The Lance of Marduk
The Princess Diaries: Holy Hell → No Going Back
A Tiefling’s Story: Entry Twelve → Present
Thoughts, Ruminations, and Old Stories: The Time of Fading Greens (Parts 1-4)
After leaving Winterhaven, the Lance traveled south and east toward the mountain passes leading from the Vale proper toward the cities of Bern and, further south, Zarathustra. As they passed close to the city of Cadrin on the periphery of the Harken Forest, the group encountered a mounted patrol outfitted in the colors of the city’s militia. The patrol’s captain quickly recognized Aryawwn as the daughter of Luther Yderig, and relayed his request that she return to the city. After a short discussion, the party obliged.
Aryawwn returned to Cadrin to find the civil war that had racked the city at her departure ended, and her father upon the throne of Cadrin as the city’s first king. This elevation was largely driven by his role in ending the war shortly after Aryawwn’s flight from the city. After their initial meeting with the King, the members of the Lance (except Aryawwn) were escorted from the citadel, and quickly learned that the rebel faction just outside the city refused to disappear quietly. As the group was heading to their accommodations, their escorts were drawn off by an explosion and shouts along the partially-completed outer wall of the city, and the Lance pursued them. There, they learned that the rebels, though nominally defeated, had been staging attacks on the still-incomplete wall. Though the death toll from such raids had been next to nothing, the disruption and fear resulting from the attacks was a major thorn in Cadrin’s side. The next day, the Lance decided to investigate. After tracking the raiding party into the forest, they were ambushed and captured by the rebels.
Meanwhile, Luther revealed to Aryawwn that her former fiance, Trestin Thetryn had survived what had appeared a mortal wound during the war, and was in fact still in the city. Aryawwn, relieved and reeling at the shock of seeing him alive, returned to the inn late at night and returned to the citadel before the rest of the party awoke the next morning. She was taking breakfast with Trestin and Luther when Phalanx’s son, Sigurd, contacted her by unknown means and informed her of what had befallen the party. With the aid of Trestin and other friends from the city, Aryawwn staged a daring rescue of the captured members of the Lance; although some of those involved speculated that the rescue was far easier than it should have been.
Upon their return, the group was detained by a group of elite guards in black armor. Bjorn, Phenex, Phalanx, and Sydienne were taken below the citadel and interrogated; with much more physical force than necessary. Aryawwn petitioned her father to have them released, but the leader of the guards rebuffed the attempt, stating that he took his orders from “beyond the throne.” Nevertheless, the group was released and allowed to return to their rooms.
The party returned to the inn where they were staying and regrouped, but were quickly thrown back into the fire. Aryawwn heard tortured screams in what she immediately recognized to be Trestin’s voice, and ran out to help him. The rest of the party pursued, and arrived just in time to save Aryawwn from a group of Kenku assassins who had mimicked Trestin’s voice to bait her out. After a short skirmish, the assassins were defeated and were found to have accepted their mission from someone calling themself “The Lord Beyond.” The group traced and eventually destroyed the entire Kenku operation. A mental conversation between BJorn and the Raven Queen shortly thereafter left Boop empowered with divine energy.
Following the encounter with the Kenku, the Lance became aware of the operation of a cult of Orcus in the city, and were informed by Trestin that a symbol of the Demon Prince could be found on one of the sewer grates in the second tier of the city. Following the sewer, the group found the entrance to an ancient temple, which they eventually discovered to be a temple of the long-dead death god, Nerull. Clearing the first level of the temple yielded little information about the motive or goals of the cult presence in Cadrin, although the Lance did recover a ceremonial replica of Nerull’s wicked scythe, Lifecutter, and a number of documents in ancient Ashen.
Delving deeper, the group discovered that the cult had obviously discovered documents referencing the transferring of souls into energy forms, creating fabled philosopher’s stones. After recovering one such stone (and killing a number of ghouls in the process), the group destroyed it on moral grounds.
On the third level of the temple, the group stumbled across a group of Duergar miners working on excavating the ruins. They promptly dispatched the workers (and their overseer, a black guard like the ones who had detained them topside). Afterward, whilst exploring one of the branches of the excavation, they stumbled upon a small research laboratory, containing notes in Ashen that Aryawwn immediately set about deciphering. She eventually determined them to be notes describing a number of technical points regarding transmutation magic, including the use of physical structures to assist in constructing large circles.
The party continued onward, and after breaking through a small group of automaton guards, came upon a chamber occupied by the Deva Ne’vah. She revealed that she was once a companion of the wizard Tephra, and was with her when she used Nerull’s scythe, Lifecutter to open a portal to the Far Realms. She informed the party that it was this temple in which Tephra opened the portal, and that the rift still existed, although it was sealed shut. She requested that the Lance investigate to ensure the safety of the seal, and they agreed. Upon… thorough… investigation, they found that the seal was intact and the portal was protected. With the help of Ioun, they applied wards to the seal to ensure that no one else would be tempted to investigate the area.
On another note, the group encountered the tunnel from which the Duergar had entered the temple and met the captain of their guards, Regan. Among other things, they discovered that the miners they had killed earlier had been exactly that, and innocent of any association with the cult beyond being hired for excavation. Following that encounter, the group came upon a meeting between Hjalmar (the foreman of the mining crew) and Ser Sigenbas, an officer of the black guard. They learned that Hjalmer had hired out his men to Sigenbas for excavation in exchange for an army to be supplied to the Duergar city-state of Njarovik. The Lance promptly put a stop to the meeting, incapacitating Hjalmar and killing Sigenbas, but not before accusing the cult of intending to use transmutation magic to kill and reanimate the entirety of the city; a suspicion that the knight all but confirmed.
Upon returning to Ne’vah, she revealed that Lifecutter was not lost to the void, but was left in the temple after Tephra was pulled through. Feeling that her hidden stronghold had been compromised, Ne’vah entrusted the party with the scythe so that she could focus on defending the rift from prying eyes. She then directed the party to a portal that led into the inner sanctum of the temple; however required each traveler to share their darkest secret to activate the portal.
Unfortunately, the portal was hijacked by the Raven Queen, requesting that Nerull’s weapon be turned over to her. Ioun appeared and began to argue with her, but ultimately it was Bjorn who ended the discussion by handing over the weapon (known only to Sydienne and himself to be the replica weapon) to the Raven Queen before the group was once again whisked away on their journey.
The party reappeared just outside the inner sanctum of the temple. Upon entering the chamber, they discovered cult operatives in the final stages of completing transmutation circles for mass death and reanimation, as Phenex had predicted earlier. They also found Trestin, beaten and chained to the far wall. They handily defeated the cultists, but a mage with them activated smaller transmutation circles, summoning a pair of demons to sic on the adventurers. Eventually these too were brought to heel. The Lord Beyond, disturbed by the commotion, walked into the room to reprimand his followers, but was instead met with the aftermath of the battle. He shortly revealed himself to be Vairis of Valenwold, brought back through dark magics. In true villain style, he described the events between his death and their meeting, including his actions since arriving in Cadrin. When he finished, the Lance attacked, spearheaded by a distraught Bjorn.
Over the course of the battle, Trestin took advantage of a mental link with Vairis, who had resurrected him, and severely damaged the cultist’s mind. Vairis fled, with Bjorn following close behind. The ensuing chase progressed from foot to horse, through the city and out onto the plains beyond as each tried to gain ground. Eventually, Aryawwn (who had stayed behind to help Trestin) commandeered an airship, and eventually put an end to the chase. Vairis was apprehended and beaten within an inch of life by Bjorn.
On the way back to Cadrin, the Raven Queen appeared to the party, furious at having been deceived. They eventually convinced her to spare them, but on the condition that they find a way to destroy the scythe. Upon their return to the city, Aryawwn went immediately to Trestin’s side, but after speaking with him went to repair her relationship with Phenex. Bjorn, utterly drained, lost himself in the bottom of his tankard. Phalanx disappeared into the forest near the city for unknown reasons, and Sydienne returned to her home in Illyria, stating that her family needed her back.
After some time, Bjorn set of toward the city of Hammerfast on foot, and the remainder of the Lance followed in the acquired airship Chancellor some days later.