Session 01 29 10

After Nathaniel had helped heal the party to full, Nimmik and Silas decided to stealthily explore the shadowy keep on the other side of the gate. Their inspections turned-up little, aside from the gear of their fallen enemies. The shadow version of the keep was truly a ruin compared to its prime material counterpart; no ceiling, collapsing walls, and toppled statues. Out of the corner of his eye, Nimmik noticed something off in the horizon. Through a large hole in the wall he saw a large, bird-like creature far off in the distance flying towards the keep. Pointing this out to the spell-thief, they observed the beast for a moment. Nimmik thought it better to be cautious and stepped back through the gate. Silas stayed for a moment and notices a large mass of creatures directly below the flying beast, also headed for the keep. That spurred the thief to end his inspection and step back through the gate.

Relaying their finds to the rest of the party; they decided it best to rest until they recovered their full hit points and abilities. Once they were ready they proceeded back through the gate once again.

Little had changed, but to the more perceptive, there was now a faint scratching noise in the shadows. There came a vicious roar from the tower above. Standing in a large hole in the wall of the second story was a massive dragon-like creature. It had the head and facial features of a black dragon and the accompanying black scaly hide covered by a large suit of armor. It walked on two legs and wielded a giant, glowing green greatsword.

"My sire will feast on your bones, puny mortals. You and your goddess will fail, have already failed. Shar's dogma shall consume all. KILL THEM!" it bellowed, as familiar undead lizardfolk emerged from the shadows to attack the group.

The first round saw a heavy hit to the group; as the shadowslain lizardfolk swarmed the party the dragon-creature swooped down amidst them. Slamming the pommel of her sword on the ground, she unleashed a blast of unholy flames on everyone but Perchivak (who was mercifully out of the burst area). Niall took the worst, receiving a critical hit for 46 points of damage, while everyone else took fairly big damage as well (around 25-30 points). Now that it was up close, they noticed that not only was it a dragon-like creature, but it was an undead dragon-like creature.

They survived the first round and rebounded with fervor. The shadowslain minions dropped easily, despite their hefty defenses and quantity, and once the dragon-creature was isolated they locked her down with multiple de-buffs; slowed, blinded, dazed, restrained and caused her to grant combat advantage. With only a few attacks forthcoming from the creature after that, they dispatched her in short order.

The PCs were then free to explore the tower. The first floor was choked with dead twisted plants, apparently a communal nest for the shadowslain lizardfolk. The second floor held something of considerably more interest; a massive black throne surrounded by bones. A search on the bones turned-up something even more interesting; five small ivory statues one of which looked eerily like Silas.

Aenin showed-off his new insights in religion with an astounding revelation; two of the other statues matched the description of Mask's chosen; Erevis Cale and Drasek Riven. Helios closely inspected the statues and discovered a strange script etched into their bases. Nathaniel, whom could read the supernal script, translated the writing on each of the figures to the group; Erevis Cale - First of Five, Drasek Riven - Second of Five, Solomon Blackroot - Third of Five, Silas Porter - Fourth of Five, and Deandra - Fifth of Five.

The party, as a whole, looked up at the spell-thief with question deeply etched in their expressions. Silas, not wanting to discuss his devotions, nor his apparent role within the Maskarran church, thought to derail any oncoming queries, "Hey! You can see quite a distance from this hole in the wall!" (rolling a very impressive bluff check). The group, indeed, became more interested in the view from the massive hole, while Silas inspected the massive black throne.

Helios, not to have his forthcoming question brushed aside so easily, decided to let the issue rest for now, knowing that the spell-thief would most likely just hide and slink away to avoid further questioning. The time would come to question the thief. For now, he helped Silas inspect the throne; It was made of black basalt and was large enough to seat a large creature comfortably. His knowledge of the history of Faerun's Heartlands proved helpful, and he identified the throne as the possible means by which the Dusklord of Sessrendale escaped to the Plane of Shadow. His knowledge of the arcane, however, proved fruitless.

Aenin, ever one to act without thought, walked up and sat in the throne. As soon as his undead cheeks hit the seat, the shadows surrounding the throne pulled in around him. After a moment they dispersed and Aenin found that he could see a bit clearer and that he was otherwise unharmed by the shadowy throne. Nimmik and Silas shared a look and scrambled for the throne while the others seemed a bit more cautious about the strange magical seat. Silas, of course, beat Nimmik to the throne and promptly sat down. Likewise, his vision was enhanced, but he also felt the pervasive chill of the Plane of Shadow wane a little; like a warm cloak was wrapped about him. Nimmik quickly followed suit, and eventually so did the rest of the party. Although, Helios didn't feel any changes after sitting on the throne (those who did basically received Resist 5 Cold, and Darkvision). After some thought on why he didn't get the same boon as the rest of the group he deduced that it might be because he was the only one that didn't walk through (or was thrown through) the shadow gate in the false temple of Mystra.

With their vision much clearer, they could see the landscape just south of the keep through the hole in the wall. On this side of the planar gate the keep had no courtyard, but was surrounded by murky water. A dock was located at the southern bank of the island on which the keep sat, and at that dock was moored a small ship. Several figures could be seen milling about on the bank just north of the dock, but they were too far away to make-out details.


The group decided to make their way toward the dock as stealthily as possible. Once they were close enough, they could see that the figures were in fact crow-like humanoids milling about around a dock. Moored to the dock was a small skiff on which stood a small female humanoid. She was speaking to three more small humanoids standing on the dock. As the group approached, Perchivak and his cumbersome armor gave them away and one of the crow-like humanoids called out in alarm. Still a good distance from the dock, Silas had plenty of room to let a few arrows fly, however, once the missiles found their mark in one of the crow-men, the creature spotted the spell-thief and called to the rest of his group, "Four of Five! Four of Five!" On their initiative they swarmed the small female on the dock, hurling daggers at her and her three minions. With the tables unexpectedly and heavily tipped in their favor, the PCs proceeded to attack the gnomes. Nimmik torched the dock with a firey blast, frying the three gnomes on it. The gnome female proved much more wily eluding even the gang of kenku for a while. But, eventually the group pinned her down after forcing her into the water and Aenin claimed her head. Only one of the kenku fell during the battle and the others gathered around his unconscious form chanting some kind of prayer. The PCs watched, curious. Helios offered to heal the fallen kenku for which they were grateful.

Their leader approached Silas and bowed, "He told us you'd arrive soon," the kenku then moved to the body of the dead gnome female and removed an amulet from around her neck, "with this you can use their boat," he then pointed off in the distance south of the keep, "Follow the beacons, they will lead to where you need to go."

Silas didn't really know what to say or ask, so he said simply, "Um, thanks. Wait! 'He' who?"

"He," the kenku replied simply, which his group echoed. With that they gathered their daggers and began to depart.

Perchivak called after them, "What are you?"

To which they replied in unison, and in an eerily close impression of the dragonborn, "What are you?" They then began to depart as the PCs turned their attention to the boat.

Silas was not appeased so easily, however. Needing answers he decided to follow the kenku. Dipping into the natural shadows of the realm he snatched the the ivory statues from Helios and the bag of holding and tailed the bird-men, not sure where they'd lead him. Holding the statue that bore the name of his childhood friend, he was determined the find the answer to this riddle.

Meanwhile, the rest of the PCs were more interested in the boat, especially Perchivak; the magically propelled skiff was powered by a galley of skeletons chained to the oars. The Paladin of Kelemvor could not suffer these undead to exist, so he promptly smashed all four of them, despite protests from Aenin Nimmik and Helios. However, within 6 seconds the skeletons re-assembled without a scratch. After a few more attempts to destroy them with little success, the paladin acquiesced to let them be until the group no longer needed the boat. Though he insisted on steering the boat by strategically smashing the undead. With that acceptable agreement the group prepared to board, though they had yet to notice the absence of their thief. The beacons pointed-out by the kenku in the swamp stood at regular intervals off to the south/south east. Their dark purple radiance cast the swamp in an eery light. Helios donned the amulet and began to assert his will over the skiff. Slowly the skeletons steered the boat away from shore and awaited the kalashtar's next command.

The kenku marched for a while, northeast from the keep. Silas had little trouble staying hidden and keeping the crow-men within sight. It was strange, such a foreign and depressing plane of existence, yet the spell-thief felt as comfortable as if he were skulking down the alleys of Velprintilar. The kenku stopped only rarley, and only then to avoid crossing paths with some denizen of the plane. They hid almost as well as Silas, he had to admit he was fairly impressed. Eventually, after maybe two hours of marching, they reached the edge of the swamp. There they found a cavern leading into the darkness below. Without hesitation the kenku descended the cave. Normally, Silas might have been hesitant to enter the Shadowdark, especially given its reputation, but with his nifty new darkvision and his inexplicable ease in this plane he decided to follow. After a few twists and drops in the cave they came to a large natural cavern. They entered, walked a few paces and knelt, while Silas held back and watched from the tunnel. Another figure emerged from the shadows before the kenku; A darkly clad man, short of stature, but with an unmistakeable confidence. Almost immediately, Silas recognized the human as the assassin that had hired him and his associates Ducky and Garm to help him kill Helios. Silently he drew and knocked an arrow, but waited to see how this situation developed. He didn't want to have to fight a gang of kenku and a trained assassin by himself.

The man approached the kneeling kenku and spoke, "Did you give Pick the message?"

The lead kenku answered, "We have informed Four of Five of His intentions. He and his group are headed to the Ebon Dome to deal with the Sharrans."

"Good," said the man, but in a much higher feminine register this time, "then the bitch-goddess and her minions will get whats coming to them." As he spoke, his form shifted from that of the shadowy man to a female humanoid with white hair, white skin, and white pupil-less eyes ringed with dark circles. Her hair was accented with bright red highlights and she wore rather revealing leather armor. "What of the undead dragon-thingy, did they dispatch that as well?"

Silas, for all his worldy nature, had never seen anything quite like this woman. He had no idea what she was. This was the supposed assassin that had hired Silas to kill his companion. But was that a lie, too? The woman changed appearances again, this time to that of a pale woman with long black hair. Recognition sparked again in the mind of the spell-thief; though he had not met this persona before he had seen her likeness. He sifted through his pack for the ivory statues they'd found recently and, sure enough, this woman matched the fifth statue; "Deandra, Fifth of Five".

"Yes, Ketsarra and her lizards were destroyed. What further service can we provide, Fifth of Five?" asked the lead kenku.

"None, you can return to the Borderlands. The gate should be open still. Take care to close it behind you." said the woman, her voice slightly different, yet again.

"You will not follow?" asked the kenku.

"No, I have an appearance to make elsewhere. If 'Vincent' doesn't show his ugly mug at the Rift his brother will get suspicious. I swear, for a self proclaimed omnipotent necromancer he has the perception of an epileptic dwarf," quipped the woman, "You'd think he'd catch on by now that his brother is an impostor. Though I'm not complaining; Vincent was hard enough to kill on his own. I don't relish the thought of fighting his siblings, Sharran bastards though they are."

The levity in the woman's comment obviously eluded the kenku whom stoically bowed and exited the cavern through the rear. After a moment the woman turned toward the tunnel leading to the surface and said, "You really should have gone with your companions, they'll need your help." She locked stares with the spell-thief, "Almost slipped past. If you hadn't made a commotion digging through your pack I wouldn't have noticed you. Perhaps its time for introductions, though we have technically met before." She walked over toward Silas, changing back to her white-haired changeling form as she did. She took a seat on the stone across from the shadar kai spell-thief, unconcerned by the arrow pointed at her heart, "I am Deandra, my friends call me DeeDee. You are the infamous Silas "Pick" Porter, I assume. Pleased to meet you."

Back on the 'Necreme' (the name of the boat) the rest of the PCs were still blissfully unaware of Silas' absence. The boat rocked through the lazy yet disgusting waters of the shadow swamp. When the group actually had time to search the skiff they found it had a small room under the foredeck, complete with a bed, lamp, and footlocker. Inside said footlocker they found an endless canteen and a few gems. But once the mysteries of the boat's contents were explored the group found the trek rather depressing. The pervasive ennui of the Shadowfell was beginning to take its toll on the PCs. Even smashing the skeletons brought less joy than usual to the Kelemvorite. Helios spent his time concentrating on the amulet and steering the boat, but he still managed to catch sight of some movement in the sky. A cloud of inky darkness sped through the sky high above, sweeping back and forth as though searching for something. Suddenly it halted its movement and began to circle, gradually loosing altitude and drawing closer to the boat. The Kalashtar alerted the group silently in their minds, as the cloud drew closer and closer.

Silas slowly lowered his nocked arrow to the ground, but kept his senses sharp. He gave his best sly grin, saying, "Charmed, I'm sure."

I have to think quickly and figure this out. "So you managed to kill a man that I've been following for some time." Silas spins his arrow between two fingers and stows it deftly in his quiver. "I'd thank you, but I was really looking forward to it myself."

The Shadar-kai leaned nonchalantly against the cave wall, one foot cocked behind him. "You know, I - we - have gone through a lot to get here." He began ticking items off on his fingers. "Fake rituals, false temples, mysterious gates, ambushes, traps, even a change of sodding race. And after all that, I go through another gate, fight a dragon…thing!…only to find these kenku taking orders from someone who looks oddly similar to the same man I've been following." Silas pauses for a breath. "So tell me, despite your cavalier attitude and your neat shape changing trick, why shouldn't I kill you where you stand?"

Deandra cocked her head coyly and gave a low laugh, "Someone wasn't paying attention… The man that hired you to kill your friend was dead before you met him. I hired you and the two buffoons to kill the mage. I knew you we're buddy-buddy with him and had counted on the other two following your lead when you ultimately 'betrayed' me. If not, I thought you could easily dispatch them. Did you really think a trained assassin would botch such a cut and dry ambush? It had to look like a believe-able double-cross or his brother, Strom, would have caught-on. You know - the one that killed the priestess of Selune and wore her face for two days?"

She stood and walked to the center of the cavern, "As for killing the real Vincent; it wasn't altogether difficult. I was a bit disappointed. Flash a bit of flesh and most men let their guard down, he was no exception. The trick was getting his trust. That took time. In seduction, one must become the object of their target's greatest desire. It was easier for me than most, I admit," she changed form to appear as a busty auburn haired woman, "but the trust always takes time. Oh! And research, always research. A bit tedious, but I have a mind for such things. Details interest me greatly."

She returned to Silas' side leaning forward on a boulder to tactically show as much cleavage as possible without being lewd, "So, in which details are you interested. I assume you came here for answers…"

"Something always seemed fishy about that. So Strom was going after the Karse Stone, and in order to prevent him from taking it from Helios, you engineered the ambush to make it look like you were being double crossed by the “thugs” you hired as help. Clever. Risky, but clever.”

Silas paused a moment before continuing. “And this Strom fellow – Vincent’s brother, and the fake Lady Levitas we fought that night at the fountain – where is he now?”

Deandra changed back to her original form and says, "Strom and Despayr are at the Black Rift. But, there are other areas that require your attention before you face them. Their minions are camped at two separate locations; the Warrens, where you should find the remainder of the undead lizards and hopefully some surviving prisoners. And the Ebon Dome, where the Lady of Loss is trying to rebuild her forgotten monastic order and where Strom's Cyricist allies are currently staying."

She walked over and leaned against the cavern wall next to Silas, "Now, the Stone, thats a tricky bit. I know about as much as you do about it, maybe less. All I know is that everyone wants it and The Traveler needs it."
Seeing the question on Silas' face she elaborated, "The Traveler is the name of the god whom I serve. As far as I can figure she is either the same entity as your Mask or one of his servants. Neither would surprise me. But, where I am from, there is no Mask. My guess is that the Traveler/Mask needs that stone to change that. But, more importantly, your Mystra needs you and yours to stop Shar from ripping a hole in the Weave."

She changed form again to that of Vincent and in his voice says, "Now, any more questions, or can I get back to doing my job?" She walked across to the other side of the cave and began gathering her gear, "You should really get back to your friends, Despayr has minions all over the Shadowfell. It's not safe out there."

Silas nods. “I’m not one to buy into this whole ‘good guy/bad guy’ schtick, but even I’ll admit that letting Shar tear the weave could make things difficult for an honest thief. Thanks for the information, I’ll make sure to use it.”

“But there is one more thing. Know something about this?” Silas fishes the Deandra figurine out of his Bag of Holding and holds it out to her.

"Shar needs to be stopped altogether," said the changeling as she hoisted her pack, "She has designs on Masks power, not to mention the end of all things. All around bad for everything and everyone, gods included."
She approached and inspected the statue, "Pretty, but we don't have time for you to show-off your skrimshaw skills. Now, come on, we need to get you back with your group, and soon."

Silas nods and places the figurine back in the bag.

"I'm ready when you are. But…how do you plan on getting us back to my companions? Last I checked, they were on a boat manned with only a skeleton crew."

"Just follow me," said 'Vincent' as she walked further into the cavern.

She lead Silas to a small room with masonry walls, "Even though this place is in the Shadowdark, its considered to be holy to Mask. She can't find us here. If you need to fall back to this cave later, feel free to, just make sure you're not followed."

In the center of the floor was a circle of glyphs. Deandra pulled a small pouch from her belt and an elaborate holy symbol made of various six-sided dice. " I know a few rituals that'll get you where you need to go. The tricky thing will be fooling the gate to take you to a location lacking a corresponding gate."

DeeDee began delicately tracing symbols over the glyphs on the floor, changing their meaning and function, "If I target the boat, thats your best chance. Unless they didn't take the boat… you'll still be closer than you are now." After twenty minutes of tracing she stood, looked over her handywork and nodded, "Okay, good luck. I need to use this after you so no long goodbyes. I know you'll miss me, no need to state the obvious." She changes back in to her original form, "Well, Four of Five, it was a pleasure. You're the only other one I've met. I haven't a clue who these other three might be…"

“Five, the pleasure was all mine, I’m sure,” Silas said, giving Deandra a sly wink. Probably best not to tell her about Sol, he thought to himself. The less information she knows, the better.

With that, he began putting all of his equipment that might be damaged by water into his Bag of Holding, including his Cloak. As a way of explanation, he offered, “If you’re going to be teleporting me onto a moving boat in the middle of the flaming Shadowfell, I’m damn well going to make sure I’m ready to get wet.”

Silas shifted his gear around, checking to make sure his Gambler’s Shortsword is secured in its thigh sheath, and nodded to Deandra. “Ready when you are.”

As soon as the teleportation circle was ready, Silas entered and readied his Velvet Stride, just in case…

"May the Traveler guide your steps, Pick," said the changeling as Silas vanished from the cave.

Shadows rushed past Silas as he was swept through the league between the cave and the Necreme. An overwhelming sense of vertigo coupled with intense speed made the shadar kai feel as if he was being ripped apart, yet part of him thrilled at the experience. As quick as it began his movement halted. He was in mid air above the Necreme, maybe 10 feet above the boat. Not wanting to risk the fall he used his Velvet Stride and teleported to the deck. He immediately noticed the large black cloud approaching the bow of the boat…

The arrival of the spell-thief went unnoticed by his companions, his Velvet Stride ability concealed him from sight. The ominous cloud drew ever closer and small pinpricks of red light could be seen dancing around within. After a moment of clarity, Perchivak recognized the shadows for what they were; "Wraiths!" he called out. But he could also see something concealed within the cloud, something to which the wraiths were swarming like parasites. It was a massive winged form. The dragon blood in him began to boil as he sensed more than saw what was within the cloud; "DRAGON!!" he added, and everyone tensed even more (if that were possible) for the forthcoming battle…

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