Uncomfortably Tall Adventures

Defeating Kalarel, Return to Gloomwrought
In which a ton of NPC's die?

The opaque, grey dust settled at the feet of our heroes. They caught their breath for a moment as the soldiers looked to them for guidance and direction. Our five heroes questioned their next move; the Crooked Keep now lay motionless on the side of a hill overlooking the famed Shadowfell city. Its black chitinous legs crushed beneath the weight of the single dark stone bastion and curled around the tower’s base shadowing the double doors.

Finn was the first to move towards the doors, “I believe we must place the gemstones inside to unlock this arcane mechanism. Then we will be able to find this, Kalarel, and Vanguard’s sister.” He said as he drew a large red gem from inside his robes. It fluttered away from his outstretched hand and locked into the left door. “Who has the other one?” Everyone turned to look at the halfling. “Fine. Here.” He said. And he gave the Wizard a large blue sapphire from inside his pack. Finn affixed the second gem into place and the ancient doors creaked open revealing a great dark maw.

Orsik, not one for patience, was the first to enter. “Get outta mah way, Vanguard, I smell runes!” He said in his most polite tone. “He can smell runes?” replied Vanguard, looking at his companions. They shrugged. Leif nodded.

Upon entering a foyer – decaying flesh was certainly the smell most pervasive, not runes. They found two staircases and decided to ascend the latter into a vaulted room. There they stood in about two inches of decayed flesh, eye to eye with a bunch of gross zombies and their pet plants. After initially not taking the plants too seriously, our heroes rethought their strategy after both Vanguard and Orsik were taken hostage and then swallowed whole by their botanical mandibles.

Rusty and Leif made short work of the zombies while Finn saved the other two from the Little Shop of Horrors. Now covered in sap, the heroes had escaped the enveloping vines of the first plant…the other rested still inside the other stairwell. Screw that, we’re going to take this staircase. And travel upward, deeper into the castle they did.

They traveled through a fleshy hallway of pressing putrescent growths, and past a massive slug in the middle of an electronic dance party that oozed necrotic juices. Underneath the defeated carcass of the beast was a sight most welcome (for Orsik and Leif at least). There was a glowing rune and a massive hammer crowded around the desiccated corpse of a Seeker – apparently, some type of engine or “battery” for the Keep. Orsik gobbled up that rune to boost his powers just as fast as Leif took some practice swings with the hammer, envisioning another type of battery. “Huh, I think I like this hammer!” exclaimed Leif. Just then, starting slowly and growing louder and louder, the hammer began to scream. And then its screams grew into an incessant wail whenever Leif touched it. Too bad for everyone else, Leif refused to let it go.

After acquiring some new goodies, the heroes came to an especially cold, winding spiral staircase. Rusty felt as if the life was slowly being drained away as he quietly came to a pair of ornately carved doors, each punctuated with a wrought iron door knob, shaped like a bulbous rams head skull. “Yep, this must be the place.” Leif delicately bellowed over the deafening screams of his hammer.

Throwing open the double doors, our heroes came face to face with their enemy. Kalarel and his monstrous bride, Sagebrush, sat together on a throne, patiently waiting for the UTA’s arrival. Vanguard stared blankly as Kalarel placed his hand seductively on Sagebrush’s bony thigh. It’s probably for the best that he didn’t have his memories. “Hah, welcome, welcome! The UTA is here to stop my plans once again, how delightful. We will bend Gloomwrought to the will of Orcus. You fools left it exposed!” he said. The Lich King continued his blabbing about Orcus Prince of Undeath, destruction of Gloomwrought, etc. until Orsik interrupted, “Your undeath is disgusting, prepare your bodies!” And with that, he rushed to face them and the combat began.

Sagebrush multiplied a couple times and proceeded to fly around like a banshee while Kalarel created barriers, frustrating Rusty immensely. Finn pushed Sagebrush through a flowing green portal. “Get off my plane!” he exclaimed. Everyone got to beat the shit out of Kalarel and then, right as Rusty was walking up to end his bony undead life, Finn blew him to shit! Talk about off-pissing!

“I think we’re done here…” Vanguard said in a grim voice. They separated to search the room. Vanguard found a dollhouse and the others found a large bone-made chest. Rusty sat in the throne and pouted, while Leif quickly smashed the chest to smithereens. In that moment, a dark shadow crept over Rusty. Vanguard turned around and saw a massive winged demon swipe down to grab the Halfling out of the chair. Under his breath he muttered to himself as he raced into action, “I guess we’re not done here.”

Kalarel had risen yet again, this time as a demonic beast clutching the halfling in his clawed red hand. Leif’s voice could be heard from in the corner of the room, “Well, you wanted to hit something!” With little regard for his life, Rusty repeated stabbed the demon in his face and eyes, nearly felling the demon right there. Kalarel was done with the smallest member of the group and proceeded to fling him across the room. Just then Orsik came flying in with his maul, glowing with runic symbols! “DIVINE RUNE OF THUNDER!” he shouted as he smashed his maul into Kalrel’s chest sending him flying backwards.

Finally, finally, he was defeated. And all that was left was a blackened brass ring that vibrated with the fury of its previous master. A phylactery, indeed. “We smash it now! It must be destroyed!” opined Orsik. “It cannot be destroyed here, but yes, we will destroy it.” Finn calmly responded. “Sagebrush!” Vanguard yelled, in a rare moment of clarity, now making haste for the mysterious portal. He dove through the thick green mist as his friends stood mouths agape at the situation.

They hung their heads; quickly they gathered their things along with the dolls from the dollhouse and the Ring of Fury. Then trudged their way towards the portal. “Guess he got his memories back” Finn muttered as they walked through the mysterious portal.
The portal bubbled gently as they stepped through into a vaguely familiar hallway. As the four of them were about to step out into the light, they spied Vanguard’s cloaked visage. A finger to his mouth, “Shh, quiet” he mouthed to his friends. Seconds later, a patrol of Deathless Watch strolled down the hallway. The five heroes convened and tailed them for a bit coming to a metal door, etched with dragon motifs. Rusty clearly remembered this door; it was one that he failed to outsmart when they were in the Hall of Ancients. And now seemed like a perfect time to crack this masterwork door open.

As the halfling worked, Leif tried his hardest to not touch his hammer and the others kept their eyes peeled for Deathless Watch. Click. The door was opened and they stepped carefully inside. Vanguard saw his sister, his expression was emotionless but deep down he was not prepared to do what he had to do. Vanguard also saw a massive skeleton of a dragon. Its slower half was carved into a throne. The skull had two large rubies in place of eyes that filled the room with a foreboding red light. Before the throne, lying motionless on the ground was a figure dressed in finery. Rusty and Finn, sensing danger, immediately went off to flank Sagebrush while Orsik and Leif formed a “wall of man!” to prevent intruding Deathless Watch. Vanguard, frozen for a moment, inched forward and drew an arrow from his quiver. “Yes, this must be done.” He thought to himself.

Sagebrush cackled with delight and multiplied once again. Simultaneously, the draconic throne roared to terrible unlife – it was a Dracolich, Uinrylm, “the hated corpse” or the Hall of Ancients! In somber draconic tones he revealed himself as the mastermind behind Kalarel’s plotting to overthrow Gloomwrought. The heroes good luck had run out, their attacks were missing left and right, the Deathless Watch were knocking at the doors, and Uxinrylm was using his powers of mind control to dominate each of our heroes in turn.

After trading many blows, Sagebrush was nearly defeated. “The doll!” Vanguard yelled as a laser from Uxinrylm hit him square in the chest; his eyes went black. Orsik held on to the five dolls, “Uh, hmm…” Orsik, bloody and beaten, chose the doll with a small toy boat sewed to its hand and ripped it in half. A resounding wave of force knocked him to the ground and his head fell backwards to bang against the cold stone tile – he was out cold. Lowing his defenses, Rusty dropped to a knee to help his friend. Uxinrylm took advantage and shot another beam that hit Rusty right in the back. Again his eyes fogged over with the grey light of domination – he drew his dagger to slay the dwarf. He raised the Dagger of Ursh with both hands above his head and with a flash he went for Orsik’s heart.

The sound of metal against metal echoed through the hall. Orsik’s maul had met the dagger only an inch before his armor, he opened his eyes, as shocked as the other heroes. Orsik stood up as Rusty came again to his senses. Powered by his growing collection of Runes, Orsik now appeared to hold near immunity to death! The heroes defeated the remaining members of the Deathless Watch and they convened to take down Uxinrlym. Rusty dodged a bony wing and hopped up into the throne itself. Opening his legs, he stabbed the seat cushion with all his might as Finn sent a fiery blast to ensnare the dracolich. Moments later, Uxinrylm was defeated. Orsik toppled backwards and crashed again to the floor, this time unconscious – even his new powers had their limits.

Vanduard privately picked up a toy doll from Orsik’s pack, a small woven doll with a green smock and a wooden toy sword. He knew this to be her favorite toy in childhood, a match to his own. This was the closest thing he had to a sister now. “Sagebrush,” he whispered, “I’m so sorry. I love you dear sister.” In one smooth motion he tore the doll down its midline. A trail of black smoke issued forth followed by a forceful gale which reverberated through the hall – with the destruction of the phylactery Sagebrush was no more. With his hard rough hand he wiped a singular tear from his eye.

“We need a break” Rusty panted as he huddled over Orsik next to Vanguard. Finn examined the body as footsteps could be heard growing louder from outside. “Prince Rolan?” the wizard stated. “Yes,” answered the voice from outside. It was Feluria, the deva consort of the Prince. “he was using the undying power of Uxinrylm to cheat death. You must leave him to his fate.” Orsik, barely able to breathe agreed with this statement. Feluria communicated with Leif telepathically for a moment afterwards; Finn’s nose bled slightly and he coughed the words “Orphan Knight!” clutching his temples. And so our heroes left Rolan to perish, installing Feluria as Gloomwrought’s new defacto monarch.

She then told the five saviors of Gloomwrought that more was needed of them. The Raven’s Eyrie was in dire need of their help while the leader of the Ghost Talon, Oristus, was starting riots in the streets, attempting to create an independent state in the Docks. Our heroes must choose. Upon learning more about the Raven’s Eyrie situation, they learned that Nira was presumed dead and the Sorrowsworn, Olivex was attacking the Hooded Lantern!

After a brief debate, the heroes rushed off to the Raven’s Eyrie. There, they saw a sight most foul. Lying half submerged in the Sorrowmere, High Priestess Nira was face down and bleeding from the eyes and mouth. An acolyte stated that she has sought guidance but then suddenly collapsed, sending her lieutenant, Olivex, into a murderous frenzy against heretics. Orsik tried to revive her while the others thought of a plan. Finn said that they must get to the Hooded Lantern to stop Olivex, killing him and his followers if they must. Vanguard and Leif tentatively agreed. Orsik argued firmly against killing the Sorrowsworn commander and that he must consult the Raven Queen in this matter. Surprisingly the voice of reason, Rusty piped up: “Finn, you, Vanguard and Lief run over to the Hooded Lantern. I’ll stay here with Orsik while he consults the Raven Queen. We’ll meet you there when he’s done.”

The dwarf set his maul against a stone pillar and waded into the pool of blood. When he emerged his eyes were wide and a mixture of fear and anxiety covered his face. “Well, what did she say?” the halfling said. “Uh, um, no, not much.” replied Orsik deflecting the question as best he could. “Let’s get to the Hooded Lantern! Now!” he continued. And they ran to meet their friends. Unknown to the others, the vestige of the Raven Queen that Orsik had sought counsel from previously was no more than Nerull, dethroned god of death, in disguise! He brooded over this quietly as they rushed to the Hooded Lantern to meet their friends.

They found them in the Sun Courtyard in the midst of combat. Olivex was swinging wildly at the priests of Pelor as Finn, Vanguard and Leif tried to talk him down. He seemed unwilling to listen to anyone’s pleas until Orsik the Seeker exclaimed that Nerull, the dethroned god of death had returned! It was he who first spoke to him in the Sorrowmere, disguised as a giant black raven! There Nerull said to Orsik that the Raven Queen had been deceiving him. Nerull accused her of building a “horror engine of flesh and fear,” that Orsik was fated to power through sacrificing his body and providing the gathered death runes as engines. She would use this device and Orsik’s sacrifice to retake the realm of Pluton in the Astral Sea.

Nerull demanded that Orsik bring the god-killer rod to Farad Exitis, to destroy the Raven Queen once and for all! Upon hearing this, Olivex stood down. The five intrepid heroes stepped outside looking south towards the Docks. They were too late, for the Ghost Talon were already successful in their revolt. Smoke billowed from the far off buildings as two figures raised a red flag of independence over the somber Gloomwrought skyline.

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Perspectives: Rusty Wheale Borough
Looking through Rusty's eyes at the Battle of Gloomwrought

Rain pelted the roof of the House of the Black Lantern. They had just finished discussing tactics for the battle tomorrow. Vanguard would command the Midnight’s Own, Orsik would take the Ebony Guard, Leif would take a group of paladins alongside the Clerics of Pelor, Finn would join him as well as take command of the gargoyles which meant Rusty was with the Ghost Talon. “Rusty, it is your fault that they are even here in the first place, if you recall.” Finn said condescendingly. “I guess he was right, but I still wanted to be with the gargoyles. Well, whatever.” He thought to himself as he trudged upstairs to his bed.
Rusty reached the top of the stairs and pushed upon the door. There was relatively little inside the small wood-paneled room except for a charred dresser courtesy of Azuzu the night previous. Rusty climbed into the over-sized bed and tried to get some sleep. Regardless of who he was fighting with tomorrow, it would still be a big day. He put his dagger underneath his pillow and closed his eyes.

“No, all of them – they were my friends, but not any longer. They do what is convenient for them, not what is right. But they would never admit that. No. They scolded me for saying that outright but at least I am not being hypocritical. I might not be a very good person, but at least I’m honest. I was in need of their help—and what do they do? Turn their backs on me! All of them! They helped Ferris instead of me! Why? Because it was fucking convenient for them!”
“I was their friend! I helped them! I cared about them! And what do they do? They fucking stab me in the back! Especially Finn and Vanguard! Orsik never cared much for me I understand that; and Leif is too stupid to care, but fucking Vanguard!? And Finn!?”
“Not only did they turn their back on me—they also have allied themselves with that weaselly impostor Ferris! It’s as if they don’t even care that I get trapped in this shithole while he goes free! Arrghh!!”
The clash of metal on stone was heard.

Rusty gasped aloud and reflexively sat up with his dagger in his hand. He was drenched in cold sweat, gasping for breath. He was staring at the dresser across the room. Rusty decided to get out of bed and walk around for a bit to cool his head. Peering into the bottom dresser drawer, something caught his eye. He pulled the drawer open to see a small red metal coin with identical etchings on both sides. Rusty picked it up, looked it over, and put the coin inside he adventurer’s pack without much thought. “Warm milk with honey, that’ll do the trick.” he said to himself and he proceeded to open the door and head downstairs.
Being slightly on edge after his nightmare, Rusty was startled to see Yarol behind the bar upon reaching the base of the stairs. “Oh, hullo Yarol. I had a bit of a night terror and can’t sleep. Could you fix me a glass of warm milk with honey, please?” “Yes, my pleasure Master Rusty, take a seat, it’ll be ready in just a moment.” Rusty took a seat by the window and looked out into the darkness. For a second he thought he saw a demonic visage staring at him from the blackness, but it was nothing he told himself. “Just my eyes playing tricks again.” he said.
“Here we are, sir. No charge. This one’s on me.” “Thank you kindly Yarol. This is wonderful.” He said as he took a sip of the beverage. “Hope you don’t mind but I added a pinch of Goodnight Tincture to it—I know you need your rest for tomorrow.” “Yarol, you are the best.” Rusty slurred, his bottom lip was already numb from the sleep powder. He finished the rest of the milk in a couple big gulps and stated, “I’ll be seeing you in the morning.” Then the halfling climbed up the stairs and crawled back in his bed.

“Why are you not awake? It’s almost dawn!” cried Orsik banging at Rusty’s door. “The battle’s gonna start soon!” he fervently exclaimed. Rusty shoved his head underneath the pillow. “Go away! I don’t wanna do battle today!” He muffled. “WHHAATT!!??” Orsik broke the door off its hinge and threw a pair of boots at the halfling. “THEY’D SHAVE MAH BEARD OFF IF I EVER SAID SOMETHIN’ LIKE THAT! YOU BETTER GET YOUR ARSE OUTTA BED RIGHT NOW LITTLE MISTER!” “Fine, fine. I’m going.” he replied as he got out from beneath the covers. “What do we have to do before the battle starts?” “We’re gonna find out downstairs!” the dwarf answered excitedly as he stomped down the staircase.
Downstairs Finn and Vanguard were huddled around a map of the Skins. Finn has illusory troops marching across the board while he and the Last Son of Matthallal debated strategy. Looking up to see the half-dressed halfling, Finn said “Finally.” “Rusty we told you to be up an hour ago.” added Vanguard. “But, Leif isn’t awake yet.” contended Rusty. “Sure he is—he’s in the pantry.” Just then, in full plate armor, Leif clomped through the pantry doors into the barroom carrying a tray of salted meats, cheeses and bread. “Mornin’ champ!” he said with a mouthful of bread. “Morning, Leif.”
“Everyone, shortly you will go off to meet with your contact. You all know who your contacts are, yes?” Finn said as he stared at Rusty. “Yes, I do, thank you. His name’s Auristis and he’s Nira’s brother.” “It’s Oristus, but yes. You’ll find him at the docks, Rust.” “Wypaugh and Jordan Haell will be here shortly. I will contact you all if anything changes. Questions?” Everyone shook their heads. They each then packed up their things and headed out the door.

“Oristus, Leader of the Ghost Talon, shadar-kai supremacist, Nira’s brother and excommunicated priest of the Raven Queen’s Eyrie. Got it.” Rusty read from a small sliver of paper as he walked south towards the docks. He put the piece of paper in his pocket as he reached a shuddered stone building near the water’s edge. Two shadar-kai guards were posted outside the front entrance. They stuck their chests out slightly as the halfling approached and looked down at him when he reached the front step. “Password.” said the first one. “Um, I don’t have a password. I’m Rusty of Wheale Borough. I’m here to see Oristus about troop support for the battle today. Can I see him?” The two guards shook their heads, “Piss off.” said the second one.
“Well, great.” Rusty said to himself as he was walking away. Without think he turned down a dark alleyway and scaled a stone wall to the rooftop. There were two buildings in between Rusty and the second floor window of the shadar-kai meeting house. Rusty leaped from rooftop to rooftop and landed with a thud on the slate of the dock house. He winced hoping that he didn’t make too loud of a noise and then scampered over to the dirty window. “Ah, thank Avandra.” he said, opening the unlocked window. Below him a few voices could be made out including one particularly gruff voice which Rusty assumed to be Oristus.
Standing on the creaky wood beams of the second-story loft, Rusty decided it might be best to not sneak for once. He climbed down the ladder as the shadar-kai were talking: “Groost-Otshin will only become a reality if we hold these locations. Do you understand?” “Um, hi, sorry to interrupt.” Rusty interjected. “Do you guys know where I can find Oristus?” “I am he.” A tall shadar-kai exhaled as he turned around. He had numerous gold and silver facial piercings and intimidating tattoos. “I’m Rusty Wheale Borough—the guy who killed Azuun Bennic, I guess. I’m here to get your support for the battle against the undead army of Kalarel the lich.” The corners of Oristus’ mouth turned up into a smirk. “Rusty, is it? Well I have to thank you for removing the ambassador from our beautiful city. You see he was a thorn in my side—as you helped me, it seems only fair that I help you, no?” Rusty looked around the room at the other shadar-kai and nodded. “I’ll give you one company of my best men; I’ll also keep more stationed here in the docks just in case. Does that sound like a plan?” “I’d really appreciate more if you can spare them; we’re going to need all the men we can get.” “Very well, two companies but I cannot spare anymore without leaving the city defenseless.” “Sounds good. Thank you Commander.” He turned to leave, “Oh, one more thing, what is the password if I need to get inside again?” “Groost-Otshin” Oristus replied, “It means Sorrow’s Solace in our tongue.” Rusty turned and opened the door. He passed by the two door guards and waved at them as he passed.

Rusty walked back to the House of the Black Lanterns with a pep in his step. He was proud of himself for doing a good thing. Or so he thought. After arriving Rusty met with his companions and together readied themselves for the battle. They took turns carting supplies to the walls while Finn ordered everyone around. Orsik and Leif were getting noticeably giddy as the day progressed; Orsik was now wearing his finest scale armor and he had polished his maul just for the occasion. Leif was still eating. “Uh, I should probably go take a poop before the battle starts. Hey Yarol, buddy, can I use your bathroom?” he said as Rusty approached. “We’re mostly ready!” Orsik said, smiling. Rusty had never seen Orsik smile before, he had surprisingly nice teeth. “Ok sounds good. Have you seen Finn? I gotta check in.” “He’s inside with Jordan Haell, they’re dancing or sun tanning or whatever it is that they do.” Rusty went inside without another word.
No, they were not sun tanning nor were they dancing; they were talking strategy with a few clerics of Pelor. “Hello Rusty.” he said. “Any news?” “Yes actually, Oristus said he would give us two companies for the battle. He also said he would station more troops in the docks in case the city got overrun.” “Hmm, ok. Then your job is to command those two companies around their flank and down past the river. Hold the bridge at whatever cost. Absolutely do not lose that bridge. Understood?” “Yeah, got it.”

The sun was going down over the hillside a few hours later. Rusty had said his goodbyes to his friends and went off to go command the two companies of Ghost Talon warriors. In his head he elected to call them “Wheale Company” and “Butternubs Company,” they probably wouldn’t care for those names though. Upon meeting the Wheale and Butternubs Companies, that opinion cemented. They were all rough, intimidating and rather fierce looking warriors. Rusty scaled a large rock and cleared his voice, “Ahem, greetings Ghost Talon warriors. I am Rusty Wheale Borough. Oristus has made me your commander for today. Our objective is to flank the hordes of undead and take the bridge. Is that understood?” “Hur-rah” they responded in unison. “Good, then, uh, may the Raven Queen, uh, decide our fate…?” Rusty said quizzically. This was followed by a slightly louder “hur-rah” by the troops.
Rain started to fall as the horns sounded. Finn and Leif were leading the central charge. It was time to go. Unsheathing his dagger, Rusty led the first company into the forest and towards the bridge. They couldn’t see anything yet as they traversed the thick underbrush of the Skins. The rain was getting heavier. The wind was picking up making it impossible to catch a scent of their decaying flesh. Not much longer they found a battalion of undead warriors; Wheale Company was able to get a jump on them and not long after the undead were defeated. Rusty remarked at how efficient the Ghost Talon were at slaying the undead; we had no casualties thus far.
About an hour into the battle Butternubs Company caught up to Wheale in the forest not far from the bridge. In the valley below, Rusty saw Orsik leading a throng of the Ebony Guard towards the bridge. At least a hundred undead and a massive spider stood in between his men and the bridge. “Into the valley men! There’s the bridge!” Wheale Company headed down into the river basin to meet with Orsik and the Ebony Guard. Orsik was covered with parts of flesh and bone; he had a fingernail in his thick beard. Upon seeing Rusty, he let out a fearsome roar that was joined by the voices of the black-armored guards of the Raven Queen. They joined forces and raced towards the undead guarding the bridge.
Orsik reached the bridge first. He cleaved zombie after zombie, leaving a trail of rotted muscle and organs in his wake. Even the Ghost Talon was impressed with the dwarf’s battle fervor. Just then a supernatural ear-piercing scream was heard coming from the forest. Rising out of the trees a legion of ghouls were advancing towards their position. Rusty and Orsik exchanged glances. Orsik commanded that his forces take the spider across the bridge, Rusty and the Ghost Talon went back up the hill towards the ghoulish horde.
The halfling charged up the hill flanked by his shadar-kai comrades. They met with the ghouls and their commander on the slope; the initial charge was devastating. The commander wielded a massive gemstone that sent out beams of energy scorching the Ghost Talon troops. Just when things seemed lost for the first company, the second came out of the forest and attacked the ghouls flank. But their undead commander would not be turned. He mounted a second charge and again overpowered the shadar-kai warriors. Rusty and his troops were forced to flee into the forest. Rusty was forced to chase after his men into the Skins. “Stand with me and fight Ghost Talon!” he cried. “We must stop this invasion! Fight with me!”
Rusty chased down one of the shadar-kai and grabbed a hold of him, “Why do you run soldier?! We must stand and fight with me, your commander!” He replied, “You are no commander halfling; we have no business doing battle with you. Oristus is our commander—he will bring us Groost-Otshin; you will bring us nothing but death.” He said as he turned away and ran towards Gloomwrought with his katar unsheathed. Soon Rusty was left on the forested hill alone, the ghouls were advancing and their screams could be heard slowly growing louder.
Without much thought, Rusty took off running down the hill towards the bridge. Arriving at the river basin he met with Orsik and the Ebony Guard. “Orsik, my men abandoned me!” Rusty cried to his friend. “The ghouls and their commander must be stopped!” Orsik signaled that I take a battalion of the Ebony Guard to finish the ghouls while he progressed towards the Castle that Crawls. He pointed towards a massive dark stone bastion that teetered on six black chitinous legs. Rusty’s eyes widened in fear and his mouth opened slightly. He swallowed and turned to go with the Ebony Guard.
Rusty met with the ghouls a third time but the ghouls’ strength could not overpower that of the Raven Queen’s blackguards. The Ebony Guards penetrated the central line of the ghouls’ force heading directly towards the commander. Rusty skirted his way through and arrived at the commander. With his characteristic lethality, the halfling made short work of the commander with his dagger. The gemstone landed with a thud on the wet earth. Rusty picked it up and claimed it as a spoil of war. “Well, maybe this isn’t going to be such a shitty day after all.” He stated matter-of-factly. “We must rejoin the Seeker and the others.” said of the Ebony Guard. “Yes, yes I agree. Let us go.” And with that, they took off down the slope towards the bridge, behind which was the ominous shadow of the Castle that Crawls, barely visible through the dust and thick grey mist. Again, Rusty thought he saw that same demonic face staring at him as he sheathed his dagger. He turned to look one last time, but nothing was there…

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Battle for Gloomwrought
Against the horde of the Castle that Crawls!

Whoa! What an exciting headline! Some say a post will follow…

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O come, o come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Shadowfell
A humble teaser for a Christmas one-shot of biblical proportions

Dust. The diffuse glow of wan sunset through clouded, high windows, the bitter-almond smell of desiccated parchment, rows and rows of circular, oak shelves rising to the apex of the tower…everything exactly as Finn Bailey remembered it—except for the dust.
The tall, raven-haired wizard turned to his stout companion. “Why wasn’t the library tower maintained?” he demanded with the most passable analogy of human angst his lilting, Eladrin voice would allow. Slater Grimmjow snorted his customary snort.
“You were the only one who ever came in here boy. After you left your father ordered the servants to stop coming all the way up these blessed stairs,” his grating rasp softened as much as it ever could…not much at all. Finn looked down into his beady, heavy-lidded eyes. “And after your father died…well—I suppose I just left well enough alone.”
Dust. “After I left? Don’t you mean after I was sent away?”
Slater turned to face him with surprising alacrity for such a dense creature, his face darkening. “Listen boy, we don’t have time for your grubbing. Time is money and right now you aren’t making me any. You want to be a part of your father’s company, his legacy? Then you need to start pulling your weight.” Slater Grimmjow stomped to the other side of the tower, puffs of dust following his heavy, Dwarven footfalls like the sonic blasts of war drums. “While you’ve been off playing magician with that green-haired ninny the world hasn’t gotten any smaller. We need this outpost in Thunderspire to produce! Results, I say!” his tyrannical beard trembling sympathetically with the rumbling of his voice, he scooped up a filthy old tome from a decrepit wooden stool and blew particles of grime off the cover. “Bah!” he harrumphed, “your father never set much store by this hogwash and you shouldn’t either. How he tolerated your incessant frivolity I’ll never understand.” As he slammed the codex down to the dusty floor, The Assorted Wanderings of The Prophet Ih’jshaiyaegh Jyuudaeioughnn, Finn Bailey caught a glimpse of the faded runes upon the cover. His throat tightened. It was his favourite book. Slater Grimmjow walked forward and reached his hand up to his young Eladrin ward’s shoulder, a grip of finality, not tenderness, and said, “I’ve put a crew together. You leave for the Seven-Pillared Hall in the morning.”
“Straight to business, that’s the Uncle Slater I know and love,” Finn’s voice dripping with the most acerbic and barely sufferable Eladrin sarcasm he could manage, he turned to regard the eminently wide dwarf starting down through the trap door to the spiral staircase of the highest tower of Bailey Manour. The latter turned on the top step and regarded Finn with one of his baleful, watery eyes. For a second Finn thought he was in for a verbal thrashing or, at the very least, a lecture about proper business practice.
Instead, after a pause, there was another snort. “Mind the halfling," he growled, "He’s already tried to rob me twice.” A swift swish of massive beard and Grimmjow was gone.
Dust. Finn gazed about the muffled chamber, his father’s library—no, his library now. Finn raised his hand in a sweeping gesture and began a muted arcane chant. But as the final syllable of the clearing spell he was about to cast passed his lips, he released the magic he had gathered. “Let the dust lay where it fell,” he muttered to himself. “Maybe my father’s house should die as well.”
Without another word he turned to follow his surly, diminutive guardian and was about to mount the steep, twisting stair when something caught his eye…the Wanderings of Ih’jshaiyaegh staring back at him forlornly from its dusty grave. Finn blinked twice in practiced concentration. A ghostly hand formed out of the dust and, with a slithering rasp, slid the ancient cracked volume over to him. He propped it up on its weathered spine and let it fall open to a random spot; a spot Finn well recognized: Ih’jshaiyaegh’s adventures in the Shadowfell. Not for the first time, Finn Bailey wondered to himself what unearthly force should compel such an eminent denizen of the Fey, especially one of such noble Eladrin lineage as Ih’jshaiyaegh’s, to journey to that dark, life-forsaken plane. Finn began to read the nearest passage, the words of the prophet Ih’jshaiyaegh’s final prophecy leaping to his mind half-remembered, as though his eyes were reading as much from the past as from the page.

“Thus spoke he to me, the great Force, ‘So shall it come to pass: The shroud of the darkened sky shall be repealed. The grey of Death’s raven pall shall yield to the light of the shining cosmos. On that day they, the deathless, shall stand on the same ground yet see different skies—shall look upon the same sky yet stand upon a different ground. When the new world crashes down upon them, on that day, a King shall be born, He who shall deliver them from their oppressors and who shall raise them from their own iniquities. When all the worlds align, He who shall be their Saviour shall spring forth, unconceived, He who shall be called the beginning and the end, He who shall be called, in the old tongue, ‘Emmanuel’, the God among us. And the Shepherds, brave wanderers from distant lands shall hear His call and follow Him and bear Him henceforth upon the flaming sky, and the wise men shall covet Him. And on that day the veil between worlds shall grow as thin as the veil between the mortal and the eternal, for He shall absolve the penitent of Death. This is my covenant to you.’”

Finn closed the book with the barest of grins. “Well,” he thought, “however insufferable these minions Slater has hired undoubtedly are, at least I don’t have to go the Shadowfell with them.” And, gathering up the book of the Prophet Isaiah with a final puff of dust, he rounded the stair and left his old haunt for what would turn out to be quite the adventure of his own.

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Perspectives: Vanguard Forthwind

This perspectives post brought to you by the man behind the Van, Chris!

Deep beneath the streets of Gloomwrought, Vanguard felt sick to his stomach. He and his allies had found the birthplace of the enigmatic Keepers, the great, bloated corpse of a primordial, still dripping black blood from wounds suffered at the dawn of time. Each drop transformed into a Keeper, confirming the rumor that the creatures were older than the city itself. Finn had deduced that some corruption introduced into the body of the primordial was the source of the False Keepers. In order to fulfill their end of their bargain with Prince Rolan, they would have to excise this corruption. Though Vanguard was not one to quail in the face of danger, he felt ill at ease as they began their ascent of the ancient creature. He decided that, as far as he was concerned, the sooner they were done with this errand, the better.

When they reached the arena built into the top of the creature, they were beset by both enemies and intense feelings of regret and despair. “We’re close,” shouted Finn. “Yon book is the source of the corruption!” At first, Vanguard steeled himself against the waves of anguish, but they gradually began to wear down his defenses. An image of Rusty, his erstwhile ally, came unbidden to his eyes. Vanguard had failed to repair the rift growing between Rusty and the rest of the party, and now they had abandoned their friend in his hour of greatest need. He saw Sagebrush, as he remembered her in life, and thought bitterly of the cruel parody of that life into which the Bornfist clan had made her. Finally, he saw the flames of Matthallal, as he had so many times before, terrible and familiar in equal measures. His family…his village…his life went up in smoke like so much kindling, and he had done nothing to stop it. He had failed to fulfill his role as a warrior, failed to protect his family, failed to save his sister. And still Bornfist walked free! He had failed even to secure the dubious consolation of revenge! Vanguard fell to his knees, bile rising in his throat and his head swimming. He felt so weak, as if his very life was draining out of him. The room went dark.

Gradually, his senses returned to him, and Vanguard felt Lief’s hands on his shoulders, helping him to his feet. His breath came in ragged gasps, and his allies looked at him with mingled pity and horror. He moved to sheathe his sword, and when his gaze fell upon his hand, his heart leapt to his throat. The hand was disfigured beyond recognition. His fingers were fused together into a fleshy mass, a wad of meat and bone that would never notch an arrow or string a bow. Distraught, he looked to Finn. “An effect of the dark magic at work in this place,” Finn explained. “It may be reversible, but we won’t know until we get back.”
“We’d best be getting back then,” grunted Orsik, averting his eyes. Vanguard nodded. What else could he do but agree?

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Well That Didn't Go As Planned
Three Fifths of the UTA stir rebellion in Gloomwrought

Shortly after finishing Finn’s Shiere Knight trial, the UTA decided to head off to the Fettered Ward for some much-needed down time. It was unfortunate however, Finn decided he was not in the mood for entertainment and wished to be left alone. While Vanguard, who is always in the mood for fun, wanted to go but had to seek emergency medical attention for his “mitten-hands.” So alas, Rusty was left to babysit Leif and Orsik all by himself (an epic tier mission if I say so myself).

Like children in a candy shop the three ran down the streets of the Fettered Ward in search of ale, women, and a good time. Passing by a large toothed building, Leif stopped for a moment to read the dilapidated wooden sign. It read: The Honey Pot – Gloomwrought’s Finest Gladiatorial Arena Open once a month — Today only!. The three were overjoyed. Just then Orsik muttered something that the other two had all but forgotten, “Isn’t this the place where the City of Brass ambassador, um, Azuun Bennic, fights?” he said. Leif and Rusty agreed; maybe they could talk to Azuun about this impending war and garnish some support from either him or Prince Rolan.

It was decided. The “Brain Trust” decided that they couldn’t be in the wrong be seeking out additional help. Surely Finn and Vanguard wouldn’t mind — no, no, no, they’d be impressed. They then passed through a pair of wooden doors and were greeted with a familiar odor. A trollish looking ogre named Gar’burge, the arena master and a relative of Brugg, introduced himself to the trio. After sizing them up he decided that they should fight on a low ticket fight against some animals instead of prime time; what a jerk, he obviously doesn’t understand how awesome we are.

Rusty quickly conversed with a shadar-kai named Tom Justa’duud and learned some info about some of the other fighters. On the docket today was a fight between Ambassador Bennic and the Ghost Hall Runners, a gladiatorial group of shadar-kai from the supremacist organization known as the Ghost Talon. Tom leaned in close to Old Rust and said: “Hey, between you and me, I heard that these Ghost Hall Runners are planning on killing the ambassador as a public demonstration. Be careful, pal.”

The three strapped on their armor and got onto the loading platform. Rusty informed his comrades about what he had just heard and they agreed that this is working out perfectly. They stepped onto the sand of the arena and called out to the crowd, “We are the Uncomfortably Tall Adventurers from the Material Plane. Prepare to be entertained!” Entertained they would be…yet no one knew what would soon unfold.

Three blade-wielding spinning traps stood in the middle of the arena and far on the other side roared a massive owlbear. He was flanked by a small troupe of antelopes who’s eyes glowed blue with energy. Leif and Rusty proceeded towards the owlbear while Orsik single handedly took on the magical (contrary) antelopes. Leif took the brunt of the hits from the owlbear and fell into a pit of snakes with the beast to the amusement of the crowd. After much hacking and slashing, the antelopes were defeated and Orsik landed the final blow on the fey beast. The crowd went wild.

After the fight, our three heroes patched up their wounds and discussed what to do next. Gar’burge was so impressed he decided to put our names on the marquee fight with Azuun Bennic. After a short discussion, Leif convinced the ogre to let us have a three-way with Azuun. No! A three-way fight! Gar’burge imagined the gold he could make from a fight like that and was swayed. He went away to make arrangements while the Brain Trust discussed what to do next…some new information came to light: the leader of the Ghost Talon is Nira’s brother, Oristus.

Orsik was firm in his resolve, we should help the Ghost Talon. They support the one, true deity (and, who knows, maybe if things work out Oristus would be his brother-in-law one day). Rusty, still jaded by the fact that Rolan is a dick wanted to side with the Ghost Talon as well but he had creeping thoughts. Leif was also unsure, maybe Azuun would be able to convince Prince Rolan that we need more support than just the gargoyles. Just then, a bell rang, it was time for the fighters to put their armor on.

The clamored onto the lift and ascended into the light. The crowd was on their feet chanting, they knew this was going to be a fight to remember. Azuun waved to the crowd and summoned two salamanders, spear-touting flaming elemental beasts, to his side. Not more than forty feet away stood the Ghost Hall Runners, angry-looking shadar-kai dudes who had their sights set on the City of Brass ambassador.

Salamanders?! What a slippery situation!

A salamander skewered one of the shadar-kai with his spear (it wasn’t easy to tell if he was dead or not) So the UTA ran in weapons blazing — unfortunately for them, Azuun ran into the fray as well, weapons literally blazing. Rusty caught a salamander in between two of the spinning blade traps and made a poor, rash decision ("This definitely won’t have tier-long negative consequences). With his blood pumping and the Dagger of Ursh clenched in his child-sized fist, he proceeded to eviscerate the salamander, push him into the spinning blade trap and eviscerate him again. Azuun looked on in horror; He and Roger had grown up together, they were neighbors! In a shout he exclaimed, ""Tell me, who sent you assassins?!" That basically ended any and all hope for negotiation between the parties.

A few minutes later, our heroic heroes, mostly Rusty, decided that what they were doing was wrong, they needed to save Azuun from the Ghost Talon. Maybe they could get him to surrender, he could return to the City of Brass and live a long happy life, maybe find an old flame from high school and start a burning hot romance. But no, he refused. So, in typical UTA fashion (with or without Finn and Vanguard, honestly) our heroes decided that the only ally they could salvage from this mess was with the Ghost Talon.

A beaten, bloody Azuun Bennic rested his weary head on the pommel of his flaming scimitar. “I ask again, who sent you?” Orsik’s shadow engulfed the genasi’s face, panting he replied: “The Raven Queen,” and with a shout he bludgeoned the defeated ambassador until his life was extinguished. With his last breath, he removed a small piece of parchment from inside his coat. He held it aloft in his hand as it incinerated, the ashed trailed off into the soul-laden skies destined for a location unknown.

With the battle won, Leif stood among the corpses and addressed the crowd with Rusty at his side.

“Very soon a countless force of undead will converge upon the fair city of Gloomwrought with two liches most-powerful leading the way. They will slaughter ever last man, woman, and child. We need your help to quell this abominable threat for we cannot do it alone! Nigh, good people, whenceforth for the darkness, they shall arise and seek to take all it is that you love! What you have witnessed here today, Azuun Bennic and Prince Rolan the Deathless have refused to help our cause; they in their blindness see it as no threat at all. We were forced to kill this honorable ambassador so as to this city, her people! We musn’t let the city crumble in their lifeless hands! Now only Prince Rolan stands in our way, we must rise up against him to stop this encroaching onslaught.

In his cold, uncaring heart he would let you die and for that crime, he must be forcefully, and immediately, deposed!"

Meanwhile, Orsik watched in silence as the ashed from Azuun’s letter trailed off in the wind. He thought to himself, this fight is far from over.

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Finn Finally Fatefully Finds Faith
The UTA fights Nerull, finds Pelor, and meets Prince Rolan!

Aboard the Dagger of Ursh, the plot was so thick you could taste it. “Moist,” thought Vanguard Forthwind, “like elderberries.” There stood the UTA, weapons drawn and faced with one less secret package and one more Rusty than they needed. With an arcane flourish and hint of doves, Finn sealed the upper deck, buying them precious seconds. “I don’t know what is morally right, but we must decide now!” he shouted. Rusty, wide-eyed and blood-soaked, cast a frightened look towards Vanguard. “We cannot abandon our friend in his hour of need! Please, we can still resolve this conflict!” But Orsik had heard enough, unsheathing his maul and muttering a spell of binding on the demon spawn. “No! Not Ronny!” bellowed Leif, tackling Orsik to the ground and breaking his concentration. “He is too far gone,” Ferris declared solemnly, and Rusty knew he was doomed.

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Perspectives: Leif Blaze

“Perspectives” takes a closer look at the thoughts of one of our strapping adventurers. This time we go to Leif Blaze, during a scene from our upcoming adventure log post.

Leif wedged together his eyebrows into what he hoped was a thoughtful expression. He stroked his stubbly chin, all pensive maybe, like a wizard, or whatever. Lately, Leif had been putting on his “thinkin’ face” whenever the diplomatic crap really kicked in. He figured if he looked like he was about to say somethin’ smart, Finn and the other fellas wouldn’t ask him anything. Finn was gettin’ all excited and glowy again; that’s just embarrassing. He looked like a sunrod.

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Rust Removal and Prevention
Or, realizing that your friend is a blood-thirsty demon servant...Luckily there's another one!
Once having returned to Dead Man’s Cross and stumbling upon the magical traveling inn known as “The House of Black Lanterns,” our heroes met a tired-looking tiefling innkeeper named Yarol. They sat down and chatted him up for a little while and ordered a few drinks to boot. He eventually told our heroes that he has been having some problems as of late and was worried that it was going to affect his business. After being probed a little longer, Yarol told the party that things have recently been going missing and he suspected thieves were to blame.

Upon hearing this and agreeing to help him with the matter, our heroes broke off to uncover any useful information from the patrons. Finn gave the bar a once-over and decided that he would go talk to some shifty-looking gentlemen wearing dark robes. Rusty, on the other hand, eyed two twin children and being overjoyed that they were almost shorter than them, he walked over that way. Vanguard approached a Vistani trader, instantly insulted him and promptly was left with no leads. While Leif and Orsik sat there at the bar drinking their fill of his fine beverages and discussed Yarol’s situation further while simultaneously not paying a lick of attention to what he was saying.

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No Guts, No Glory
The UTA meets a certain Mr. Tubes

When we last left our heroes, they were gazing in bewilderment at the altar in the hidden chamber at the center of Kazak’Tul. An orb of inky darkness hovered above this altar with an ominous black rod floating within it. After a moment, Orsik broke the silence by stepping up to the altar and reaching for the rod. To his horror, as he grasped one end of it, a massive fist appeared at the other end. This fist was followed by an arm, and then a torso, as the towering form of a Death Giant emerged from the orb!

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