Facing the Faceless

The Heroes Assemble!
This one goes up to eleventy.

A bit later than they would have preferred, a goliath warden and two dwarves, a shaman and a sorcerer, stumbled into the village of Karabshai. Halted at the gates by the guards, the weary travelers were asked to aid the locals with a… distasteful chore. The lowest caste, known as the Dajit, had attempted an uprising. The revolt had been put down, the crematorium was stoked, and all that was needed now was someone to drag the corpses to their funeral pyre. Such work was fit only for Dajit in Niyati culture, but the other Dajit refused to touch the corpses, even when threatened with the lash. They needed foreigners unconstrained by Niyati etiquette to perform the task, and the reward was a hefty five hundred gold pieces, sponsored by the local church of Erathis. Seeing a chance at easy money for light work, the travelers reluctantly agreed.

They had no idea what atrocities lay in wait for them. As they entered the town, they saw bodies strewn across the public square, and were informed by guards that more bodies waited both in the regular tavern and in a hovel where the uprising had originated from. They entered the hovel to find a strange and unsettling sight: Several dozen desiccated corpses neatly arranged in a circular configuration, heads facing inward, all staring heavenward. A magic circle of runes encompassed the ring of bodies. More strangely, one of the corpses held an elegant ramshorn, lined with silver and filled with a glowing, violet liquid. The goliath was oddly drawn to the drinking goblet, and like the gnome before him, drank deeply of its contents. Visions assailed him: Wisps of purple smoke pouring from the mouths of the corpses twined together in the center of the hovel, reaching towards a blinding light in the heavens. The apparition sent his wits screaming and his sanity scattered; he dropped to the floor, unconscious. Dismayed by the irrational actions of their compatriot and convinced their job was something more than the locals let on, the two dwarves set off for their benefactor, the church of Erathis.

The church was a well-appointed place, but completely dark; the ancient priest had been asleep and was quite cranky when awakened. The dwarves intimated that the priest of Erathis was remiss in his duties by not caring for his flock, but he curtly explained to the dwarves the necessity of burning the bodies- otherwise, their unsettled spirits would haunt the village as powerful undead! Furthermore, the temple’s coffers funded the travelers’ endeavors, and they had agreed to the job, which counted legally as a contract under Thyatian law. If they refused to complete the job, they would be considered criminals, with significant legal consequences. Unwilling to break the law, the dwarves returned to their grisly task.

After disposing of the bodies in the hovel, they then approached the public square. Strangely, they observed that while there were quite a few more desiccated corpses, several bodies were freshly dead, devoid of the rot and aging the other corpses had suffered. They decided to investigate the corpses at the inn immediately…

At the inn, they encountered some old friends, gnomes they had adventured with before. The gnomes, however, were quite offended when they discovered the dwarves’ task, and refused to turn over the corpse of the barkeep, insisting he required a proper burial. Words were exchanged, and the gnome insulted the family of the dwarven shaman. Enraged, the shaman asked an apology or blood, as tradition required; the gnome rogue drew her blade and a brief but vicious fight ensued in the night over the corpse. The warden, recovered from his strange trance, heard the fighting and ran to the inn, which alerted the guards. Together they charged upstairs and broke up the fight, and the sorcerer took away the corpse of the barkeep to the crematorium.

Reluctantly, the two groups shared stories of the exceedingly strange occurrences of the evening. The goliath recognized the artificer’s visions and prophecies as similar to his own- they had seen the image of a robed sage with eyes like jewels, imploring them to fulfill the Prophecy by bringing freedom to the children of Niyati. They agreed to seek out wiser counsel than themselves, and visit the nearby village of Fombe…

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A New Beginning
Mind-expanding drugs for everyone!

Our intrepid band of heroes met in the unlikely village of Karabshai, in the duchy of Niyati. Returning from a minor but profitable errand for the Niyati nobles, two gnomes stopped at Karabshai before continuing on. They were surprised to find a farmer’s hovel bustling with activity, its windows covered with felt. There was some initial awkwardness regarding the gnomes’ perceived caste—Niyati adventurers normally do not mix with the Dajit, or ‘untouchables’—but once the gnomes showed that they considered the Dajit their equals, the gnomes were uncommonly well received.

It was very dark in the hovel—candles the only light source—and sitting on the low benches, the gnomes felt the crowd move. Some subtle, foreign dance was being performed, quietly enough to avoid the attention of the higher castes. A ramshorn was being passed from villager to villager, and when it came to the gnome artificer, he discovered a glowing violet liquid within. Not wishing to offend the locals, he drank from the ramshorn- only to find that others were only inhaling the fumes from the potent beverage! He quickly lapsed into a psychedelic trance, where even the guttering candles shone bright as day, and he babbled incoherently about visions and prophecy. Alarmed, his sister tried to subtly make her way out of the village, but the drugged artificer lurched into the street and threw himself under a wagon, wearing the rags of the Dajit. A guard on patrol promptly dragged him out and took his coin pouch, reasoning that Dajit were not permitted to own anything… but the gnome’s sister adroitly convinced the guard that her brother was simply drunk and foolish, and that they were merely searching for a coin pouch she had dropped. The guard sternly recommended they stay inside- that the streets could be dangerous after dark. The gnomes returned to the nicer inn…

...The artificer’s mad visions continued, however, and he could not sleep for the blazing starlight that streamed in through the barred window. His sister went to close the window, and she heard a terrible commotion. She tossed a sunrod down, and what she saw chilled her to the bone: Undead Dajit being hacked apart by the Niyati guards! A guard swiftly strode towards the sunrod and threw a sack over it, covering its light, but not before looking up at the window it came from. Moments later, a loud knocking on the door of their inn room grew to a thunderous pounding—zombies assaulted their room! The gnomes clearly recognized the strongest zombie as being the barkeep from the farmer’s tavern… clearly something was awry in the village! Shortly after the zombies were dispatched, the guards rushed in, apologized for the disturbance, and urged the gnomes to stay indoors and not arouse the undead further with use of bright lights. Dismayed but too tired to disagree, the gnomes conceded to the guards and tried to sleep the rest of the night away…

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If You Hate Somebody
Better Set Them on Fire

In a tense meeting with nobles from House Orduval, our intrepid band of heroes managed to discern the House’s true intent- to obtain the halfling-forged Sword of Banishing and find a way to reverse its effects, to return the tome to this world! Since the halfling sword had no such magical effects, the party had little trouble handing it over in exchange for Half-Blood Sally’s mother… only to find that the nobles were just as crafty! They received not one, but four Diyanas, each identical and each swearing to be Sally’s mother. Meeka Fuddlesplug incautiously took the hand of one of the impostors, and outraged by this indiscretion the nobles attacked our heroes! Ferdinand the Inconceivable unleashed magical blasts of unspeakable energies while the trophy displacer beast ran wild on the party and the nobles used their daggers to good advantage.

The party won the day, however, setting the Noble’s Largesse on fire in the process. They attempted to flee, only to find the side exits wreathed in flames. The main door was barred, but lo- in the nick of time, the bars were lifted by none other than Chakto Kasa, Feyd Kasa’s murderous and sociopathic half-brother!

With Chakto’s dubious aid, the party fled into the sewers beneath Orduval, where they found only a letter of thanks, a dagger, and a still-writhing tongue. Well, okay, not just that- after consuming one of the magical fruits, Feyd noticed a corpse floating in the muck not far from the party! The corpse, missing its left hand and possessing an onyx where its left eye should have been, stirred when Feyd attempted to remove said gem, revealing itself to be a servitor of the unnamed, true masters of House Orduval. It seems the nobles were duly impressed with the party’s willingness to murder the ‘traitors’, and saw fit to reward the PCs with clearing their legal names and granting a boon- the tongue, which bears magical properties. As disturbed as our heroes were by being rewarded by agents of evil, they refrained from slaughtering the pathetic undead outright. In return, the undead promised to lead them out of the sewers… only to sink completely into the muck, through an underwater passage certainly impossible for any living creature!

Thus outwitted, the party reluctantly created a portal to Eldmere, where they were accosted by not one religious order but three- the Pelorite Order of the Cleansing Flame was now accompanied by dragonborn servants of Kord and Skullbreakers of the Raven Queen! Apparently, the steady stream of demons from the portal has suddenly halted, and each religious order has their own opinions on the matter. All expect the heroes to rule in their own favor, but none trust the others. How will our intrepid band of heroes reconcile these competing factions? Where has Chakto gone, or the stream of demons for that matter? And more importantly, when will our heroes wash off the terrible stink of the sewers of Orduval?

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Darkness Falls
Sunset in Orduval

After making some connections in the underworld thanks to Ruinavor Rim’Radverbunusto delivering a quick Rochambo to a jealous former colleague, Ferdinand the Inconceivable, the party rounded up a hefty dose of ‘spice’ to bribe Angry Joey with about the murders. Angry Joey didn’t like to meet guests without an appointment, sending the angry ogre Stuie after the party, but once it became obvious the heroes had gotten hold of some spice he was much more talkative. Angry Joey revealed the true corpse of the Baron who had died, from which Meeka Fuddlesplug unscrupulously stole a finger from. Turns out the Baron’s death truly was a setup job—he died of some rare goblin disease rather than the knife wounds as claimed by the Niyati. Angry Joey had also received the fourth changeling as a matter of trade, and gave it up freely once he saw it dissolve into a worthless bag of sticks and leaves.

In return for the fourth changeling, the demented gnome ‘grew’ the party a new ritual book, plus some extra gifts for participating in her prank. After some more needlessly cryptic comments, the party departed that nook of the Feywild to return to Consulate Barney. Barney was quite miffed that our intrepid band of heroes had made his life more difficult by angering Ferdinand, but was relieved to receive the finger and poison as evidence. He informed them that one of the enigmatic Orduval nobles had become interested in helping their investigation, and invited them to a meeting at the Noble’s Largesse, one of the upper-crust banquet halls.

Meanwhile, Meeka Fuddlesplug contacted Chakto Kasa with a sending ritual mentioning that Feyd Kasa was in Orduval. The responses were not encouraging. The party decided to take Angry Joey up on his previous offer to get them an invite to meet up with the buyer of Sally Half-Blood’s mother… but he said they were already meeting up! Trouble brews quickly, and many things promise to come to a head when the party faces the mysterious hooded nobles of Orduval…

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Diamonds in the Rough
Hunting for Children in the Gritty City

After agreeing to the task Consulate Barney set out before them, our intrepid band of heroes decided to start by purchasing a sending ritual book for the purposes of contacting Chakto Kasa, the person most likely to contradict the Niyati testimony. So they bought the book, came back from the market… and Meeka Fuddlesplug opened her pack to find it had been stolen en route! The Orduval guide was no help whatsoever, having not been paid explicitly to guard their possessions, only their personal safety. They returned to the city streets to notice a curious street urchin who called Meeka by name, then dashed off into the warrens, ripped pages falling from her rags. Sneaking up on her, they blundered into a corner of the Feywild, somehow untouched by the surrounding city. The child was actually a gnome, who made some cryptic comments about changelings and children. She seemed to treat the party returning her lost changelings as a foregone conclusion, and knowing only that they liked flowers, the party returned to the streets to search for the missing… whatever they were. They recovered some of the pages from the ritual book, but the rest must still be in the Feywild. Perhaps if they returned the changelings, they could negotiate for the rest of the pages…

The first wasn’t difficult at all; stopping by a flower cart to pick up some ‘bait’, a hooded street urchin tried to reach for flowers right off the cart! Curiously enough, the child looked exactly like a dragonborn of the Ta’reed clan- especially when it teleported out of Meeka’s hands and made a run for it! When given a steady stream of flowers, the child was enthralled and picked the petals one by one… but when the petals ran out, the child said, “She loves me not…” and fell limp, revealing it to be nothing but sticks and leaves!

The second child was discovered easily enough, and had stolen a handful of very strange fruit. Meeka ate the fruit, and found that she could sense magic for a short time… She observed that her own party and some merchants had a few auras, indicating the presence of magic items, but a beggar strolling through the streets was far more powerful than the naked eye might indicate. Meeka approached the man, only to find her way blocked by a sudden argument among merchants, and when she dashed around the blockade, the beggar was gone.

A quick patrol of the surrounding few blocks revealed the next changeling hidden under a pile of refuse, a withered flower in its hand with one petal left. Fairly stumped, the party returned the changelings to the gnome, where they returned to life as sleeping children once more. The gnome seemed agitated and switched quickly between anger and gentleness. After some more cryptic comments the party left once more, most notably the comment that Sally’s mother and the last were together somehow, and that Sally’s mother should not be brought to the gnome.

The magical fruit the changeling carried could be a clue, so the party tracked down the fruit vendor, which was vigilantly guarded by tough-looking half-orcs. At 100 gold a pop, the fruit was clearly worth guarding. This, of course, didn’t stop Feyd Kasa from smacking Meeka so she could disappear, scamper up the side of the stall, and steal a pair of the hanging fruits before anyone noticed she was missing. Anyone except the Orduval guide, of course, who was quite put off that the party just ditched him entirely.

The party finds itself increasingly confused in an increasingly unfriendly city…

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Orduval Vice
Blood and Rubies in the House of the Desperate

Our intrepid band of heroes, after stopping in Icingdale, portaled to Eldmere on route through the Fortress to the duchy of Orduval. Upon arriving, they received word that the only disturbance of the magic circle was a tiefling who said he was looking for Feyd Kasa, saying he was family, and upon hearing that Feyd had traveled through the portal to, presumably, the inner sanctum of Burns Alive! The ramifications were frightening, and the party agreed to table that for now in favor of traveling to Orduval.

Ruinavor Rim’Radverbunusto (or a doppelganger clone) founded a temple to Kord with a substantial donation while Barazael Ra’Ghaz (or a doppelganger clone) made a donation of his own, both in money and time spent educating Deathspeaker Ven (or a doppelganger clone) on the basics of the Skullbreaker tradition of serving the Raven Queen. Meanwhile, Meeka Fuddlesplug (or a doppelganger clone) along with Feyd Kasa (or a doppelganger clone) visited the temple of Sehanine, specifically one Acolyte Meara, who was showing by now and conspicuously consuming meat of all kinds and flavors, including raw. Meara was not exactly happy to see Meeka bring with her the father she had sworn to keep the pregnancy a secret from, but that could perhaps be construed to her pregnancy and resultant mood swings.

Ven was having difficulties of a different nature. When dragonborn started coming to his temple, the humans stopped going, apparently due to some bad blood between the humans and the dragonborn. The dragonborn worshipping in the temple seemed indifferent to their conquerors, but the human Bara questioned about it seemed pretty bitter over the casualties incurred during the conquest of Altmere. Out of concern for Ruinavor’s reputation and his budding temple or for the potential competition, Ven denied Ruinavor permission to sleep in the primitive trappings of his own temple. Trouble brews…

The party contracted with Patrick Logsplitter of the Logsplitter Trading Co. to travel to Orduval. The travel itself was uneventful, but the Orduval guards were ubiquitous and paranoid, making progress within the duchy a needless hassle. Once within the ducal seat, the party had to travel through the acres of shantytowns and diseased, starving masses surrounding the city in order to reach Consulate Barney.

Barney was glad to see the party, and surprisingly frank with them regarding his proposal: In exchange for clearing House Orduval’s name in the killings of the Niyati nobles, Barney would make the party’s own legal problems disappear. He’s not picky about how it happens, and doesn’t want to know if House Orduval is truly at fault, but has a feeling that House Orduval isn’t really involved. He makes a very convincing argument, and comes across as a citizen concerned about his people, if not necessarily the methods required to help them. Indeed, he seems eager to help but reluctant to know the details about much of anything, preferring to work through contacts rather than risk his own neck.

The party agreed to the proposal, and will be rewarded with a clear legal name, plus potential material rewards if things go better than expected. Barney didn’t know anything about Sally Half-Blood’s mother, Diana of Three Forks, but offered to let the PCs know if anything came up.

The details surrounding the murders are vague and often conflicting. According to the official story, given by House Niyati but largely uncorrorobated by official Imperial scribes, Content Not Found: Chakto escaped gladiatorial enslavement in the Underdark with the aid of House Orduval to murder three Niyati nobles with knives, and then returned to the Underdark to lay low. However, the sociopathic tiefling is known to favor lengths of spiked chain, not knives. Furthermore, it’s difficult to imagine why House Orduval would go to such lengths to hire the relatively unknown Chakto as an assassin, or why he might then consider the realm of his former captors as a safe refuge.

Finally, the shadow of the Children of the Many looms large over events past and present: Who’s setting up whom for what, and why? Is House Niyati infiltrated by dopplegangers? Or perhaps House Orduval? Is Barney a shapeshifter, or Chakto? Or Feyd? Is EVERYBODY? It’s up to none other than our intrepid band of heroes to discover the truth behind the thick and tangled web of deceit surrounding these events…

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Friends Old And New

After surviving death and the Shadowfell, our band of intrepid heroes quickly caught on that Timmy, the small one-eyed eel fisherman, was not what he seemed. This was roughly the same time that a handful of horrid things from the Far Realm literally dropped out of the sky and began doing their best to slice open and devour our brave heroes! Timmy doused himself in eel’s blood and dove into the murk while the party fended off the invaders. After a lengthy battle in which Timmy participated mainly by firing eldritch blasts from a safe distance, the party tickled the poor lad until he revealed his true nature: A demon lord, exiled from the Abyss!

Timmy also revealed that Burns Alive is in a similar situation: He is also possessed by a demon lord, none other than Asmodeus himself. Timmy bore no love for Asmodeus and even less for the Elder Things, yet was powerless in his seven-year-old’s form to do much about it. He offered the PCs a great boon in exchange for his safety: Asmodeus’ true name! With it, the demon lord could be bound to a contract for a year and a day… but promising “Timmy’s” safety proved troublesome. While Barazael Ra’Ghaz and Nahor Ta’reed were more than willing to swear a blood oath to the exiled demon lord, Meeka Fuddlesplug and Feyd Kasa were reluctant. Feyd gave him a mere gold piece, while Meeka swore by her faith in Sehanine.

Not wanting to stick around to experience Daerendilian hospitality once again, the party promptly traveled by portal to Icingdale. There, they reunited with Ruinavor Rim’Radverbunusto, who informed them that House Orduval was willing to let bygones be bygones, sending a hefty gem along as proof of their benign intent. Bara’zael, as well, learned from an ex-Fellomen mercenary that they had had strange dealings in the ducal city of Orduval, and were urged on by none other than Half-Blood Sally. The PCs, while suspicious of Orduval’s intentions, quickly began to surmise they might be able to kill two birds with one stone by visiting the ill-omened duchy: Unravel the mysteries surrounding Orduval, and locate Sally’s mother so Bara’zael can make the proper atonements to the Raven Queen.

Upon learning from Nahor that Bara’zael had openly challenged the Firebringer where none else in the Ta’reed clan would, Shea’gor acknowledged that she had earned the respect of the Ta’reed—at least, the respect of the only Ta’reed who were free from the Firebringer’s influence. She admitted that her tribe had tacitly accepted the demonic mentor as a means to survive in the Frozen Wastes, and regretted that she had not done more to oppose the Firebringer. Now, in order to be honorably wed, she need only earn the respect of the Ra’ghaz clan, which ought to prove an easy enough task!

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Total Party Kill

After our fearless band of intrepid heroes soundly defeated Grubbak and the devils guarding the treacherous hallways between Burns Alive’s inner sanctum and his main entranceway, they confronted the goblin. To their surprise and horror, they encountered a dragonborn bodyguard, the very dragonborn Burns had once defeated to become worthy of the title of Firegiver… and a very cruel twist! Burns had chained the children of the Ta’reed tribe to himself! The chains clearly held some kind of dark magic, and it was apparent the mystical binds would cause any injury suffered by the goblin to be suffered by the children as well. Thus ‘protected’ from our heroes, Burns again inquired as to their business in his halls. After some unkind words and accusations were exchanged, Barazael Ra’Ghaz challenged Burns to a duel, with the victor earning the title of Firegiver. To the astonishment of all involved, Burns accepted the challenge!

As Bara’zael approached the goblin, he noticed the goblin’s once-sallow skin now rippling with hellfire; he realized at once he’d made a grave mistake. In a low voice, Burns explained to Bara’zael in detail how he would seize control of Bara’zael’s defeated form, use it first to lure his beloved Shea’gor back to the tribe, then punish her and take her children into his own custody. Meanwhile, the others attempted to gain sympathy with the Ta’reed tribe, but to no avail; they had accepted Burns’ dramatic exile of Shea’gor, they had been warned of the infidels’ lies, and they had witnessed firsthand just how Burns Alive could make good on his promise to protect them and rebuild the Altmerian empire.

The duel was brief and bloody. Hoping the pact blade was the source of Burns’ sudden change of personality, Bara’zael disarmed him, only to find that the warlock was just as committed to killing Bara’zael without the weapon. Upon witnessing Burns ruthlessly end Bara’s life, the heroes rushed forward in a desperate, doomed attempt to avenge him… but they could not prevail against an entire tribe of dragonborn led by the newfound power of Burns Alive.

One by one, our brave heroes crashed to the earth, the same earth upon which the blood of the Ta’reed chieftain spilled so long ago. The chieftain, if you will remember, was not sent on to the Raven Queen as is the dragonborn tradition, and his spirit, unwilling to depart, remained bound in the Shadowfell until our band of intrepid heroes liberated him and the few warriors loyal to him. The earth rumbled… a yawning chasm opened… and the dead heroes were swallowed up without a trace.

The spirits of the dragonborn repaid their debt of honor the only way they could: Sending the heroes straight to the Shadowfell. There, assisted by an honor guard of shadar-kai who had been informed of the party’s valiant triumphs against the Great Old Ones, they traveled to the city of Midnight. There, they convinced the lunatic Deathspeaker Trent to summon a Raven Knight to test their faith and enact the will of the Raven Queen- to return them to life, or to embrace them for eternity. Although the Raven Knight had harsh words for nearly every hero, the Raven Queen must have deemed their heroic struggle worthwhile, for they next found themselves deep in muck, gasping for air and staring into a steel-grey sky. Nearby, a one-eyed boy fishes for eels…

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The Story So Far...

When first we meet our intrepid heroes…

Currently Barazael Ra’Ghaz, Feyd Kasa, Meeka Fuddlesplug, and Nahor Ta’reed find themselves in an abandoned shrine to the Dark Devourer, about to confront their onetime ally, Burns Alive. They have been dogged by legion devils and gnolls, alternately, and most recently forced to fight a beloved friend, Grubbak. In a cruel turn of events, Burns had discreetly deafened Grubbak so he could not understand their offers of friendship and sewn his mouth shut so he could not make himself understood except through inarticulate cries of pain and rage.

Meanwhile, Ruinavor Rim’Radverbunusto has taken refuge in Icingdale with his three children, pending a solution to a tricky situation in Thyatis proper—while fleeing the city guards, his wife instead chose to run to the guards, claiming she and her children were being kidnapped.

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