperate course of action. She opened herself up to the raw flow of magic, and send a wave of positive energy through the room. To everyone’s surprise, the night crawler literally dropped dead. The other undead creatures remained, but looked worse for the wear. The guild did not take much longer to dispatch the terrible angels. Quentin crawled out of the worm’s belly just in time to see the last one killed. Araceli was dead, and had to be cut out of the worm’s throat.

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In Which Not Much Happens

1. Guild returns to Oganis Ford.

2. Guild teleports to Athela.

3. Guild sells and buys things, especially things that make killing undead easier.

4. Guild returns before dark, having learned that spending the night in Athela is a Very Bad Idea.

5. Guild members have weird dreams of flying above armies

(Hey, even an adventuring guild needs some downtime, ya know?)

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Northern Exposure
Freaking Thedinaar.

The Broken Talons decided to try to obtain the weapon that Quentin was given the tip about. After stopping off in Oganis Ford—where they picked up Jim—they headed to Obsidian Keep, a Naratani outpost on the edges of the Darklands. Their target was Jasper Keep, an abandoned Araun fortress about a week’s march away. The orcs made occasional attempts to take the keep, but were never successful. It was unknown what lay inside.

The guild supplied themselves with heavy winter gear and with plenty of warnings—avoid the red snow, the crunchy-looking snow, the blue trees, the “rivers” of coldfire that flow above the snow, the blue lichen, the black ice, the yellow snow…

Once the group moved into the Darklands proper, the temperature dropped to -30 during the day, colder at night. It was a long and bitterly cold four days, interrupted only by a “river” of super-cold energy floating above the ice. (It was, and a feather token boat was involved.) On the fourth evening, Saak declared that it was going to storm for the next day or so. Jim offered to do what he could to keep everyone on their feet until they reached the keep. He exhausted himself, but the guild marched steadily for the next day and half, reaching Jasper Keep.

Outside the keep were bodies of orcs. Inside, the keep was warm, although how it was kept so the Guild never discovered. Once they had passed into the main hall, the guild was confronted by a spirit who demanded that they leave, or else. A plea that they were merely taking shelter pacified the spirit, who warned them that they were safe as long as they stayed within the first chamber.

The group rested. The next day, they began exploring. The door at the far end of the main chamber opened to a hallway crossing it. At both ends were doors. When either door was approached, spirits appeared and warned the guild away. They decided to open one of the doors anyway. Cedric threw open the door to the right. A green beam flew past him.

The door lead to another hallway. As they traversed it, each person felt the weight of fear pressing in on them. Araceli was convinced that there were shades in the shadows, waiting to pounce upon her. Telios heard the sounds of the Travelers and felt tentacles on his head. Ignoring these fears, the guild continued to walk. Soon, they reached a point where a corridor branched off.

The first spirit reappeared, telling them that they were free to take anything that lined the corridor and that he would show them a hidden treasure, but they could proceed no further. The guild regretfully declined this offer and pressed on to the final room. In that room was a sword and nothing else. Quentin picked up the sword, but it apparently did not care for him. Damien it tolerated.

The guild returned to the corridor, which was lined with ancient suits of armor and weapons. They carried off two suits of armor used by the Jade Phoenix mages during the Second Crusade, two suits of Araun armor, a maul and a greatsword. They were unable to find the hidden cache. After resting once more (and making sure that Jim was okay), the guild set off again. The journey back was worse. The first night, it stormed razor snow, cutting their tents to shreds and injuring those who had no shield to scramble under. The next morning, the guild tried to figure out how to travel forward in spite of the snow that would cut their winter boots. A solution involving magic and fire was found, and the slog through the cold continued.

After the storm, it grew even colder. Each night, different guild members suffered from frostbite and hypothermia. After about the third night, nearly half the party was exhausted from the cold. Telios saved the day by wishing for a safe, warm house in which to spend the night. A mansion appeared, guarded by the weirds of Dryard. Inside was warm food, fireplaces, bathtubs, multiple rooms (!)—it was a small piece of heaven in Thedinaar’s hell.

Refreshed from their night in the mansion, the Broken Talons pushed back to Obsidian Keep, and after a partial boat ride, they ported back to Oganis Ford. Almost every member of the guild has sworn solemn (and futile) vengeance against Thedinaar for those two wretched weeks in the Darklands.

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Of Rum & Cults

Once in Dubril, the Broken Talons decided that the best way to contact the cult of Elri’Kah was to let it be whispered that Damien Grimskull was in town. Jonar set to work, while most of the rest of the guild hit the town. (Damien was to keep quiet and hidden until contact was made. Mirimmae made sure he in fact followed this plan).

After a few days—and one blackmail attempt—it came to the guild’s attention that several Merchant Council guards were aggressively “asking” around the taverns for Brinn. Jonar allowed himself to be found, whereupon the guard gave him instructions to give to Damien. Whoever had employed the guard wished to meet Damien at a tavern in the noble’s district that night.

Damien went and met with “Harrow” and his two guards. They formulated a plan to overthrow House Cunuldor, the merchant house at the heart of the cult. Before the agreed-upon day, Damien made his grand entrance into Dubril. He found a tavern with several Cunuldor guards, scared the crap out of them (probably literally) and sent them to deliver his message and challenge to their house. He killed two of them.

House Cunuldor’s response was a touch underwhelming at first. The guild had met with Harrow and his guards. Cunuldor sent one man with a one-use item, which emitted a disintegration beam—that Harrow’s guard seemed completely unaffected by. The would-be assassin didn’t last six seconds.

The next round was a cadre of eight men. They lasted longer, but only because the Broken Talons let Harrow’s guard take out two of them on their own. The guild cleared out the bar and surrounding streets.

Some time later, the bells began to ring in the city—warning the citizens to clear the streets and stay indoors. Cedric barricaded one end of the street and partially barricaded another to funnel the incoming troops. The guild set up for battle. Harrow and his men headed to the estate of Cunuldor to take out the family. Joran went into the oncoming enemy lines to take out their officers.

The first wave of Merchant Guild troops came near the funnel. They were quickly dispatched. Before the next round could reach the choke point, the barricade on the other side fell. A monstrous troll with four arms roared through. The troll seemed to take a particular dislike to Quentin, and spent the better part of a minute attempting to beat the paladin to pieces against the pavement. Through the efforts of the clerics, Quentin was not reduced to a squishy pink paste inside a tin can.

The troll was eventually defeated, though not before it had “blasphemed” and incapacitated most of the guild members present.

Meanwhile, the Merchant Council guard had been held off. Due to the sudden deaths of their leaders and the defeat of the troll, their ranks disintegrated. Once they had recovered, the guild climbed the hill to the noble’s district.

Harrow and his guards had been more than thorough. Upon afterthought, this was not surprising, since Quentin said that they radiated outside evil. The guild found a curious totem to another shard of Gallinon in the former shrine to Elri’Kah. Figuring out that Harrow and his men were members of a rival cult, the guild decided to stick around and take out Harrow.

Harrow’s guards caught wind of this plan, and warned the guild off. The guild did not listen, and Joran tracked them down to a warehouse. The guild stormed in and found the two guards. The guards warned them one more time to let matters lie. The guild, for the first time in its history, backed down from the fight.

Quentin was approached by a stranger and told that they could acquire an item in the North that would help deal with Grimskull and the upcoming “Northern Problem.” It is being held in a fortress. The Vashrans could not destroy the weapon, and therefore are making sure that no one else can obtain it. The guild is debating whether or not to confront Grimskull before tracking down the item.

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An Unexpected Visitor

On the day of the promised visit, a man and four human bodyguards arrived. The guards wore black cloaks and tabards over gold-tinted armor. After some little conversation, the emissary was revealed to be “Uncle” Shabra—ally of Damien’s father and member of the Black Minitry of Siride.

He had come to inform the Broken Talons that they would be acquired for Siride, to fight the Viakhans. This was not going to be a choice, but Shabra promised that things would go much easier for guild members who voluntarily accepted his offer of Citizenship. Those who did not volunteer would have to be coerced. He did not give a timeline, but hinted that the sooner the Guild delivered themselves to Siride the better. Shabra and his guards left.

This announcement caused an uproar in the Guild. Cedric, Quentin, Araceli and Mirimmae were immediately against the idea of taking up Siridian Citizenship. Damien and Telios seemed more amenable to the idea. Jonar was more neutral on the matter.

Discussions went on throughout the next day. The Citizenship issue was tabled, as there would be no consensus in the guild at the moment. Because there was no knowing how soon Shabra might come to collect, the Broken Talons decided to start going through their cleanup list, getting as much done as possible before any confrontation with the Black Ministry. First up was taking care of Grimskull and the cult of Elri’Kah. The guild departed for Dubrill.

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Finding The Way

After reaching a deal with the mercenary general, the Guild decided to scout Milasylla. They discovered that the Travellers had placed their statues throughout the city. The magic this time inspired religious fervor and hatred of outsiders. Evidence of both moods were ample in the city. The Guild struggled to figure out a way to take the city while reducing the number of civilian casualties, as in their current state, the citizens of Milasylla were likely to fight to the death to protect it.

After much debate, the guild decided to hire the mages in Oganis Ford to create a magical ritual to subvert the statues—to change the emotions generated by them. The ritual would take six weeks of research. The guild still wished to take on the Travellers, but were unsure how to draw them out. They went to Athela to see if the Emperor (or more likely, his inquisitors) had managed to obtain any useful information from the captured ilithid. They set up a meeting, and found places to stay for the night.

During the night, the Broken Talons were attacked by undead shadows. The attacks were fierce, and left several of the guild on the brink of death. Fortunately, all survived to attend the audience with the Emperor. (And the Guild has vowed never to spend another night in Athela.)

The news from the Emperor’s interrogator was not good. The Traveller had managed to escape. Little information was gleaned from it. It had, over the course of its imprisonment, imbued its cell with an emotional aura.

After this, the guild further debated its role in the upcoming battle for Milasylla, attempting to find a way to either circumvent or shorten the conflict. In the end, it was decided that this whole politics thing was not the guild’s strong suite. The Guild decided to go back to kicking ass, taking names and collecting loot. They returned home and prepared for their visitor.

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