Chains Unbound

Queen's Gambit story update for 20100511 (Marpenoth 15-16)
The Mushroom Maze

After leaving Ormus’s tomb/college, the group headed north, towards the forest maze where a fey queen named Morgan lived. On their first flyover of the forest, they noticed some slivers wandering around aimlessly near the edge of the forest line, but decided to scout inside the forest first. They passed over the forest, which looked fairly normal, if exceptionally vibrant for a forest in the middle of winter. They also noticed that this forest still had its wildlife, which was a stark contrast to the Feyshadow forest, where the slivers had eaten every living thing larger than a bug. Hanzo and Ping, the only two conscious members of the party, landed the griffins in a clearing and walked towards the heart of the forest.

After a three hour walk, they reached what they estimated to be the center of the forest. It seemed even more vibrant and full of life than the rest of the forest, and Hanzo decided to extend his arcane senses to see if he could figure out why. He found that the wall between this world and the Feywild is thin in this entire forest, and in the heart of the forest in particular. Both of them decided to look for an entrance into the Feywild, and determined that an entrance would likely be to the south. Off they wandered to the southern border of the forest.

At dusk, the two adventurers made it to the forest’s border, where they saw the slivers that they had seen from the air earlier. Feeling brave, first Hanzo, then Ping stepped out. The slivers wandered around, and some of them wandered up to the pair and looked at them confusedly. Suddenly, Hanzo’s white raven familiar alerted him that there was a second group of slivers headed towards them, so the two immediately readied themselves for battle.

The sliver group near the forest was made up of sliver types that the group had already seen: psionic, raidleader, spined, flamewrought, and manipulator slivers. The new one, a large, winged creature, was not any of those types. Wherever it went, the slivers that had been stumbling around in a fugue suddenly shook off their stupor and began attacking with renewed purpose. Fortunately, the rest of the group woke up and spilled out of the bodybag. The non-idiot slivers moved in, but were stopped temporarily by Hanzo’s shadow web. One by one, the slivers moved in to kill the group, but they couldn’t shake off their fugue fast enough, and the party made quick work of them.

After the battle, the group took a nap. During the rest, Hanzo spiderclimbed up a few trees that were not within the forest proper, and found that these trees were both enchanted, but he could not identify the source of the magic or what its effects were. Eventually, the party rested up and, with some apprehension, headed into the treeline…

... and found themselves in an odd cavern, where the walls and ceiling were made of huge, thick mushrooms. The way that the group came through was also gone, forcing everyone to move forward and explore their new surroundings. The hallway initially split off to the left and right, so the party split up and looked in both directions. To the left was a room that stank of rotting meat and was populated by four human-sized mushrooms with teeth and long tentacles. The group that explored this side decided that they would leave this passage alone for a while and joined the other group, who had found a room that was like the inside of an hourglass, with rich soil falling from an indeterminate height, and forming a whirlpool in a depression in the ground. Ping wanted to check something, so he picked a mushroom cap from the ground and threw it into the pool of soil. Two minutes later, he saw it falling in the column of dirt that came from above.

J’tal also explored this room, and was ambushed by a hole in the ground that suddenly grew teeth and bit her. She managed to dodge it and escape to the other side of the hole, but the next person that got near it was not so lucky. Hanzo walked up to the hole and it nommed him in a flash of purple light, then he disappeared. When J’tal later moved, the hole, now a toothy maw, slid along the ground and followed her.

What followed was a lot of experimentation. In the hourglass room, Urgarr jumped into the dirt and reappeared four minutes later in the carnivorous fungi room. The party was nommed by the various maws that the found in the complex, and teleported to random rooms. J’tal found a room with a huge toothy maw in the center of it, 9 times the size of the other ones that were encountered, and it grabbed her with its tongue and nommed her, doing cold, fire, necrotic, radiant, physical, and psychic damage. She was also teleported away after this. Hanzo was the next one to find this room and took a running dive into its maw, taking the same damage and being teleported.

While exploring, the group came across many strange rooms. One was filled with briars, except for a patch in the center of the room. Another had a river that seemed to begin and end at two black holes. Others were covered in slimy mold, or open to the sky, or had puffball mushrooms growing on the floor. One room, which Hanzo found himself teleported into, had a giant acorn rooted to the ground, with a small, sickly looking sprout sticking out of the top of it. He shot a few magic missiles at it, and ripped a chunk out of the side of the acorn, but couldn’t figure out what else to do with it.

After all this experimentation and exploration, the group now knows the following: the maws do at least psychic or fire damage, except for the large one, as mentioned above. They will teleport you somewhere else within the complex if they bite you. There is some sort of portal at the bottom of the dirt vortex in the hourglass room that has the same effect as being bitten by a maw, but without the damage. And this place is made entirely out of fungus.

Next week, we will continue with the exploration of the fungus complex.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100503 (Marpenoth 14-15)
The Hall of Fallen Heroes

We rejoined Balasar’s party just as they were about to challenge the final part of the legendary bard Ormus’s test: a battle with the statues of the fallen heroes in the college’s statuary room. The statues moved stiffly but packed a mighty punch, as they knocked back anyone unlucky enough to be hit by their attacks. Urrgar and Nightblade both moved in and started pummeling the statues, but quickly found that their energy-based attacks were either harmlessly dispersed upon connecting with the statues, or simply passed around them. Althea and Balasar fared no better with their rapier and shield attacks, as they only managed to knock some dust off of the statues. If the group couldn’t figure out how to defeat or bypass these statues, they would soon be smashed into a pasty mush.

Hanzo began looking for a way to defeat them, based on his arcane knowledge and keen insight. He realized that these statues were probably simulacra of the heroes that they resembled, and that the common theme between all of the statues was that each hero had a fatal flaw which eventually lead to their downfall. He quickly shouted this out, and Althea and Balasar bit on it. Using clues that they had gained from browsing the library, they identified the statue nearest to them as Kvesh Iron-Talon, a Tiefling warlord of great reknown that hailed from the Creel-controlled ruins of Guecumar. He led his tribe to great glory, but was corrupted by the influence of the Abyss and eventually betrayed his own tribe, earning him the nickname Kvesh the Fallen. Balasar realized that this moniker, when inscribed on his single prominent horn, would weaken him. He and Althea eventually managed to knock the statue down and Althea wrote “Fallen” in Supernal on his horn, causing the staute to shrink and turn into a hide armored warrior.

So it went with the other fallen hero statues: Cludda of the Underdark, Tefali, Loktar Dual-Fang, Tevin the Skulk, and Graxis the Elemental Blade. One by one, the party recalled the stories about their lives and how they fell, and used the knowledge to figure out what word, in what language, and scribed in what location on the statue, would cause the statues to become vulnerable. Once the statues cast off their stony forms and became more human-like simulacra, the party brought all of their considerable battle talents to bear, and the simulacra began to fall. The first to fall was Tevin, destroyed while attempting to run for cover behind one of the other statues by a magic missile in the back from Urrgar. Once the attack landed, blood sprayed out from Tevin, soaking his clothes and the ground around him, then his eyes went completely white, with no pupils or any sign of life in them. He began walking towards the stairs, then up them to the conservatory. Nightblade, sensing an easy target, dropped a powerful light-based attack on Tevin, which passed through him harmlessly. Hanzo followed up by placing a wall of hellfire on both him and the statues of Tefali and Graxis, which did not faze them at all, but burned Nightblade, who was caught in the inferno. Nightblade continued to attack Tevin as he made his way to the conservatory, but finally gave up when he realized that the halfling simulacra posed no threat. Indeed, once he got to the conservatory, he picked up an instrument and began playing it.

The rest of the statues followed this pattern, of stone, then flesh, then music-playing ghost. In the end, the six fallen heroes became ghosts, and played a concert in the conservatory. The group realized after a while that they were listening to that which they had sought here, the Aria of Rebirth. They quickly made a note of the instruments played and strived to memorize the tune, then after four repetitions of the 10-minute aria, the ghostly heroes-cum-musicians vanished, and their statues reappeared in the statuary.

Convinced that they would forget the tune before returning to Kiniro, Nightblade got everyone except Althea to assist him in scouring the library for the sheet music for the aria. What they found instead was a diary detailing the building of the hero’s test that the group just finished. The notes, penned by Ormus himself, said that it is not enough to simply read the music, it must be felt and experienced. To that end, he designed the heroes’ test to pass on this song to a worthy group of heroes, so that they may experience it as it should be, and hopefully come away from the experience wiser and better able to face future trials. The group meditated on this overnight as they rested, and woke up on the morning of the 15th refreshed, and ready to tackle their next task: navigating the forest maze and negotiating with Morgan, the fey queen.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100427 (Marpenoth 21-22 and 14th)
Ella soothes the savage beast; a crystal golem; betrayal from within; Balasar's group reaches the great bard's tomb

We picked up the story with Conan’s party in the middle of the Marsh of Chelimber, facing down the black dragon Kazmonix. Ella managed to smooth over Kazmonix’s ruffled scales, and convince the dragon to not eat the entire party. The party then quickly left the scene of the battle and walked east, towards Feyshadow Forest. Eventually, it got late, and the group was forced to make camp in the middle of the swamp.

Asgard had the first watch shift, and as luck would have it, something odd approached the camp while he was on duty. A large golem-like creature made of crystal approached the group, and began a conversation with Asgard. He immediately asked the creature what, if any, god or gods it worshiped. This began a 3-hour long conversation that lasted until Asgard passed out from exhaustion, which is the state that Ella found him in when she stepped back into the camp via the portal stone. She then relieved him on watch, while eying the strange creature warily.

The group woke up or came out of meditation the next morning, stiff and still weary. They found that resting in a damp, vermin-infested swamp in the middle of winter is less than ideal for restoring one’s powers. Conan gave the crystal golem a short interview and deemed it semi-worthy of traveling with the group, and so everyone trudged on through the swamp and eventually made it back to the keep.

At the keep, the group found that the sliver attacks had not let up since Balasar’s group had defeated that first massive sliver army. Sections of the walls lay in ruins, and many of the keep’s inhabitants were either dead or wounded. The guards, recognizing the mercenaries by the devices they wore in their ears, opened the gates and let the group in. They were first greeted by Duke Windsor, the keep’s lord, and then by the court mage Zamira. They learned that even with the reinforcements from the White Lotus academy, the slivers were still a grave threat. Not all hope was lost, however, as a group of 20 Dwarven warriors from Highrock Hold had just arrived shortly after the Avengers to reinforce the keep. The duke asked that Conan’s group stay and train the keep’s guards, as well as assist in repelling the slivers until Balasar’s group returns from the north with aid from Morgan, the fey queen of the forest maze.

Before the group retired for the evening, Zamira also had some words for them. She had a gash between the scales on the top of her head, and a swollen eye. She explained that another one of the court mages, Rhava, was spotted fleeing from the keep with a package in her hand after assaulting her. She warned that the characters should be on the lookout for her.

...

Balasar’s group left the White lotus academy on the morning of the 14th, riding their mixed group of mounts. After a day and a half of travel, the griffin riders spotted a barrow in the side of a hill at the northern edge of the Feyshadow forest. The group moved in to investigate… (this part is where Mac’s character came in through a portal. I may just edit it out when he brings in his actual character), and Althea opened the door, an ornately carved rose-colored marble creation, and peeked inside. The door led into a foyer lined with the same kind of stone that made up the door, with matching benches along the walls. At the other end of the room was a pair of statues, one of a human male, and the other of a tiefling female, both holding everburning torches. Hanzo figured out that these could be removed and placed into empty sconces along the walls of the other rooms and the staircase to ignite the other everburning torches in those areas.

Exploring further, the group found a library and conservatory. The library was stocked with history books and folios filled with sheet music. The books detailed the lives of many famous heroes throughout the ages, and were written in all the major languages of Toril. The music consisted of epic balads, tavern songs, and other miscellaneous musical works, but none had the segment of the Song of Eternity that Kiniro sent the group here to find. The group also looked into the conservatory, and found it stocked with many different types of musical instruments. It was at this point that Hanzo realized that this was a bardic college.

While the others gorged themselves on the books in the library, J’tal went downstairs, and found a statuary room. The statues in this room were also those of famous heroes, and all seemed to be glaring balefully at her. The walls in this area were also carved with scenes depicting the acts that made these people famous. J’tal went to get the rest of the group, and when they all arrived, the statues all spoke in unison, demanding to know who sought out the resting place of Ormus the Polyglot. The characters identified themselves and the statues then demanded that they prove that they were worthy. The first test was a bardic challenge, which (Mac) was barely able to pass by playing an instrument and singing an epic ballad in the conservatory. With this test passed, the group was then challenged to prove that they had what it takes to be heroes. The statues groaned and began to move from their pedestals…

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100419 (Marpenoth 21)
The group meets a Githzerai; Conan draws the ire of a dragon

We picked up the story on the floating prariemote containing the temple of Sune. After having rested up from their long journey, Conan’s group was ready to tackle their next mission: head to the marsh of Chelimber and find out what is stopping the spread of the slivers, and capture a live sliver for the sorcerer Zamira. Most of the group took the chain back to the Gray Peaks, then walked down to the base of the mountain. Conan, however, wanted to try out his new boots, and jumped off of the side of the mote, landing gently on his face 1500 ft below. He then waited the three hours until the rest of the group met up with him, then everyone sent their mounts back to Loudwater and headed into the northwestern section of the marsh.

The cold of deep winter chilled everyone to the bone, and only the fact that everyone had to walk kept some of the group’s members from freezing to death. At the edge of the marsh, the group found a strange, otherworldly being fighting (and close to being overwhelmed by) four blackscale lizardfolk. Tempest decided to help the creature, and rushed in while the rest of the group stood back and watched. The two warriors made quick work of the lizardfolk, knocking them unconscious and tying them up. When they came to, Ella interrogated them and found that they worshiped a god named Kazmonix, who was engaged in battle with the slivers near the center of the swamp. Ella intimidated them, with the help of the group, into leading everyone to the battle site.

The path through the marsh was treacherous, and fraught with hidden pitfalls and water hazards. Eventually, the group made it to the center of the marsh, where they discovered that the god the lizardfolk worshiped was a huge black dragon, and that this dragon was being swarmed by sickly, decaying slivers. Ella and Blaze negotiated a temporary truce and alliance with the dragon Kazmonix until the slivers were dealt with, and they freed the lizardfolk to fight elsewhere in the swamp, then the entire group moved forward to engage the sliver horde.

Conan charged, yelling orders to capture the slivers alive, then flying into a rage and hacking at the nearest sliver. The group soon found that there were three problems with capturing the slivers alive: One, the largest of the slivers were not actually alive, but undead sliver zombies. Two, some of the living slivers could spit a necrotic bile that would weaken the defenses of anyone that it came into contact with. These slivers also caused all the other slivers near them to emit a foul miasma, which quickly began infecting the group with stumbling sickness. And three, there were manipulator slivers with this group, and they were bent on capturing Kazmonix for some purpose.

Wave after wave of slivers poured into the area, seemingly unaffected by the soft, unstable ground. Slivers fell to both the blades and spells of the group, and the claws, teeth, and breath of Kazmonix. Eventually, the incoming slivers dwindled to nothing, and the combined might of Balasar’s Avengers and Kazmonix put down the slivers temporaraly. In the melee, the group managed to capture two living pestilence slivers and six living manipulator slivers by knocking them out.

After the battle, Conan clumsily attempted to say, “You’re welcome,” to the dragon, then called her a demon (as he considers all talking predators demons), which ruffled her feath… scales a bit, to say the least. When we left the story, Kazmonix glared balefully at Conan and sized up the rest of the party, as the wounds in her wings began closing up.

We will continue next week with the same party, at the same location, in negotiations with Kazmonix.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100412 (Marpenoth 18-20)
Recruiting Kiniro; negotiations with Joenar

After awakening in the afternoon on the 18th, Conan’s group headed towards Kiniro’s broken-topped tower, which was within sight and about three hours away by horse (or elephant). Upon arriving, they were recognized by Kiniro as being members of Balasar’s Avengers, as the other group had already been here, and welcomed up to the second floor. The group negotiated briefly with Kiniro and eventually enlisted his aid in reconciling Kenesaw and Joenar, and the group took off towards Highrock Hold.

Thanks to a traveling ritual conducted by Kiniro before departing, the group arrived at the hold within an hour and a half, just as the sun set over the Gray Peaks. The group was welcomed by the dwarven defender Kaylor, who eyed Kiniro warily and told the group that they could go find Joenar themselves, as he got into trouble the last time he left his post. Thus dismissed, the group headed into the mines where they last met Joenar.

They found Joenar testing a bit of levistone he’d just dug out of the rocky walls by dropping it on the ground and watching it float a half inch above the surface. He then greeted the group, and asked them if they had returned his wife. Between Kiniro and the rest of the group, they explained to Joenar that they were here to work out a reconciliation between him and Kenesaw, and that they had brought Kiniro to facilitate this. Joenar was none too pleased by this, but agreed to have a discussion in two hours. He then allowed the group to find quarters and refresh themselves before the negotiations were to begin.

During this time, both Joenar and Kiniro visited the members of the party, asking for their support and offering gifts in exchange for it. Joenar offered training to Conan and Tempest, shinies to Ella, and captaincy of a soon to be completed airship to Blaze. Kiniro offered training to Ella, riches to Conan and Blaze, and conversion to belief in a god to Asgard. Conan rebuffed all attempts at bribery and declared to both that he would be neutral, but ended up supporting Joenar more through his actions anyway.

The negotiations proceded evenly for the first two hours, and although both sides made good points for their case, no agreement had been reached. Joenar declared that they should take an hour break for refreshments. During the break, the members of the group decided to walk around the hold seperately. Conan snuck around the hold and found Kiniro’s journal, which revealed that the reason he desires reconciliation is that they were tasked with watching for a sign of the coming darkness in this region, and that he fears the rise of the sliver horde may be that sign. He wants the group back together to battle this. Ella wandered around until she found the hold’s alchemy labs. In the short time she had to read over Draega’s notes, she found that the type of rare earth mined here, which was called levistone, could be processed to make floatrock. A handful of floatrock is sufficent to hold up the weight of an average dwarf, and running a current through it causes it to rise and be able to support more weight.

Both Tempest and Blaze wandered the hold seperately, and both found out that Joenar is working on a secret project, which was hidden behind a closed and guarded door. From beyond the door, Blaze (I think) heard the voices of small people, possibly gnomes. Finally, Asgard took a walk through the town and found the temple of Moradin, where he met a priest of Moradin and struck up a conversation. The priest said that Joenar was a devout follower of Moradin, even coming after hours when the temple would otherwise be closed to worship. Asgard looked around in the temple and found some strange symbols hidden within carvings on the wall. When he traced theses symbols, a door opened up behind and below the altar. This door lead into a small area dedicated to the worship of Bane, god of tyranny, and looked to have been well-used by Joenar himself. Asgard rushed back to the meeting with this information.

In the last hour of the negotiation, tempers flared and it looked like Joenar had gained the upper hand. Just then, Asgard dropped a bomb, and accused Joenar of being a worshiper of Bane, and hiding his temple under the temple of Moradin. The dwarven defenders that stood watch over the assembly were shocked, and began muttering to themselves. Blaze, who remembered the atrocities that the followers of Bane had inflicted on his Thayan homeland, denounced Joenar at once, and switched his support to Kiniro. He then threatened Joenar, and offered him an ultimatum: either forget Draega and offer warrior support for Feyshadow Keep and trade with the White Lotus academy, or he would be exposed to the entire population of the hold, as well as the clan elders, who had just showed up to find out what all the yelling was about. Joenar agreed to everything, and the negotiations ended.

The trip to the temple of Sune afterwards was swift, and the group delivered the news to a sleeping Kenesaw, who immediately suggested a celebratory orgy. The orgy and attendant feasting lasted well into the night and the next morning. After it ended, the group used the portal stone to go back to Loudwater, with Kiniro in tow, to settle matters there. Once Kiniro layed eyes on Jarvis, he declared that he was the one that his group had been searching for for 15 years. He asked to be left with Jarvis to help him get his memories back, and the rest of the group finished settling their business. It was decided that the corpse of the river serpent Lynnedslag would be divvied up between the halfing rogue Ender the Hungry and the poor and hungry of the town. Ender reluctantly agreed to come back to the guild to fulfil administrative duties while the adventuring parties are out, which included the logistics of disposing of the serpent. Blaze discovered that his wyvern, who had been wreaking havoc inside the guild headquarters, had been given to the menagerie for training (something that Blaze will have to pay for in the future). With all their affairs settled, the group went back through the portal stone to the temple of Sune to begin the long journey back to Feyshadow.

*This part occurs after the last session ended, but before the next one begins.

Upon arriving at the temple, a ghostly apparition of the sorcerer Zamira, whom Balasar’s group had met after defending Feyshadow Keep, appeared to Conan’s group. She said that the duke requested that Conan’s party go to the marsh of Chelimber, as something seems to have halted the sliver advance in that direction. They are to find out what it is and see if it can be used to aid with the problems that the keep is having. They were also told that the other party should be almost near the northern edge of the Feyshadow Forest now, on their way to meet with the fey queen in her forest maze. Conan’s group is to quickly find out what halted the slivers, capture a live sliver, and bring it back to the keep for study.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100329 (Marpenoth 16-18)
Climbing a chain; partying with the daughters of Sune; Kenesaw's wedding

When we left off last week, the group had just finished off a party of four ettins, and were deciding what to do. Before making the long climb up the chain to the prariemote above, the group took an extended rest, making camp amidst the rocks near the top of the mountain.

The next day, after packing all the unconscious party members into the bodybag of holding, the party began their arduous climb. Blaze, Tempest, McGruff, and Ella started up the chain, with Ella on Blaze’s back. For the first couple of hundred feet, there were no major accidents, and even though McGruff fell, Blaze and Tempest were there to catch him. From there, the journey went downhill. Both Tempest and Blaze stumbled and slipped on the chain so much that Blaze decided to tie a rope to them both, as well as the chain, just in case. There were many “just in case” moments, as the two of them (literally) could not hold onto the chain to save their lives. Since the rope was not strong enough to support both Tempest and McGruff falling at the same time, there were some tense moments, most of them ending with Tempest ensnaring either McGruff or the chain with his weapon to keep one or both of them from plummeting to their death. In the end, the four adventurers made it to the prariemote, and McGruff began furiously kissing the ground in thanks.

When the group arrived on the prariemote, they first noticed the Sunite compound spread out before them. Facing East, there was a semicircular arena to the South, a large raised temple in the middle of the ‘mote, and some hot springs to the North. In the background, near the east edge of the ‘mote, was a grove of cypress trees, where two large storm giants were, ah, performing a sacred Sunite rite. The group stood staring, dumbfounded at this sight, until finally the male giant let out a groan and finished. After rolling off of his partner and slapping her rear, he suddenly changed to an average-sized half-elf and donned an almost transparent robe, then addressed the group. He introduced himself as Kenesaw, the high priest of Sune for this temple, and bid them welcome. McGruff immediately took advantage of his hospitality by asking where he might get a massage, after the harrowing journey up the chain. To the group’s surprise, Kenesaw laughed and informed them of the enchantment at the bottom of the chain that would teleport any seeker of the temple directly up to the top of the chain. He then pointed McGruff in the direction of the hot springs, and complemented Ella and Blaze on their fine features (pointedly ignoring Laquel, McGruff, and Tempest), and offered the remainder of the group a tour of the compound.

After the tour, Kenesaw offered to retreat with Ella and Blaze to more private quarters, which Ella accepted and Blaze refused. An hour later, both Kenesaw and Ella emerged from their private liason, and a few priestesses bade the group to join the rest of the worshipers in the arena for the marriage of Kenesaw and Draega, the wife of Joenar.

Just before the two were to be married, Blaze and McGruff stepped up to the dias and objected. Kenesaw was nonplussed, and asked them the reasons for their objection. They both stated that she was already the wife of Joenar the Shoeless, but he just shrugged and said, “Through Sune, all other vows are sundered. Nothing else matters, as long as there is love.” They still insisted on stopping the wedding, so Draega explained that Joenar only wanted her back for the alchemical secret that she had. Without giving away the exact details of her secret, she said that if he had it, it would allow him to raid and destroy the temple and attack Kenesaw.

Someone in the group then suggested that they broker a truce between Kenesaw and Joenar, and either try to get him to forget Draegar or accept something else in trade. Kenesaw said that was unlikely unless they were able to enlist one of his allies and longtime friend, Kiniro Okimasa, who lives in a topless tower on the way to Feyshadow keep. Since the group had heard about Kiniro from the other group, they knew where to find him. With that settled, Kenesaw turned into an ancient gold dragon and flew the party down to the base of the mountain.

At the foot of the mountain, the party pulled out their portal stone and went back to Loudwater to retrieve their mounts. Ready for their journey, they started the two day ride to the tower. While resting that day, the group was attacked by a party of shadowscale lizardfolk, who attempted to ambush the party from the swamp. The party easily repelled the lizards and went back to sleep.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100322 (Marpenoth 14-15)
Mountainclimbing; a group of ettins

Summary pending location of email containing said summary.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100315 (Marpenoth 11-13)
Sand and snow; repaying a debt

After resting up from their battle with the slivers on the desertmote, the group mounted their griffins and headed back to the White Lotus academy. Although the first day passed by without event, in the morning on the second day the group was attacked by an old foe: the blizzard elemental that Hanzo slept on the way to the desertmote. This time, it brought more friends – a group of sandstorm elementals and a few windstrikers. Also, unlike the last battle with this enemy, the group elected to remain in the sky and fight.

The enemy forces started out strong, copying the party’s tactic of knocking them out of the sky. First to crash was the griffin piloted by Blaze and J’tal. They soon found that the tree that they had landed in was not a bad place to fight from, and after stablizing their griffin, started the counterattack. One by one, the griffins were knocked out of the sky, except for the one ridden by Hanzo and Ping. Seeing an advantage to be had with their long range attacks, they both took to the skies, firing magic missiles and bursts of elemental energies and keeping the windstriker and sandstorm elemental at bay.

A stray blast from a windstriker knocked the griffin of Althea and Lady Tron out of the sky and onto the ground. When the griffin hit the ground, Hazarak, who had been on the back of the beast, woke up. While still under the control of the sliver hive mind, he released a psychic scream over the bluetooth implants, stunning about half the party. He then took off through the woods, towards some unknown destination.

Balasar and Darkblade made quick work of the elementals that were accosting them, though they too were knocked out of the the sky. Once they regained control, Balasar found that he could get the griffin to join him in an assault if they charged an enemy. Armed with this knowledge, the three of them zipped around the aerial battlefield, weakening or killing the elementals and assisting their comrades. Eventually, through feats of heroics both great and small, the elementals were destroyed.

Once the threat was eliminated, Althea and Lady Tron headed off on the back of their griffin in pursuit of Hazarak. After a quick skirmish, they subdued their erstwhile companion and rejoined the group.

A discussion ensued about what to do now. Eventually it was decided that the group would tell headmaster Marovic at the academy about the rare earth vein that was found on the desertmote, and get Korvus the biologist to remove the sliver from Hazarak’s brain. With this decided, the group finished their journey back to the school of wizards.

At the school, a deal was struck: the location of the desertmote for the griffins. Hazarak’s life was saved, thanks to Korvus, Darkblade, and Balasar. And a little gold was made through the sale of the fungus that Althea had collected from the sliver caves.

The entire guild now needs to send two parties out, one to negotiate with the dwarves to the west, and one to speak to the fey queen, Kaylani, in the forest maze near Llorhk in the north. At some point, one of the groups should also check back in with Duke Windsor at Feyshadow Keep, and both groups should keep an eye out for more sliver nests to eradicate.

Balasar’s Avengers have their work cut out for them. The sliver threat looms large, and despite the clearing of two nests, they do not seem to be slowed in the least. If a way to stop them permanently isn’t found soon, all humanoids in the region may soon be overrun by the chittering, chitinous sliver horde.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100309 (Marpenoth 10)
The Desert Broodmother

After finishing off the blue dragon Skizzikt and his sliver captors, the group was ready for a well-deserved rest. First, however, Althea decided to do some scouting. She snuck up the passage through the glowing fungus at the back of the chamber, a tunnel that lead upwards towards another dimly lit chamber. Creeping to the tunnel’s exit, she stuck her head into a huge chamber, filled with slivers and sliver eggs, and home to a huge desert brood mother. The brood mother was perched about ten feet above the exit, as if ready to ambush whomever came out. Before making a hasty retreat, she noticed something glinting in the middle of the room: a huge pile of coins, gems, and other metal objects, covered by sliver waste and fungus. She reported this to the rest of the group, who decided to retreat out into the cold desert air and rest amidst a cluster of boulders.

Since Hanzo, being undead, didn’t need to sleep, he volunteered to take all the watch shifts. In the third hour of the rest, the camp was attacked by a small raiding party of slivers, which were easily repulsed by the group. For the rest of the night, Hanzo watched the slivers wind their way through the desert sands, but none of them came near enough to attack.

The next morning, on the 10th, the Avengers headed back into the caves. Althea took the lead through the fungus-lined tunnel, but quickly found that the slivers had anticipated the group’s return when she tripped a cave-in trap just feet from the tunnel’s exit. Alerted by the noise, the desert broodmother stuck her head through the exit and spit a glob of fine sand right at her, blinding her and making her cough up blood. The rest of the group, after seeing this, decided to head into the room cautiously. Blaze lead the charge, and promptly got a facefull of sand for his trouble. As soon as the party started their advance, all the slivers except the brood mother burrowed into the walls and started making their way up towards the cavern’s ceiling.

One by one, the party made their way into the cavern. After wiping the sand out of her eyes, Althea waited for an opportunity, and teleported onto the back of the brood mother when she got the chance. Ping took a brief flight and used his powers to rip the brood mother off of the wall, slamming her into the ground. After that, it was no contest. With the brood mother on the ground, the party quickly dispatched her.

Hanzo realized that the slivers were making their way to the ceiling, either to collapse it onto the group and trap them within, or to escape. He estimated that it would be just seconds before they succeeded in this, so the party started looting the room furiously, and eventually stuffed all the loot, fungus, sliver crap, everything into their bags of holding. Just as the celing started to collapse, the party made it outside, and ran for their griffins, who were flying near the edge of the desertmote.

As the group neared the land’s edge, they saw why the griffins hadn’t landed: A group of slivers had attacked them earlier, scaring them off. That same group, plus reinforcements, was now behind the party, barreling towards them. With what the group learned from the last time they faced the spined slivers, they made quick work of them. Now, they need to figure out what they are going to do with the desertmote, and how best to split up the loot.

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Queen's Gambit story update for 20100301 (Marpenoth 9)
Skizzikt, the Queen's Knight; Hanzo takes one for the team

After resting, the group headed deeper into the dragon’s lair. After a few winding tunnels, the party came upon a huge room, about 80’ around and 60’ high, and crawling with slivers. Flying around the top of the room, near the great domed ceiling, was the blue dragon Skizzikt. Althea, who volunteered to scout, stuck her head into the room briefly and saw the assembled horde by the light of the luminescent fungi that the slivers were growing along the walls. She reported this back to the group, and they quickly formulated a plan.

Apparently, the plan was to have Hanzo go out and draw the ire of everything in the room, because that is exactly what he did. The large horned slivers made up the vanguard of the enemy’s attack force, charging the group and knocking Hanzo on his back. They then alternated between ripping into Blaze and charging through the entire group, until finally they were brought low. As usual, Balasar landed the killing blow on one of them, with the other’s killer uncertain. With the big ones down, the group focused on Skizzikt and the remaining slivers.

Hanzo created a circular wall of hellfire in an attempt to burn the raider and spined slivers. This attempt was thwarted, however, when one of the spined slivers impaled him on its spines and held him in his own wall of fire. The wall did manage to injure two of the spined slivers and kill a raider, but Hanzo was forced to dissolve the wall or be roasted alive by his own power. This he did, but it still left him impaled and bleeding, at the mercy of his tormentor.

Elsewhere, Skizzikt had begun his attacks. He swooped in and unleashed his lightning breath, then quickly darted back up to the ceiling, out of range of most of the group’s powers. While he caught his breath, the spined and raider slivers on the ground relentlessly tore into Hanzo, Blaze, and J’tal, dropping the first two and severely damaging the latter. With Skizzikt out of range, the rest of the party desperately attempted to both save their fallen commrades and hold off the tide of slivers, who began pouring out of the walls.

Althea, who’d remained relatively untouched for the whole battle, suddenly felt a stirring from the bodybag of holding. Suddenly, Lady Tron spilled forth from the bag, just in time to greet a new wave of slivers. After waiting for a good position, she waded into the thick of battle and became a blur of blood and metal, and after a few seconds six raider slivers lay dead at her feet. Having tipped the scales a bit towards the heroes’ side, she decided to take a break with Balasar, who both took turns taking pot shots at Skizzikt with their shields.

The situation looked grim for both Hanzo and Blaze. They’d both taken numerous attacks from the raiders and suffered multiple impalements by the spined slivers, and both were fading in and out of consciousness. Blaze made a valiant effort to rescue Hanzo, slaughtering a few of the raiders that was on him, and Hanzo added to this by setting the spined sliver that was impaling him, and Blaze, on fire. While the other slivers around it died to various members of the party, the sliver that held Hanzo ran off with him, towards the back of the cave. Another spined sliver covered it’s broodmate’s escape by impaling Blaze from the back and holding him in place.

With most of the slivers defeated, Skizzikt decided to follow the spined sliver that had Hanzo into a hidden tunnel in the back of the cave. This proved to be his downfall, however, as the group quickly converged on the tunnel’s entrance and hacked him to pieces, with Althea landing the final blow by killing the sliver buried in Skizzikt’s brain. Now, the party is resting amidst the corpses of their fallen enemies, counting the meager treasure they found in the room (117 gold), and licking their wounds. The tunnel goes deeper into the floating landmass, but can the group handle what may be waiting beyond? Find out next week!

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