Dramatis Personae: Bhára, Berrian, Gil, Saul, Tasklar
Source: “Feathergale Spire” (Princes of the Apocalypse)
Iriandel could tell that Keth was struggling to come to terms with the idea that he was now a halfling, so the unicorn suggested to him that he go and spend some time with the halflings community in nearby Pebbleton. Keth, now calling himself Saul, reluctantly agreed, although before he left, he sought out Hroom and had another pint or two of his special brew, thus increasing his height ever so slightly above three feet!
In Pebbleton, Saul let only Mayor Roscoe in on his secret. To everyone else, he was just a halfling from other parts. Gil and Tasklar came to stay with him and help him adjust as best they could. Saul spent much of his time drinking, mulling over his anger and growing desire for revenge. He would make those snooty cultists pay!
After a few days, Tashek the talking owl came to visit. He informed the heroes that Iriandel wished for them to return to his grove, as he had some guests he wanted them to meet. Off they went back into the woods, where they were introduced to two rather androgynous high elves. One was wearing heavy armor and carried a rapier, while the other was dressed in the robes of a magic user. Iriandel introduced them as Berrian and Bhára of House Amastacia (or Starflower, in the Common tongue). Both of them came across as rather effete, and the more down-to-earth heroes had a hard time determining the elves’ respective genders.
Although Berrian was ostensibly on a quest to find his family’s long-lost ancestral moonblade, he was aware that he may never find it. In the meantime, he was in no hurry to go home and so would be happy to lend his sword arm to whatever endeavors Saul, Gil, and Tasklar had planned. And wherever Berrian went, his younger sister was sure to follow. Knowing what awaited them back at the cultists’ tower, the heroes were glad to have the extra help.
The Hunters and the Hunted
Tasklar, always keen to charge boldly into the fray, wanted to head straight to the spire. The group decided to swing back through Pebbleton first, though, and it was a good thing they did, for reports were coming in that a land shark was terrorizing the farms on the outskirts of town. Mayor Roscoe explained that land sharks, also known as bulettes, loved eating halflings.
The heroes needed no further motivation. Off they went in search of the beast. It didn’t take them long to find it. One farm with lots of disturbed earth and blood and before they knew it, the beast was burrowing up out of the ground and leaping at them! It soon had Saul in its jaws, and things looked dire for the cleric. Would he need to be reincarnated again already?! But no, his companions came to his rescue and slew the beast before it could make a proper meal of him.
A few days later, as the heroes were marching down the road towards Larchwood, they were set upon by a wyvern. As it made its first pass, it bit and stung Tasklar, who lost consciousness as the beast’s venom raced through his veins and collapsed on the ground. Seeing what they were up against — and seeing how useless her brother’s sword was since the wyvern never got close enough for him to use it — Bhára took charge of the fight, blasting the creature from afar with bolts of lightning and rays of frost.
The wyvern screamed in pain and made a strange cry, as if calling someone or something. Berrian roused Tasklar, flushing the poison out of his system, and then used his magic to protect himself against the beast’s venom. Just then, Gil came running back, having realized that the rest of the group weren’t still following him. He took aim at the wounded wyvern, only to see another wyvern flying in from the other direction.
While the group were able to chase off the first wyvern, the second swooped in and slew Berrian’s beloved horse. It then grabbed the corpse and made off with it before the heroes could slay the beast. Saddened by this tragic turn of events but determined not to get distracted, the heroes opted to let the wyverns go and continue on their way to Larchwood.
A Nasty Surprise
Upon their return to Larchwood, the heroes went up to their rooms to find out if Calla was around. They found nothing but some scales and some blood in her room, and if Kaylessa knew where the sorceress was, she wasn’t telling. She was able to recognize Keth in his new body, however. Perhaps she could sense the presence of his dragonmark, which had manifested on the back of his new hand, just like Sorrel’s had.
Up in the boys’ room, the heroes were surprised to find a small wooden crate waiting for them on the table. Tasklar went to open it and had a frightful premonition* in which he opened the box to find Sorrel’s head staring back at him. His friend’s mouth then opened and spewed forth a noxious yellow gas that rapidly filled the room and expanded out into the hall. His friends were all dying, gasping for air as the gas burned their lungs as well as their skin. But vision disappeared just as quickly as it had come, and he found himself staring at his hand, which he’d managed to stop only inches away from the crate’s lid. His dragonmark of finding flared up, enabling him to see a nearly invisible glyph inscribed on the crate. Had he opened it without noticing, it would’ve triggered some kind of spell effect. Instead, he and the others took the crate down to Kaylessa, who dispelled the glyph with little trouble.
Inside the heroes found Sorrel’s head, just as Tasklar had suspected, but this time nothing happened. Still, there was no denying what this meant. Their friend was dead. And they all knew who had killed him. (And who had tried to use his remains to kill them in a most underhanded manner!) Although the Starflower siblings did not know Sorrel personally, they were able to see the injustice of it and vowed to assist their new friends in seeking justice.
The heroes retired to their rooms for some much-needed rest. In the morning, Saul sought out Kaylessa and pumped her for information on the elemental princes. She informed him that there were good ones and bad ones. Yan-C-Bin was one of the bad ones, a mercurial demigod-like creature known as an archomental. Saul wanted to know if the half-elf had any magic she could lend them that would help in their fight, but she just shook her head. He wasn’t sure if that meant that she didn’t have anything, or that she didn’t have anything she was willing to part with. Troubled, he headed back to his friends and they got ready to head into the hills northeast of town.
Return to the Spire
As they headed into the hills, the heroes concocted a plan: Gil, as the only member of the party the knights would recognize, would use his magic to disguise himself as the elves’ herald, while Tasklar and Saul would pose as their servants. The elves would then seek entry to the spire as nobles searching for a lost relative.
As it happened, the plan worked swimmingly! Drelin, one of the knights with whom Saul had done a bit of drinking the last time he was here, was on guard duty. He welcomed the party into the entry hall but let them go no further. As Berrian prattled on about looking for a lost relative and wondering if the knights had seem him in the area, Tasklar gave in to his impatience. He couldn’t take it any longer! Out came the wand of magic missiles and three magical darts went arcing towards a very surprised Drelin!
The ruse was up. As Drelin shouted at the cult initiates lurking by the inner doors to raise the alarm, Gil had the foresight to slip behind the party and close the main gates. One of the initiates pulled a lever on the wall that released the giant steel-capped wooden eagle hanging from the ceiling. It swooped down into the hall, and had Gil not shut the doors, the party would’ve found themselves being swept out onto the drawbridge (or, worse yet, knocked into the canyon below).
Drelin died shortly thereafter, but the initiates managed to get away, shouting that intruders had breached the entry. The party opted not to chase after them immediately and instead took a more thorough approaching, sweeping each floor room by room. Gil found a cultist lurking in the kitchen, and Tasklar found some more in the solarium, along with the blue-skinned genasi monk, who gave them one hell of a fight before leaping out an open window and disappearing.
The heroes then headed upstairs, where they slew a cultist on the landing, then smashed through the barricaded doors to the great hall, where they were set upon by a number of initiates and knights waiting in ambush. Much magic was hurled into the chamber, and only two knights escaped with their lives, leaping out the windows and using their magic to float safely down to the stables level.
The heroes then had the idea of closing and barring the shutters on all the windows in the tower so the knights would have trouble flanking them. They took some time to close all the shutters on this hall, and as they were busy doing so, they heard someone raising the drawbridge on the floor below them. Once they were finished, they hurried down to the stables level, thinking they could close up the stable doors as well.
They weren’t terribly surprised to find the stables empty — the knights had all flown the coop, taking their vultures and hippogriffs with them — but they were dismayed to find that the stables could not easily be blocked up entirely. Abandoning that plan, they headed back up to the ground floor, where they were attacked by knights circling the tower on their flying mounts as they set about barricading all the windows.
The task complete, the heroes then ascended to the highest floor, where they set about shutting all the windows in the knights’ quarters. Every once in a while, someone took a pot shot at them from the top of the stairs. Not daring to head up onto the dreaded pinnacle, the heroes decided to shut themselves up in Lord Commander Merosska’s suite to catch their breath (with Gil standing guard via his bat familiar, which he’d posted in one of the other rooms). They also took the opportunity to ransack the man’s room, finding a potion and a few scrolls in the process, as well as written evidence that the Feathergale Society was mixed up with a larger cult devoted to Yan-C-Bin.
*I had arranged it so the crate carrying Sorrel’s head was booby-trapped with a glyph of warding with a cloudkill spell on it. But I had misread the spell description for cloudkill and thought it was supposed to expand in size by 10 feet per round rather than just move away by that amount, and I also mishandled who was doing what when and several PCs looked to be dead when they shouldn’t have been. I had given Tasklar inspiration for just bowling on up and opening the box without checking it for traps or anything, so when I realized my error, we decided that he could just use his inspiration to say that it had just been a horrible premonition of Tasklar’s as he’d gone to open the box. As I have expanded the uses of inspiration in my game to include some minor plot editing, I agreed and we rewound the clock back to just before he opened the crate. I then gave Tasklar a chance to spot the glyph, which he did, thanks to his dragonmark of finding (which gives him the benefit of eyes of minute seeing).