The Shield of Heaven

What Once Was Lost...
New foes and old friends appear...

Crubren Ironhouse reluctantly informed the heroes that the council had locked Priestess Runa Castillo in a chamber guarded by dwarven warriors for her protection — specifically from Dietrich, whose soul would be claimed by Balor within the next 12 hours. The council also ruled that Dietrich must leave the Blackguard Mines within the hour.

As the heroes were preparing to depart, Thomas Cormyn revealed that one of the members of his spy network had found Thanatos’s secret lair within the crater beneath Blackwall citadel’s former resting place. Only somebody with demon blood could open the door, he said, and that this may be a chance to sabotage whatever Thanatos had been working on. They would need to talk to the spy, “Tik Tak the Carnivorous”, if they wanted more info. Meanwhile, Rawlin Adair, a mercenary who aided in the evacuation of The Green Dragon during the destruction of Thrax, offered to guard the citadel and act as their security officer. He asked for nothing in exchange but a clean cot and hot meals. The adventurers agreed.

The heroes decided it was in their best interest to head to Blackwall and open the door to the secret lair before Balor arrived to claim Dietrich’s soul, so they met Tik Tak in a deeper chamber. The kobold, who had captured KazKaz, was willing to help the group in exchange for payment; luckily, kobolds have minimal understanding of monetary value and he did not ask for much. While negotiating with Tik Tak, Cain was suddenly overtaken by a shadowy figure who called itself “Zarkhesh”, and three wraiths erupted from his body. Tik Tak helped the heroes defeat the wraiths, proving his worth in combat. When he led them out of the caverns, he affixed a comical pair of tinted goggles onto his face to prevent blinding by the sun.

When they boarded the citadel, they found a banquet awaiting them. Rawlin refused to eat, but Goladin and Alyssa were heartily eating. After Goladin admitted to not having prepared the food, Rawlin suggested they may have a stowaway aboard.

The citadel sputtered and drifted along weakly, but eventually made it to Blackwall. There, the heroes deliberated on their next course of action. Dietrich suggested they affix zombies to the citadel’s core to power it, but Ivy recalled that Branislava, the vampire caretaker of the citadel, said the bodies affixed to the core must be sentient.

They descended to Blackwall and found it filled with zombies. After engaging in battle with several plague zombies near the former site of the citadel, they met an elven family consisting of the father Aradriel Evergreen, his wife Tarulae, and his two daughters Prism and Eolanda, huddled inside an old magic shop. In the presence of Prism and Eolanda, the Spine Dagger came to life and overtook Obed, casting fireball in an attempt to kill them. Ivy took the dagger for safekeeping, and they sent the elven family to the citadel.

The crater was guarded by a zombified tyrannosaur, which the party was able to successfully sneak past — until Dietrich opened the door. It shone brightly and the tyrannosaur attacked, swallowing Dietrich whole but not before he could toss a healing potion into its stomach, ripping its innards apart and tearing a hole in the beast’s stomach. Dietrich slid down the throat and through the hole, landing in a wet, sloppy mess, and the party was able to escape into the door leading to Thanatos’s lair.

Thanatos’s lair was more than just a hiding spot — it was a laboratory for unearthly experiments. Inside, they found a series of rooms, each with experiments more horrific than the last. The first contained the bodies of enlarged humanoids, grotesquely engorged to the size of supersoldiers. The second appeared to contain failed attempts to meld regular humans with other creatures, likely ones Thanatos found in the sewers; horrid, twisting appendages unleashed a stench nearly unbearable. The third was the largest and cleanest and contained rows and rows of racks meant to hold small gems much like Alyssa’s. They only found six gems and took them out of the lair through a secret exit.

When they emerged, they could see the citadel under attack by three dragons in the distance; the citadel was spewing trickles of lightning bolts that fizzled weakly, but was clearly an attempt to maintain its defense. Cain flew up to the citadel and was struck by a bolt while the others crossed the field to the citadel. When they boarded, they found Rawlin shooting at the dragons with a ballista. Cain took the soul gems down to Branislava, who immediately took one, cracked it open, and drank the soul within before affixing four others to the crystal and bringing the citadel’s defenses to full power. Cain kept the remaining gem for himself.

As the citadel began to repel the dragons, Balor appeared to claim Dietrich’s soul, whipping him with a vicious spiked chain. The party tried to subdue Balor, but the devil prince was far too strong — it was clear that Dietrich would be lost.

In their moment of failure, however, Ayla reappeared in a bright flash of light and drove the demon back, citing her new status as the Ambassador of Iomedae.

Ayla described her journey in the afterlife and her encounter with a goddess named Iomedae, charging Ayla with the task of disrupting Thanatos’s ritual to release all the souls within the Heaven’s Shield to the dark god Asmodeus. On top of that, it was revealed to Ayla that Virtus, Chaos, Ordinem, and Malum are false gods. Whether Iomedae is truly a god or not remains to be seen…

The Souls of the Heaven's Shield

Goladin revealed his true nature: He is the god known as Chaos, and seemed willing to help the heroes. To begin, he offered to control the citadel while the heroes continued downstairs to clear out the remaining enemies. They encountered an invisible stalker which, due to Ivy’s ability to see invisibility, was easily dispatched. Two Order of Malum zealots remained in the dining hall; Dietrich successfully flipped one’s cape over his head, blinding him for a full six seconds and giving the others the opportunity to defeat them.

After searching the dining hall, they found a trapdoor beneath the dais and slipped down into the murky basement. There they found a door, which Obed naturally opened, and were led into a chamber containing a vampire by the name of Branislava Dubravka. Above her, embedded in the ceiling, lay a crystal with three figures bound to it. Branislava explained that the citadel required the power of souls to maintain its magical flight; without them, it would careen to the ground. Brim found this particularly disturbing, but the heroes decided it was a matter best tended to later. They disregarded Branislava’s contract to ensure her peaceful service and returned to the control room.

As they returned to the Blackguard Mines to meet with Priestess Runa Castillo, they could see thousands of figures ambling across the Fields Eternum away from Blackwall. When they reached the Blackguard Mines, they found Crank just outside, trying to find a way in through a mass of zombies. The heroes attacked the zombies and Brim managed to turn undead and force two of them to flee; the heroes defeated the final plague zombie and entered the Blackguard Mines.

There, they sold most of their equipment and used their remaining stores of gold to purchase a flawless diamond to be used as a focus in the ritual needed to resurrect Cain. Cain’s spirit was still available and willing to return, and so he appeared in the room with no lava/fire injuries. When he appeared, he relayed information that the Heaven’s Shield was preventing souls from moving on and were instead being consumed by wraiths and shadows. The party decided it was probably best to lower the shield to restore the natural order of souls and their place in the universe.

A similar attempt to bring Ayla back from the nether-realms of death was unsuccessful, leaving the heroes nearly bankrupt.

After waiting a full day to give the Priestess an opportunity to attempt the spell (and so that Cain could memorize his spells and write them down in a spellbook), the Priestess requested that the heroes search for Crubren in the Blackguard Forge, a legendary forge used by his ancestors. He had asked for the council’s help to recover the Golden Urgrosh, a legendary weapon forged by his ancestors; however, they denied his aid and he left on his own several days ago.

Meanwhile, Dietrich’s brand was beginning to glow white hot. The deadline to accomplish his mission for Balor was that midnight, and the heroes decided to aid Crubren in the forge, unsure of what other options they had.

When they reached the forge, they could see Crubren’s lifeless form lying near the Golden Urgrosh. They couldn’t discern whether he was dead or simply unconscious; but, as they approached his body, a demon attacked them and cast Greater Darkness, plunging the entire cavern into a supernatural blackness that prevented them from effectively warding the enemy.

Dietrich managed to stumble toward the demon and cast Dispel on it (after several unsuccessful attempts). Obed slipped up to Crubren and gave him a healing potion, waking him. The dwarf joined the fight, thoroughly demolishing the demon; however, he was unable to prevent it from striking a lethal blow to Dietrich and decapitating the experienced rogue.

After the survivors finished the demon, the heroes recovered multiple magical items from the forge and Crubren donated a sizable chunk of gold toward yet another diamond to cast the resurrection spell. After some deliberation, Cain realized Balor would be able to pull Dietrich from the Astral Plane; therefore, it would be better to resurrect him. Dietrich was successfully resurrected, but he only has 12 hours before Balor comes to claim his soul.

Heavy Price Paid
The Revenge of Thanatos

As the heroes prepared to cross the bridge leading to Hell’s Tower, the blue dragon swooped in from behind the ancient structure. Beginning his evil monologue anew, he alighted on the bridge only to have it crumble beneath his feet and send a large clump of stonework masonry plummeting into the lava below. Grunting in surprise, he spread his wings and took flight, taunting the shoddy craftsmanship that could not, in his words, “fool him twice”. However, the dragon was caught by surprise as the bridge’s arch toppled onto his head and sent him tumbling toward the lava below, uttering curses as he disappeared from sight.

The dragon may not have been successful in its attempt to rend the heroes, but the sudden destruction of the bridge was enough to slow them down. Cain, whose face was still covered by the mysterious Mask of the Barbarian, was able to cast his one and only “Fly” spell to cross the chasm, bringing some of the other heroes with him. Ayla and Dietrich used their rope and grappling hooks to cross. On the other side, they discovered a magical trap on the tall wrought-iron doors (unsuccessfully disabled by Dietrich) as well as an unknown crest painted into the outer walls above them:

When they opened the doors, they were met with a magical darkness that prevented them from seeing into the tower. As they passed through the doors, they mysteriously found themselves on the opposite side of the bridge; however, they soon realized that anybody who didn’t pass through would not be visible until they, too, plunged into the magical darkness.

Ayla and Dietrich once again crossed the bridge using their rope, leaving Cain, Ivy, Obed, and Brim on the far side. Cain attempted to cross, but his hands slipped on the way and he fell; the rope tied around his waist failed to support his weight and, as his companions watched in absolute horror, he plunged into the burning cauldron of swirling lava below. The mask separated itself from his face as his skin and muscle were burned away, floating lazily on the surface of the deadly molten liquid.

Unable to help their doomed friend, the remaining heroes managed to cross the chasm using Ivy’s final “Fly” scroll. Together, they determined that the crest above the doors was a divine symbol with magical properties that suggested honor, virtue, and respect. Seeing no other option than to continue through the doors in an infinite loop, the heroes knelt before the symbol and it glowed with a divine light, opening the doors below.

However, the heroes didn’t have a chance to pass through; instead, they were teleported into the tower’s entrance hall, a strange corkscrewed hallway that appeared to defy gravity. Portraits of long-dead adventurers lined the walls and as soon as the heroes appeared, the nearest portrait welcomed them and suggested they would not be leaving alive.

They continued through the hallway, eventually twisting with the floor so that they stood upside-down. To their perspective, the stairs at the end of the hall led down to a lower floor, but were in reality leading up to the top of the tower. The heroes continued into a series of rooms that seemed to have no exit.

One of the rooms locked all but Ivy inside and began filling with acid (strangely “falling” from floor to ceiling). Inside, they found treasure, an intellect devourer, and a strange plant that tried to constrict the breath from their bodies. Ivy found a lever that halfway opened the massive stone slab blocking the doorway, allowing some of the heroes to slip out before the acid could consume them. Another lever opened it fully, allowing the acid to spill out, giving the heroes more time to find a lever underneath a pile of treasure/rubble that forced the acid to bleed out in cracks in the ceiling. Ayla swiftly dispatched the intellect devourer and the party moved on to a large, bare chamber with a chasm in the center (strangely leading to the upper levels of the tower).

They rested for the night (fully aware that this meant Dietrich’s time was swiftly running out) and explored the chamber the next morning. A series of names appeared in the air, including “Vermyntherinax”, a name they had seen before in the tunnels below Brookfield.

The chamber seemed to have no exit, but the heroes found an outdoor viewing platform (the lava pooling above and the open sky stretching out below). As they continued searching for an exist, a massive flying citadel swooped in, dropped off a series of Order of Malum zealots into Goladin’s mansion, then crashed into the tower. Order of Malum zealots swarmed the tower, surrounding the heroes.

The heroes struck down the zealots and decided to take the fight to Thanatos and his followers — they boarded the citadel (suffering the disorientation of reversing gravity again), defeated its young red dragon guardian, and stormed the castle. They found it mostly empty, save for a little girl at the top level who called herself “Alyssa” and was found clutching a strange gem to her chest. In a nearby room, they found Prince Alexander of Blackwall in a trance-like state, unresponsive to all stimuli. Alyssa claimed that the gem she held in her hands housed the soul of her father — the prince.

Meanwhile, Ivy found a magical sphere in the same room that could control the citadel. She pushed the citadel forward, allowing Dietrich and Ayla the opportunity to swing across their ropes to the top of Hell’s Tower (flipping back to an upside-down orientation as they did).

As they approached the stone pedestal that supposedly contained the Heaven’s Shield, the tower’s guardian awoke — a clay golem that inflicted Ayla with numerous cursed wounds. Brim summoned numerous earth elementals that surrounded the golem and landed a few vital blows upon it, stunning it for several seconds and giving Dietrich and Ayla the opportunity to slice it into ribbons.

But the victory was short-lived; instead of finding a Heaven’s Shield, they found a note from Goladin: “Dear Adventurers, You will not find a Heaven’s Shield here. I have it with me. Your friend, Goladin.” And from the chasm above appeared Thanatos and a group of his Order zealots, surrounding the two heroes. Ayla heroically grappled with Thanatos, giving Dietrich a chance to escape to the citadel, where Obed was waiting to slice the rope and cut off the enemy.

Thanatos bit into Ayla’s neck, his acidic saliva tearing at her flesh and seeping into her body. She died a moment later, but gave Dietrich enough time to make his escape. As Ivy steered the citadel away from Hell’s Tower, Thanatos flung Ayla’s lifeless body into the pit of lava below, then pointed at the survivors as a malicious grin spread across his lips.

Dismayed at the loss of their compatriots, the heroes had no choice but to leave and live to fight Thanatos another day. The blue dragon appeared, landed on the citadel, morphed into the confused old man, Goladin, and uttered only five words: “I am the Heaven’s Shield.”

Dietrich has five days before Balor arrives to collect his soul.

The Breaking of the Hammer
Family Matters and the Road to Hell's Tower

Our heroes found a small hamlet in Malum Transitum called Willowvale, comprised of a single inn and a few houses. The only inhabitant was Asztrik Woodspire, a good-natured dwarf who told recounted a tale of orcs swooping in from the northeast and mercilessly raiding the town. Most of the townspeople and miners escaped; Asztrik remained, however, out of personal ties to his worn business.

In the morning, Hogarth relayed to the group his suspicions that the raiding orcs were his own tribe. He revealed that he slipped out during the night to confirm that his suspicions were correct and that he now wished to make a detour to aid his ailing mother, Urzul Trailslag. The party agreed to accompany Hogarth.

As they approached the camp, they witnessed two sights of interest: First, a couple of orcs were fighting to pull a dire bear through camp; Second, two orcs were locked in combat and surrounded by a group of onlookers. Hogarth revealed that the larger one was Kurgan Trailslag, current chief of the tribe who now owned Hogarth’s mother. The smaller was Krampf, clearly a challenger to the chieftainship. Kurgan made easy work of Krampf and decapitated him within moments to the apparent chagrin of the tribe, which dispersed in despair. Hogarth approached Kurgan and requested sülh, a state of protection that Kurgan appeared hesitant to grant. However, upon seeing Cain Silverkin, he granted them sülh for two days and charged them with the task of curing Urzul, his “rightful property”.

As part of sülh, Kurgan requested the heroes’ presence at dinner. They arrived, only to discover that Krampf, Kurgan’s challenger, was to be served. Present at the dinner were: Bagrak, Kurgan’s shaman aid; Lieutenant Thresh, Hogarth’s estranged uncle and brother to Urzul; and Mazgak, Kurgan’s dim-witted son and potential heir to the chieftainship. Serving the dinner were two slaves: Yazgash, unknown to Hogarth; and Shelur, Hogarth’s half-sister.

The next morning, they discovered that Hogarth had left the encampment with his mother in tow. Kurgan sent a pair of orcs to recover her, even if it meant killing Hogarth in the process. The heroes searched Urzul’s tent and found an arcane symbol drawn in the mud beneath her bed. They immediately took the sigil to Bagrak to ask if he knew about it; he claimed to know nothing. Dietrich, Obed, and Ivy attempted to track Hogarth, but were unsuccessful. Ayla and Cain remained to continue their investigation.

Further investigation revealed a similar rune beneath Kurgan’s sleeping rug; he suggested his son, Mazgak, may be out to kill him. Mazgak, however, proved incapable of any task that required more than rudimentary motor skills. Yazgash gave Cain a note requesting she free him.

Eventually, it was discovered that Shelur placed the symbols under Bagrak’s orders (in exchange for her freedom) to undermine Kurgan’s power and allow the Bozargh Tribe, a rival clan, to gain the upper hand. Kurgan confronted Bagrak but was met with powerful mystic force; when the PCs approached Bagrak, the shaman let loose the dire bear and his two slaves, Rugdumph and Lurok.

The heroes defeated Bagrak and, in exchange for the three females, gave him to Kurgan. They freed the females and Kurgan also agreed that he no longer had need to raid the small hamlet.

Unable to find their companion, the heroes left the orc encampment and returned to Willowvale to prepare for their journey to Hell’s Tower. They headed back down the mountain to request aid from Priestess Runa Castillo, who healed them and sent with them Brim Seafire, a dwarven cleric loyal to her cause.

Hell’s Tower stood in what appeared to be the center of an old meteor crater. Lava pooled at the bottom, surrounding a single column of earth that rose roughly two hundred feet above the swirling fumaroles and supported the old tower. A single stone bridge with one arch spanned the chasm and led to the dark black tower rising into the sky, its entrance guarded by two giant wrought-iron doors. No windows dotted the surface of the tower, suggesting whoever built it wanted to keep it safe from prying eyes, but the exterior seemed to have a life of its own and jutted in strange angles and uncoordinated architecture.

However, the single stone bridge was blocked by a large, well-maintained mansion. Upon entry, the heroes discovered vast amounts of wealth while an organ played a dismal dirge from somewhere within. They discovered horrors the likes of which they had never seen: in the kitchen, a boiling pot filled with the remains of a human infant; in the courtyard, a mass of headless Order of Malum soldiers; and in the billiard room, the missing severed heads (upon which Dietrich and Obed made a bizarre show of attempting to play pool with them).

Even worse, the path to the bridge was blocked by a large, shimmering gate of energy.

Further exploration led them to two interesting objects: a skull with a spirit inside and a mask that appeared to have magical properties. Cain wore the mask and found that it immediately latched onto his face; the skull could speak and seemed to know much about the arcane.

The single inhabitant of the house was an older man by the name of Goladin, who appeared more than happy to help but incapable of remaining on a single train of thought for too long. The heroes encouraged Goladin to research the method to pass through the barrier, in which he offered to them the rooms in the mansion to stay while he searched for the answers. He did ask, however, that the heroes stay clear of the Tea Room, but wouldn’t say why.

That night, the organ began playing again, rousing the heroes from their sleep. They investigated, only to see that the organ was not being played by anybody (or any thing) corporeal; True Sight revealed that a woman, likely Goladin’s murdered wife, was playing the instrument.

Naturally, Obed picked the lock to the Tea Room and opened its doors, revealing that Goladin had kept his murdered family — now undead — in the room. They spilled out and swarmed the heroes, who barely managed to keep them at bay until finally they decided to retreat. Goladin easily herded the zombies back into their containment room, suggesting that he is much more powerful than he lets on.

Goladin revealed to them the means to which they could penetrate the barrier: Each person wishing to pass through must reveal their deepest, darkest secret.

Ayla admitted that she wishes for death and passed through the portal.

Dietrich admitted his desire to murder the remaining members of his family.

Cain admitted to the part he played in his former master’s death.

Obed admitted that he once played a practical joke that got out of hand.

Brim admitted he had fallen in love with the Priestess.

Ivy admitted that she is of dragon lineage, and that one of her ancestors is a full-blooded dragon.

Hell’s Tower lies across the bridge. Eight days have now passed since Dietrich received his missive from Balor, leaving only six days until Balor comes to collect payment in the form of Dietrich’s soul.

The Influence of the Order
Building an Army 101

Aoric Usted requested the PCs explore the inactive volcano, Mount Iandra, within the Forghoth Mountains to recover some dragon eggs from a nearby cave. As they approached the cave, they found numerous trinkets and treasures. After taking three eggs from the cave, they realized the cave belonged to a hydra instead of a dragon; they decided to return the eggs to Aoric anyway.

On the way back to Brookfield, they were attacked by a contingent of Order of Malum soldiers led by a sorceress named Lorelai. During the battle, Dietrich was whisked away to Hell and confronted by Balor, the demon whom his ancestors made a pact with. After defeating Lorelai and her minions (and after Dietrich was returned to the battlefield), the PCs found a missive from Thanatos suggesting that he was making his way to Hell’s Tower to recover the Heaven’s Shield and establish a final base of operations.

Aoric happily took the eggs and believed them when they said they were dragon eggs. Blackwall, now clearly in alliance with the Order of Malum, overtook the city with a garrison of troops, forcing Aoric to lead the PCs out of the city through a secret tunnel below the academy. Upon exit, they were attacked by a barbarian with savage riding skills. However, they managed to defeat the rider and his Order lackey, and they continued on to the Blackguard Mines.

At the Blackguard Mines, they rejoined with Dolgrin Ironhammer, Thomas Cormyn, and Calin. Thomas told them that he was working on building a network of spies to infiltrate Blackwall; Calin was busy practicing archery. They were taken inside the mines and met Crubren Ironhouse, leader of Clan Ironhouse and the Blackguard Mines, a stout and intelligent dwarf who was reluctant to allow the Thrax refugees into the mines. He had taken Priestess Runa Castillo as an adviser, who was interested in her cousin Prince Reginald’s fate. She also displayed a romantic interest in Dietrich.

That night, a phase spider attacked the camp, munching on commoners. The PCs and Calin aided in its defeat, convincing Crubren that it was too dangerous to leave the refugees outside. He then requested the PCs to escort Dolgrin and Thomas on an emissary mission to the Storm Giants’ castle in an effort to recruit them in the battle against Malum. On the way, Calin was killed by two hill giants tossing rocks at the wagon; the PCs killed the hill giants and continued on to the Storm Giants’ castle.

After returning to the Blackguard Mines following a successful bid to secure an alliance with the Storm Giants, the PCs trekked through Malum Transitum to reach Hell’s Tower. On the way, they found some old wooden excavation equipment; a blue dragon, well into an evil-ridden monologue describing the various cliched methods in which it would destroy the PCs, attempted to alight upon the excavation equipment. The wooden boards, severely deteriorated from age, cracked under the dragon’s weight before it could finish its monologue and sent it plummeting to the flowing river of lava below. It managed to right itself and fly away as the PCs ambushed a small troop of Order of Malum soldiers; upon their defeat, they continued on toward Hell’s Tower (and two of them leveled up ‘cuz they’re badasses).

What Stands at the Gate
Thrax's Last Stand

The Hammer of Virtus continued down the dangerous corridors of the crypts beneath Thrax and found a large room with a Medusa inside who welcomed them and promptly attempted to add them to her collection of statues. They successfully defeated the Medusa and a violet fungus — which attacked Hogarth with a rot-causing tentacle, destroying one eye — and found the frozen statues of a kender and a sorceress, who they managed to restore via a found Stone-to-Flesh staff. The kender, Obed Ovechkin, held a copy of the Book of Storms in his arms, and together they continued to the end of the crypts, battling half-fiend minotaurs and a gorgon released by the kender in an act of curiosity.

The final room held Farengar, who was finishing a ritual that sucked the life from a few commoners and unleashed a large lightning bolt upon Thrax, utterly devastating its outer walls. Instead of waiting to see if Farengar would let them pass, Hogarth cast a fireball at him. This act of violence unsettled Farengar’s pet dracolisk, which immediately attacked the heroes. A second fireball killed Farengar and the dracolisk burst through the ceiling, landing in the market among a crowd of confused, panicked commoners.

The Hammer of Virtus hurried to the surface to aid in the defense of Thrax, which was now being overrun by the Order of Malum and Blackwall (in separate attempts to destroy Thrax). As they fight the dracolisk, Rawlin Adair managed to get the patrons and employees of the Green Dragon out of the building as the Order of Malum entered. All, that is, except for Boren, their trusty barkeep.

When they entered the Green Dragon, Thanatos threatened to take Boren’s life if they did not reveal to him the location of the Heaven’s Shield. When Dietrich attempted to rescue Boren, Thanatos slit the barkeep’s throat, instantly killing him.

A battle ensued in the Green Dragon with the remaining members of the Order of Malum, who set the building on fire and nearly killed the heroes. During the pitched battle, Ivae’ess was slain.

After defeating the Order of Malum, the PCs brought Ivy out and encountered the wagon carrying Priestess Runa Callisto. As she cast Resurrection on Ivy, the remaining PCs joined with Davward and Crank to protect her from the Order and their hellish beasts conjured from extraplanar dimensions, including hellhounds and a nightmare.

After Ivy was resurrected, the Priestess requested they rescue Prince Reginald, her cousin, from the keep. Thomas told the PCs he would take the survivors to the Blackguard Mines. They fought their way to the keep and encountered Lieutenant Thresh (Hogarth’s uncle), who was wearing the colors of Blackwall. They magically bound him and headed into the keep.

At the top of the keep, they found Prince Reginald speaking to a dragon’s skull and weeping. He cried out to Malum, asking if the payment wasn’t enough and, if not, what he needed to do to protect his city — effectively outing him as a conspirator to Malum’s cause, albeit indirectly. When confronted by the PCs, he summoned Malum in a final act to re-enter Malum’s good graces. If Malum was given information about the Hammer of Virtus, the prince assumed Malum would be pleased.

Instead, Malum swooped down and devoured the prince, then attempted to kill them with a breath of fire. The PCs barely escaped the keep and made it out the walls of Thrax.

They headed to the Sartre Monastery. The next day, the surviving members of the Double-Blooded Crusade appeared in the distance, badly beaten and blooded. They carried Farengar’s body and requested sanctuary, as the Order of Malum was seeking them out. Dietrich decided to give them sanctuary and returned the final griffon egg, which was readily accepted by the griffons. After six weeks of attempting to train them, Ayla finally decided they would best be used as allies, to which the griffons readily accepted. Dietrich sent the surviving members of the Double-Blooded Crusade on a mission to search for survivors in Thrax.

Obed found writing in the walls of Head Monk Plius’s quarters that read, “Go to Brookfield”. When they engraved the word, “Why?”, the word “ANSWERS” appeared.

They went to Brookfield and met Aoric, the headmaster of the Brookfield College. He allowed them to look through the Astral Observatory, which revealed the presence of dragons all along the Heaven’s Shield. Then he showed them graphs of Shieldus’s population — which was slowly decreasing — compared to Shieldus’s monster population — rapidly increasing, suggesting that within 10 years the entire continent would be overrun by beasts.

He suggested they search for dragon eggs, which he could use to create massively destructive weapons, as well as visit Balor, a demon with a strange tie to the city of Brookfield.

On the way down to Balor’s Lair, they encountered a name engraved in glowing glyphs on the wall: “VERMYNTHERINAX”.

Balor gave them little information, but revealed that Dietrich is a descendant of his and that the only way in or out of Shieldus is through Hell itself.

In Defense of The Green Dragon
Thrax's Last Stand

Rawlin Adair was hired by Dolgrin Ironhammer to take some supplies to the Blackguard Mines. He agreed and, during a visit to The Green Dragon (that ended in a lively night with Izora Moonhallow), met Crank, who offered to tag along in his journey. Dolgrin also sent his apprentice, Calin, to accompany Rawlin.

On the way, they were beset by a barbarian who attempted to exact a toll on the road. Instead, they battled the barbarian and Rawlin was nearly killed; however, Crank produced the items necessary to summon Malum and, with his power, reduced the barbarian to ash.

At night, they were attacked by two hellhounds apparently sent by Malum, which Rawlin dispatched with ease. The next morning they continued to the Blackguard Mines, dropped off the shipment, and returned to Thrax.

The next day, Thrax was attacked by both Blackwall and the Order of Malum. Rawlin helped defend the Green Dragon from invaders as the Hammer of Virtus fought off a dracolisk that burst through the ground of the market. After defeating several more hellhounds, Rawlin jumped into the wagon driven by Thomas Cormyn to aid in the defense of Priestess Runa Callisto and escaped from Thrax.

A Chance Encounter
Two new heroes emerge

Obed attempted to steal something from Ivae’ess, a local sorceress during a visit to Thrax, but she took pity on him and decided to take him under her wing. One day, as they dined in the Green Dragon, they were met by a man named Farengar who was an admitted member of the Double-Blooded Crusade. He requested they enter the catacombs of Thrax, which hadn’t been visited in hundreds of years, through a secret entrance in the market in order to find a book by Gygax, the greatest wizard who ever lived. The book was titled the “Book of Storms”, of which Farengar said held great importance to the safety of Thrax. He also promised a hefty reward.

Obed and Ryuu ventured into the catacombs and stumbled upon a lone kobold in the depths. Following the kobold, Obed accidentally sprung a trap that dropped him into a pit. Ryuu helped him out and together they pursued the kobold, entering a large antechamber with a caged Gorgon (a bull-like creature seemingly made of metallic materials). The kobold attacked and they successfully subdued it.

They continued, Obed taking gold from the bodies of ancient royalty as they searched the catacombs. They came upon a large room filled with stone statues of adventurers in various poses and, after intimidating a kobold into revealing the nature of its presence, were accosted by a Medusa who turned them to stone.

Our heroes now wait to be reawakened…

The Fallen Fortress

Five weeks passed since the heroes successfully jumped the Black Death in his lair outside Thrax. Cain returned to his bakery; Dietrich to his stage performances; Ayla to her knighthood training; and Hogarth to his blacksmithing. Meanwhile, Boren confirmed he had successfully purchased one of the nearby houses and was working on acquiring the other in his efforts to expand the Green Dragon.

In the five weeks our heroes settled in, unseasonable storms had wrought havoc upon Thrax. Hailstorms, strange bouts of strong winds, heavy rains, violent thunderstorms, and finally, an earthquake ravaged the city. Prince Reginald called upon the heroes to investigate the Fallen Fortress, a long-forgotten and magically sealed fortress in the Fields Eternum that was broken open by the final bouts of earthquakes. His spy network had confirmed that Prince Alexander, his rival brother of Blackwall, had sent a powerful troglodyte by the name of Tasskar to occupy the fortress and fortify it to begin using it as a base of operations for Blackwall.

Before setting out to rid Thrax of the vermin in the Fallen Fortress, the heroes prepared at the Green Dragon. A sorcerer by the name of Farengar visited them and admitted he was a member of the Double-Blooded Crusade, a terrorist organization that seeks to overthrow Thrax’s current government. He requested that the heroes visit the catacombs beneath the fortress and recover a book entitled “The Book of Storms” for him, written long ago by a powerful wizard. He claimed his interest was the preservation of Thrax and that they had a shared goal in stopping the storms. This book, he said, could give him information on how to make them stop.

The heroes agreed (but only after negotiating for a fair price), and then set out to the Fallen Fortress. They hired Ragnar, a grizzled mercenary, and his company to accompany them and set up a base camp outside of the fortress.

The fortress was five stories high and filled with troglodytes, mohrgs, giant spiders, and a shock lizard by the name of Kazkaz who served as Tasskar’s pet. They employed Kazkaz’s shocking abilities in the final battle against Tasskar and his giant crocodile pet, Snapjaw. The eastern wing of the tower collapsed, sending Ayla tumbling to the ground below. However, she survived and they managed to open Tasskar’s trapped chest. Inside was a book entitled “On the Heaven’s Shields” by Lesser the Bard. They also managed to rescue an amateur adventurer by the name of Balenar Forsend, who decided he would quit adventuring and return to his fletching profession.

The heroes returned to Thrax to rest, then made the journey to the Fallen Fortress again. On the way, Hogarth read “On Heaven’s Shields” and learned more of the lore behind the Heaven’s Shields. According to the book, the Heaven’s Shields were crafted as an actual shield that, when placed upon their pedestals, prevent extraterrestrial dragons from accessing the continent of Shieldus. The shields were crafted by the “gods” (whom the book suggests aren’t truly gods at all, but are merely powerful beings with a vested interest of protecting Shieldus) roughly 500 years ago.

They reached the fortress and headed down the catacombs, spending a day traveling down a long corridor that led them to the actual catacombs. Hogarth ventured a guess that they were directly below Thrax.

Upon searching the catacombs, the heroes were beset by a duo of cloakers, a rust monster, and a couple of basilisks — one of which managed to turn Dietrich to stone. Ayla successfully pulled the statue out of the room and the group cast Deeper Darkness on the door, blinding themselves and the basilisks.

They fumbled with their magic spells and their swords, (hilariously) causing more damage to themselves than the basilisks did. They succeeded in killing one, but the other escaped. After a long, fruitless search through the darkness, they decided to return to Thrax to have Dietrich restored by the clerics at the Temple of Virtus.

The Trial of Ordinem
Or how the DM let the PCs survive despite terrible strategies

The heroes were magically captured and teleported to the chambers beneath Demonreach, where they faced a proxy of Ordinem named Variel who put them on trial for desecrating the Temple of Ordinem. Dietrich successfully convinced Variel that they were unaware of its existence and therefore could not be held fully accountable; however, Variel declared them guilty of ignorance and required them to relinquish their most prized possession as punishment.

When released, the heroes were faced with their own challenges down a long hallway ending in levers that had to be pulled simultaneously to reveal the exit. Hogarth sat down in the face of a Skeletal Champion while Cain failed to counterspell a magical doorway for lengthy amount of time. Dietrich and Ayla, however, managed to make light work of their challenges and reached the levers quickly.

Upon exit of the challenges, the heroes faced a large fire elemental. Hogarth abandoned his allies and attempted to escape while the remaining heroes fought valiantly against the elemental. The DM graciously split the experience points evenly despite the glaring imbalance of performance.

After slaying the elemental, the heroes returned to Thrax where they staged a successful (albeit toned down and incredibly easy) ambush against the Black Death, the assassin who attempted to kill Cain in his sleep. They left the Black Death with the thieves’ guild.


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