The Beginning of the End

City of Shadows

3rd November, 1369 DR

After collecting all of the treasure that was left behind in Nightfang Spire, the wealthy party traveled to Iriaebor to find an armorer capable of repairing Valkor’s armor. When they reached the Chionthar River, they have to wait nearly 3 hours to cross over into the city as each traveler and merchant was questioned by the bridge guards. After a suspiciously long and awkward interrogation by the guard, the party is finally given access to the city. They are told that “ole Grik”, the dwarven armor- and weapon-smith, has disappeared. The party is directed to the barracks where a man named Balian might be able to help them. They are also told that he might be able to find buyers for a number of the magical weapons and protective items that they wish to sell. They find Balian, and he agrees to fix the armor, so long as the PCs are willing to share stories of their travels and buy him a drink or two. They met with Balian that evening and swapped stories of their adventures well into the night.

Late in the evening, everyone in the tavern hears yelling in the street outside. One of the windows at the front of the common room breaks inward as a member of the city guard falls through. The party runs outside to see a madman fighting with a member of the watch. When the PCs emerge from the building, the man casts cloudkill and kills a number of city guardsmen. Hucknor grabs three militia-men that are avoiding the toxic cloud and takes them near the caster via a dimension door spell. In moments they are slain as another cloudkill is cast by the madman, killing himself as well. After a very brief thought for the men he doomed, Hucknor joins Balian to discuss what took place. They each noticed that the dead man before them looks different than he did while alive. Balian says that this man’s name is Alanar Kane, a member of the Shield assigned to guard the “deeper dungeons” beneath Qualtaine Keep. He also says that while alive the man appeared to be Marquis Querchard Qualtaine, the ruler of Iriaebor who has been missing for a few months.

In the morning, a messenger comes to invite the PCs to the home of Algorthas the Seer; a man known in Iriaebor for his knowledge and foresight. The party accompanies the servant to a large manor up on the ridge where they find two half-orc soldiers near the front doors. They are taken into a study near the back of the house where they find Algorthas speaking with Balian. Algorthas then tells the party that he believes something to be terribly wrong with the city, and that answers may be found in the deeper dungeons. He tells them of a secret entrance to the dungeons in order to avoid attracting the attention of the Marchioness or Verbane, the chief wizard, just in case either of them are involved.

The motley crew reaches the deeper dungeons and finds them seemingly deserted. After some time exploring, they are attacked by a strange mist that coalesces into a creature of the Abyss called a hezrou. They defeat this demon and continue their search. A short time later they find a large cell that appears more throne room than prison. Inside is the Marquis, muttering about the power and wisdom of “the Dark Master”. When the party tries to talk with him, he continues to spout gibberish until he begins to cast a spell. A well conceived plan involving a silence spell keeps the mad sorcerer from harming anyone, but greater shadows emerge from the walls to attack the party. Just when all seems lost, the battle finally goes in favor of the good guys, and the party survives; greatly weakened by the shadows’ strength draining, but unharmed.

Unsure of just what to do with Querchard, the party ties him up and gags him to prevent any spellcasting attempts. While searching his cell, the party finds Querchard’s journal, which gives them clues to what has befallen the Marquis and his city. A demon named the Malgoth, tied here by a frost giant demon priest named Ilkharis, corrupted Querchard and cast a darkness over the hearts and minds of Iriaebor’s citizens. The journal suggests that finding Ilkharis could be the best first step in discovering how to defeat and banish the Malgoth. After much debate, the party decides that the best thing for everyone, including the Marquis, would be to kill Querchard. Hucknor dispassionately shoves a dagger in the throat of their helpless captive.

The party decided that it would probably be a good idea to tell the marchioness that they just killed her husband, so they exited the dungeons through the same tunnel they entered through, then approached the keep at the front doors. Balian was permitted to enter, and a short time later returned to fetch Hucknor. The two of them explained to the marchioness what happened, and showed her Querchard’s journal. She asks them to keep all of this a secret, and inquires if the gnome and his friends would accompany her Captain-General in his hunt for Ilkharis. The cleric said that he would only seek to rid the world of the foul demon attempting to gain dominion over Iriaebor if he was paid. Hucknor was curtly dismissed and escorted out of the keep. Balian told the marchioness that he would do what he could to recruit the party’s aid, but she no longer cared if they helped or not.

The party then sought out Algorthas, only to find that he could not be found. According to his servants, he had never left his study, and yet he was missing. Unable to think of another way to find Ilkharis, the party rests so that Valkor could prepare a scry spell and Balian could see to some things, including finishing Valkor’s armor. The next morning they go to Algorthas’ house to cast the spell and determine that he is in the Temple of Lathander, not more than five minutes away. When they reach the temple, they find the interior strangely dark.

Awaiting their arrival is a tall, thin humanoid completely encased in armor and leather. It questions them about who they have told about the Malgoth. After Balian tells it that they have only told the marchioness, the creature prepares to attack them. Kevros surprises the creature by flying to it quickly and attacking. Balian then rushes to join the fight while Valkor casts magic missle and Hucknor fires a crossbow bolt. The creature casts dimension door and teleports behind the casters where he attempts to dominate Valkor and fails. The creature does not react fast enough after his failure and is slain by Balian before he can flee again.

After locating Algorthas and wakening him from his stupor, the party returns the seer to his home where he provides them with the likely location of the frost giant Ilkharis. The PCs spend the remainder of the day preparing for their journey to the Sunset Mountains, then set off the following morning. On the way, they pass by Kragmere, where they stock up on a variety of arcane spell components, and the “Oestral Abyss”, where a contingent of the Shield guards a known entrance to the Underdark. Late the next day, they arrive at a small city called Asbravn, a farming community guarded by a branch of the Shield called the Riders in Red Cloaks. Here the party rests for the night and gathers rations for the trek into the mountains.

The next afternoon, as they pass through the foothills, the PCs hear a commotion over the next rise. Kevros sneaks up to the top of the hill and peeks over, while the rest of the party quickly, and not quietly, rides to the top of the hill and starts down the far side. They find a group of 7 mounted men around a small campsite where an older, disheveled-looking man clutches a longsword and handaxe. The leader of the mounted men claims that the older man was trespassing in the Vale and has stolen gold found on the Marquis’ land. The mounted men’s leader, “Baron” Teusele, argues with the party when they try to intervene… until he realizes who Balian is, at which point he does his very best not to wet himself while Balian undermines his authority completely in front his men and tells him that if he hears even a whisper of “Baron Teusele” again he’d makes sure the Marquis learned the truth of Teusele’s false claims to title.

After Teusele and his men ride off with their tails between their legs, the party speaks to the old man, Amos, who turns out to be a retired guard captain from Sembia spending his retirement prospecting in the Sunset Mountains. He is familiar with the giants in the area and knows quite a bit about them. Apparently the fort where Ilkharis can be found is fairly close, but Ilkharis isn’t in charge any more. Recently, a hill giant cleric named Velikar rose up against Ilkharis and took over. Also, it seems the giants at the fort in question have been receiving visits from people with “elf-like” footprints, but when the party asked if they could be drow, Amos said that he didn’t know for sure who they are. The party asks the old man if he will lead them to the fort, but he says that he isn’t physically what he once was, and would prefer not to get involved. He openly offers detailed directions, and warns them that “Little Sister”, Velikar’s younger sister(?), is scouting in the area.

Sure enough, later that afternoon the party runs into Little Sister while making their way through a pass as they near the mountains proper. The frost giant begins hurling large rocks at the party from behind the cover of huge boulders. Valkor wisely drops a maximized fireball on her head, dealing great damage, not only to her, but also to her dire tiger pets hiding next to her. Little Sister and Balian confront each other one-on-one and deal a huge amount of damage to each other before Balian is victorious. The rest of the party, including Hucknor’s black bear, finishes off the massive tigers. After Hucknor delivers some much-needed healing to Balian and Kevros, the PCs continue on toward the giants’ lair.

After some time traveling through the wooded mountains the party arrives at the border fort. The fortress is built into the side of a mountain, and a 300 foot area around it has been cleared of trees. Valkor teleports the party up next to the wall where they hide while Kevros flies up to have a look around. He sees the frost giants patrolling the walls, as well as some dire tigers down below. Unfortunately, he is spotted in the process and the battle preparations begin for both sides.

After a few rounds, 4 frost giants round the corner with 3 dire tigers leading the way. Hucknor and Valkor drop fire spells on the giants, finishing off 3 of them quickly while the 4th runs for help. In the meantime, Balian and Kevros engage the tigers and make quick work of them as well. By the time that skirmish ends, the fleeing frost giant has returned with 7 hill giants who begin raining crossbow bolts down on the party. Valkor teleports with Balian to the top of the wall while Kevros flies up there himself, leaving Hucknor all alone like a sitting duck. The next round, Hucknor uses a dimension door to join the party on the wall, where they have discovered Velikar floating behind his troops. After a long and painful battle of magic and steel, Velikar and his giants are defeated, leaving the exterior of the border fort very quiet and still.

The party enters the fort to find a trap waiting for them. When they stop to investigate the trap, two Hill Giants begin throwing rocks at them. Kevros runs around a wall to disarm the trap while the others prepare to engage a large grey beast that is charging toward them. The Grey Render sets off the trap and takes serious damage. He is easily finished off, and the party moves on to finish off the giants. They then travel up to the second level where they fight a Roper and a Fiendish Advanced Dire Boar. They also find a map of this border fort, as well as a map containing the locations of each of the other border forts in the sunset mountains. The second map has annotations describing the strengths and weaknesses of each location including secret entrances. They journey onward to find Velikar’s chamber. There they find his journal that contains his plans for conquering all of the sunset vale, including allying with other giants and the drow. His journal states that the drow would only assist Velikar if he handed over Ilkharis to them. In the prison cells they find a drow agent waiting for them who attacks immediately. As they explore the remainder of the outpost, they find the floor of a very large room collapsed into a cavern below.

Kevros pokes his head over the edge of the broken floor and is greeted with a lightning bolt from below. Hair singed, he runs to meet his friends only to find that Valkor wants to take him down right in front of the creature that nearly killed him. The electrocuted rogue awaits healing from Hucknor while the half-ogre and the dwarf teleport down to face their foe. The huge blue dragon unleashed a powerful series of attacks that nearly kills Balian, and he and Valkor begin thinking that facing him like this may have been a bad idea. Desperate to escape they call for help from the gnome, who thanks to a high initiative roll, gets the party out of harm’s way before the dragon can attack again. Frighted, the party huddles in the woods until the dragon flies away.

With the dragon gone, the PCs begin feeling more confident (and greedy) and decide to sneak in and filch their enemy’s hoard. The next day, while en route back toward Iriaebor and the Oestral Abyss, the burgled dragon finally locates the thieves who took her treasure without properly defeating her first. This time, the adventurers are more prepared, and though their “tank” couldn’t seem to land a hit, the rest of the party picked up the slack and they began to weaken their foe. Hucknor and Valkor saved the day with well timed heal and “bubble” spells for the melee fighters. In the end, Balian and Valkor finally started dealing some melee damage just before a crushing blow from a gnome-wielded morningstar brought the dragon down at last.

Without fear of attack from behind, the PCs make the rest of their journey to the Oestral Abyss. Valkor flies down into the 70’ wide pit and discovers not only an unnatural darkness, but something at the bottom that is trying to shoot something large at him. He flies back up to the top of the pit, grabs the rest of the party, and teleports back down. There they encounter a demon spider who launches a web at the flying, light-filled dwarf before engaging the rest of the party. After quickly defeating the bebilith, Valkor flies around trying to find anything they may have missed, and finds 3 Gargantuan spiders that are perturbed by the little firefly flitting about in their pit. As the dwarf descends, the spider begin to climb down the walls to deal with the pesky, bearded bug. The party eliminates these threats without much trouble, but decide that they need to rest before continuing on toward the drow outpost of Mirith Glarnon.

All rested, the party heads down in to the Underdark. Thanks to Hucknor’s wise thinking, the PCs each equipped their Ring of the Darkhidden, making them invisible to most of the Underdark’s inhabitants. After a few hours of traveling through underground tunnels, the party hears noises up ahead. Kevros sneaks up far enough to see a flicker of movement, then returns to the group. When they hear his report, they send him back to get some useful information. He returns again with a description of the enemy; a drow patrol with 4 displacer beasts. The ensuing battle ends quickly as the drow and their pets are unable to see the intruders.

After a few more hours of travel, the party finds the entrance to Mirith Glarnon guarded by 14 heavily armed and armored bugbears. A maximized fireball and a sound burst later, only one bugbear is left standing (barely), and it falls quickly to an arrow from Kevros. The largest of the bugbears was clutching a nice looking morningstar that Hucknor was happy to rescue. They continue on and reach a 10’ ledge that needs to be climbed. Hucknor walks up using his slipers of spider climb and Balian boosts Kevros up … where he he gets lit up by a drow’s faerie fire. Kevros is then paralyzed by a giant caterpillar with 8 tentacles on its face. Balain quickly tosses Valkor up next to Kevros, and the drow sees the helpless, soon-to-be-dead thief transported away and replaced with an invisible (to him), axe-wielding half-ogre. The ensuing battle ends quickly as the one party member the enemies can see is paralyzed 10’ below them. In the aftermath, Valkor takes particular interest in the drow’s greatsword, which reveals not only its peculiar properties, but also confirms that the rogue would likely have died quickly had he be left where he was. (…and he never once said “thank you”)

As they explore the large area past the ledge, Valkor notices a trap door in the stone floor. When they open the door, they find the “room” below filled with light. Kevros immediately flies in to keep the lone man below from running while the rest of the party descends by rope or spider slippers. The staff-clutching man in tattered robes is named Ajakstu. He insists that he is simply a merchant and he is there to trade with the drow. When pressed about what he is purchasing from the drow, he gets defensive and angry and simply repeats that he is buying “goods” from the drow. Distracted by the interrogation of the skeptical gnome, Ajakstu never sees the rogue produce the sap that would send him to the floor in an unconscious heap. After finding large amounts of gold in his trunk, Hucknor begins feeling bad for Ajakstu, who suddenly seems to be all that he said he was. Fortunately those guilty feelings don’t last for long. The party discovers his trade ledger, which makes it very clear to them what “goods” he was dealing. Slaves! They feel very little remorse when Kevros ends the slave trader’s life, knowing that they’ve saved countless more from captivity and suffering. Valkor is certainly the happiest member of the party at this point, discovering Ajakstu’s spellbook, and learning that the staff he was holding was a staff of power.

The party extinguishes all the light in the room, then head through the heavy curtains into a large cavern with many side caves. The entire party is lit up like Christmas trees and crossbow bolts begin falling amongst them. While the PCs try to determine where the quarrels are coming from, 4 displacer beasts rush out of the darkness. While everyone shifts to face this new threat, a drow leaps from one of the side caves, attacks Kevros, Hucknor, and Valkor then leaps into another side cave on the other side of the cavern. The dancing punishment continues from the side caves for several rounds while the party finishes off the displacer beasts and engages the drow at the other end of the cavern, lead by Hucknor’s wolverine who’s adamantine claws tear through… (oops, sorry, wrong Wolverine) As the last drow Ranger falls, the drow Dervish takes off down another passageway out of sight. The PCs set off in pursuit, but they quickly reach a narrow ledge that is slick with mold and condensation. This area feels like a trap to Hucknor, so the party teleports to the cavern below the ledge.

When they arrive at the bottom, a large, fly-like demon attacks them, inflicting serious wounds upon the rogue. After the demon is defeated, and Kevros stops bleeding, the party discovers a patch of magical darkness. Kevros explores the area and finds a large hole in the floor separating them from a long flight of stairs that curves down into the dark. He leads the party to the narrowest part of the gap where everyone can jump safely across. When they reach the bottom of the stairs, the find the area lit by braziers.

The leader of the drow at Mirith Glarnon, a cleric named Derakhshan, awaits the party fully prepared. As the PCs rush to fight their 11-foot-tall foe (thanks to a righteous might spell), the Dervish they faced previously attacks them from behind. After a few rounds, the Dervish, who has finally taken some serious damage, runs to Derakhshan’s side. The drow cleric summons a blade barrier to separate the party. Balian, hurting badly after a harm spell, is the only member of the party on the drow’s side of the cavern. Valkor magically switches places with Balian in order to save the half-ogre, while Derakhshan heals himself, leaving the Dervish to try to survive on her own. Kevros uses his cape of the montebank to transport the whole party to the other side of the cave. They dispose of the Dervish quickly, then watch Derakhshan disappear.

Almost immediately they hear a drum sounding from a large hole in the floor nearby. They teleport once again and find Derakhshan standing behind a large altar that is changing color, with a swirling eye forming on front side. Everyone charges Derakhshan except for Hucknor who is mentally assaulted by the altar. Derakhshan is eventually defeated, but not before draining Kevros’ strength score down to 7. The party again teleports, this time to the cavern where their fight with Derakhshan began. Here they search the room and the bodies and find a cart-load of magical items.

Finally the time to confront Ilkharis has come. Unsure of what the frost giant’s reaction will be, the party asks a few probing questions to see if he would become hostile towards the party. They find that the once demon-worshiping cleric feels betrayed by those to whom he gave his loyalty, and in whose name he committed many unthinkable acts of evil. Now, Ilkharis wants revenge. The frost giant tells the party everything they need to defeat the Malgoth, beginning with the task of exhuming the corpse of the giant-king Glamoor and destroying the remains. All he asks in return is that his body be consecrated so that he will not turn into a powerful undead creature known as a bodak. Hucknor complies with his request, and Ilkharis dies within moments.

The party uses their last teleport to return to the surface near the mouth of the Oestral Abyss. There they find that all has not been well on the surface in their absence. Guards from the city never came to replace the soldiers on duty, and the two soldiers sent to make the 30 minute walk back to town haven’t returned nearly three hours later. In desperate need of rest, the party camps there for the night, before preparing to face whatever dangers await back in the city.

When they arrive at the city that morning, they find Iriaebor enveloped in an unnatural fog. As they enter the city, they notice that the 4 wolf statues that sit just outside the gates are missing. As they enter the cold fog they notice that the streets are deserted, but voices can be heard coming from the nearby barracks. They quickly discover that the soldiers are trapped inside. Balian breaks down the door and finds that every door and window seems to have been sealed and strengthened, trapping everyone inside for nearly 16 hours. Balian instructs all of the men to find shovels and picks and follow him to the top of the Tor.

When they reach the lawn in front of the Temple of Lathander, they know immediately where to begin digging. Shortly after the excavation begins, howling can be heard in the distance. Just a few rounds later, the wolves from the gate, animated and large as draft horses, charge into view. The party is quickly surrounded and engulfed in flame as all four wolves unleash their fiery breath weapons. Just a few short rounds later, Hucknor and Valkor finish off their foes before turning to see Balian and Kevros drop theirs. After about an hour of incessant bragging from the short ones about their combat prowess, the party hears a commotion from the bottom of the now 8-foot deep pit where the soldiers are digging.

The dirt at the bottom of the hole has begun to rock as something begins moving underneath. Balian and Kevros quickly help the soldiers to exit the pit as Glamoor’s corpse rises from its grave. The giant mohrg quickly slams and paralyzes the rogue, leaving him wounded and helpless. While Hucknor removes the paralysis, Balian begins doling out the damage to the undead giant. The next round, the angelic statues surrounding the nearby temple animate and hover toward the party. As soon as Glamoor is defeated, the statues fall to the ground and crumble. The fog blanketing the city coalesces above the corpse, and the final battle with the Malgoth begins… then ends… very quickly. How do you turn a CR 16 creature into a two round kill? Simple! Have your mage cast ghost trap so the fighters can punish it, have your cleric cast protection from evil on your now dominated mage so it can’t end the spell that’s making it corporeal, then beat it in initiative so it never has a chance to attack.

In the aftermath, the city immediately feels like a better place. People return to the streets, happy for the first time in years. Amidst the celebration in the days that follow, the PCs are handsomely rewarded for their deeds. Hucknor receives an impressive suit of breastplate, while Valkor is given a magnificently looking suit of solid gold half-plate. Kevros and Balian are presented with a Belt of Dwarvenkind and a Ring of Gnomekind respectively. The marchioness, now calling herself the High Lady, foots the bill and the manpower to have all of the party’s magic items identified. With the city returned to its pre-demonic-influenced state, the party continues on through the winter to their original destination: Waterdeep, the City of Splendors.

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