Kith'takharos

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The Kith’takharos Campaign has most likely ended. The fault lay with me, not the players. After twenty-nine sessions, some points are clear.

First, I am weary of D&D 3.5. I have reached a place where I no longer enjoy this game system when I am a GM, and I cannot stand to continue with it.

Second, Eberron is not my setting. I find that I cannot get into a setting as GM, no matter how well detailed, if I did not create it.

Third, the sum of the previous two points is that the campaign must end. We play to have fun, and I am not having fun.

There were many fine and memorable moments in the campaign, but now I must put it aside. Other campaigns will follow, though with a different system of game mechanics and a different setting. Perhaps I will choose Savage Worlds or EarthDawn; I have not yet decided.


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Session 29
Barrakas 7, 998 YK

The Band of the Nine Towers engages Jenna’s mother and her minions. After a hard fought battle, the Band emerges victorious and retains the artifacts. The cost is steep: Azereen, Saelah, Scylien, and Fixit are slain, while the Cleric serving Jenna’s mother escapes through a teleporter.

Jager and Mila bring the bodies of the slain into the teleportation room. After a number of attempts, they hit upon the code phrase that activates the magic and transports the Band into an unused room in Kith’takharos Keep.

Jenna rests and recovers her spells. The following day she reincarnates Azereen and Fixit. Saelah’s and Scylien’s spirits do not wish to enter a new body. Azereen returns as a male Half-orc and Fixit as a male Half-elf. Fixit marvels at his new senses and the odd appendage that swings between his thighs.

Soon a representative of the Dragons of Argonesson approaches the Band and requests the artifacts. Jager wishes to be free of them; however, he wants something in return. So they strike a deal where the representative divulges the location of a downed but serviceable airship in return for the artifacts.

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Session 28
Barrakas 6-7, 998 YK

Saelah examines the Drow woman and finds her unconscious and wounded. The numerous injuries suggest a recent battle, an observation bolstered by the well-used sword and bow that lay near her. Saelah determines that she will live, but he has no healing powers to accelerate her recovery.

Saelah stands by the locked door, peering out the small window. Soon he hears many footsteps approaching. “Jager!” he calls out, and the Shifter’s face appears on the other side of the transparent crystal.

The Band of the Nine Towers backtracked until they arrived at the original cell in which they were imprisoned. Although the cell is now locked, Fixit picks it with ease. The Warforged then heals Scylien with a wand while the rest of the Band decides how to deal with the newcomer.

Jager remains suspicious and ornery. Saelah mentions that Dorian Orsova and Zzhastor Brune sent him to aid the Band, yet still retains his own suspicions of Jager. The Elf apparently forgot or ignored Dorian’s admonishment about trying to get along with the Band. Perhaps out of necessity, Jager and Saelah accept a wary alliance, since both need a method of escape from the tunnel complex.

The Band needs rest. The spider constructs had drained them of significant powers, abilities, and arcane resources.

Fixit, Mila, and Saelah guard the hallway, while the rest settle down in the cell. Not more than half an hour passes before constructs appear in the hallway to attack those on guard. None of those resting wants to leave the cell, concerned that crossing the threshold will trigger further attacks. Once the constructs are destroyed, everyone enters the cell for a rest.

Another hour pases before more constructs appear on the walls and attack, one for each person. Cleverly, the Band exits the cell and closes the door on the constructs, saving another costly battle. Jager urges they now move quickly; delay only invites another attack.

The Band organizes a march and reaches the gated area where Scylien had vanished. Aided by Scylien’s Bardic Song, Jager expends a monumental effort to break the gate separating them from the next section of corridors. Jager appeared determined to either defeat the gate or get a hernia, whichever came first.

Just past the gate, Jager’s Everbright Shield winks out. In fact, no arcane spells or powers will function. Jager backtracks and determines the effect is isolated to a particular area, but he is unsure the extent of the region.

There are now two possible directions: a branching corridor off to the right, or continuing straight ahead, where the corridor ends at a gated opening about ten feet above the floor.

Saelah moves forward, ready for traps. About ten feet from the gate, the floor beneath him vanishes, revealing a twenty foot deep pit lined with spikes. Simultaneously, a powerful wind blows from above, forcing Saelah into the spikes.

Exceptional acrobatic skill saves Saelah from serious harm. Jager throws down a rope and pulls him up. The wind still blows. The Band decides to investigate the branching corridor before trying the pit again. Perhaps a deactivation mechanism will be found.

The branching corridor leads to a number of short, curved corridors and a series of tiny rooms. Some of the rooms contain objects of no obvious utility, other rooms are empty. The Band picks up a small silver wheel, an amulet, a wand, and a staff. All those items are found to be magical when removed from the anti-magic area. However, the staff is also evil, and so Mila destroys it.

Then the Band risks a good rest. The hours pass, and soon enough everyone returns to full strength. There is speculation that the anti-magic effect may deter the constructs.

Through a careful combination of climbing skill and ropes, the Band manages to cross the pit. Jager again wrenches the gate free, and the Band continues into a new section of corridors. These are longer corridors arranged in parallel, with shorter cross corridors. There are few rooms compared to the size of the space. The corridor immediately past the gate seems to be the main passage, for it ends at a very solid steel door almost two hundred feet ahead.

Mila senses Jenna straight ahead and to the left. Rather than attempt opening the steel door, the Band takes an easier route down a left branching corridor. They explore a number of rooms.

One room holds the desiccated corpse of a small dinosaur. Another contains a live animal with some sort of metal exoskeleton; it charges the door when Mila looks inside but cannot escape. A surprising find is a large alchemical laboratory. Finally, Mila enters a room containing an anti-magic field and recovers two interesting objects: a small wand and a crystal sphere. As Mila exits the room and leaves the anti-magic area, both objects explode, severely injuring several people but killing no one.

Everyone agrees the steel door now seems a better choice. Jager notices that the floor beneath the door is chipped in several places. He wedges the end of his Masterwork shovel beneath the door, and with the help of two comrades, leans down on the handle. The door slowly rises, grinding against its track. The door remains raised when Jager releases pressure on the shovel.

The door has traveled a couple feet, and the end of the shovel handle bumps the floor. Jager looks past the door. The corridor proceeds straight, with at least two or three branches. About sixty feet away, standing in the middle of the tunnel, a pale Halfling grins at him.

“Hello, Jager,” says Jenna’s mother, “I’m not going anywhere. Why don’t you join me.”

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Saelah Seeks the Band
Barrakas 6, 998 YK

The player controlling Scylien wanted to retire her from the campaign and introduce the new character Saelah. The following e-mail exchange between the GM and player occurred between game sessions 27 and 28, and brought Saelah into the campaign.

The Order of the Jade Leaf trains and rebuilds as you cross the courtyard of the keep. Men wash the soot from blackened stone and drag away burned wood. Gangs of carpenters haul in new timbers to repair the interior buildings. While you were helping the Jade Leaf take down a band of poachers, another battle was fought here in Kith’takharos. No corpses remain, so you cannot guess the nature of the foe.

The craftsmen and laborers display no recognition as you pass, yet you realize that every eye noted your presence. You mentally shrug. So what? You are used to those reactions.

A short flight of stairs leads to Dorian Orsova’s office. He motions you to a seat opposite his own at a spacious desk. Though a large window overlooks the courtyard, his gaze never leaves the papers arranged before him.

Dorian finishes writing a sentence, then wipes the ink from the end of his pen and sets it on a tray. He squeezes his eyes shut and rubs his temples. His eyes are bloodshot and ringed by dark smudges. Without looking, he grabs a mug from the desk and takes a deep swallow. A grimace twists his mouth. “Bah. Old, stale, and bitter. One day that will be my epitaph.”

He rises and extends a hand in greeting. “Forgive me. Our troubles are not yours.” He pauses a moment. “I would offer you refreshment if there was any to be had. Everyone’s cleaning up after the lizard attack.” Greetings complete, Dorian drops back into his chair.

He continues speaking. “I want to thank you again for your assistance in apprehending those poachers. You have shown yourself to be reliable and a man of honor. In light of this, I wish to ask a service of you on behalf of Kith’takharos.” You nod to indicate he should proceed. This village seems to appreciate your talents, which is a better reception by far than you’ve gotten in most places.

Dorian leans forward and places his elbows on the desk. He exhales. “Well, I’m relieved you’re willing to hear me out. Let me get right to it. We recently helped send a team into a dangerous underground complex. They call themselves the Band of the Nine Towers, and are seeking a comrade who was captured by a powerful undead. Let me just say that I have information regarding their progress from a believable source who used to serve in the Cyran military. They need some extra muscle, and they need it now. I won’t kid you, this is very dangerous. But the Band deserves what help we can give them. If I can get you in there, will you go?”

You pull off your hood. “Dorian, I appreciate the vote of confidence and your thanks. As for your candor, it is most refreshing. And in answer to your question, I would be willing to assist this Band of the Nine Towers. Fill me in as to what you know and where I am to head.”

You think for a moment, “Ah, what am I to say to this Band? Well, I don’t want to be attacked when I arrive. And my appearance will have some effect.”

For the first time since you’ve met him, Dorian Orsova smiles. “You will tell them I sent you at the request of Burke. And that Burke said they could use a hand. The Band’s nominal leader is a shifter named Jager. He will know this Burke and understand what it means that Burke would contact me.” Dorian shrugs. “I would give you a seal or similar item, but their foe could easily fake these.

“Just so you know, the Band has six members. The Shifter Jager I already mentioned. He is a powerful fighting man. There is also a Warforged Artificer named Fixit. A Changeling Bard, who often appears as a Drow, named Content Not Found: scylien. A Human Sorcerer named Azereen. A Human Monk and Paladin of the Silver Flame named Mila. The missing member is a Halfling Druid named Jenna. They are a wary bunch, so I urge you to make a strong effort at getting along…as you have here in Kith’takharos.”

Dorian clears his throat and picks up a pen, twirling it in his fingers. “I hope you’re alright with being Teleported. We need to Teleport you twice to get you there.” He puts down the pen and pushes back his chair, rising to his feet. “Any more questions? We need to get going.”

“Ah, Dorian, I don’t know about Teleporting. Never done it before. You seem comfortable with it , so I guess it is ok.” Your hesitation betrays some trepidation. “Does this shifter, ah, Jager, know you well enough to believe me when I tell him and the rest, what you said? Other than that, I am ready to go, got all my stuff right here.” You are a little nervous, because of the unknown situation with the Band, as well as the Teleportation.

Dorian leads you across the courtyard and into a cluttered room that resembles a cross between a library and a laboratory. “In a moment, I will show you exactly how to convince Jager.” A Halfling stands near a writing table, a battered Warforged at his side. “All right, Niki,” Dorian says, “send us over.” He gestures so that you move to stand beside him.

The Halfling Niki reads the scroll aloud in some arcane sounding language you don’t understand. Suddenly, you are…someplace else. A small stone room with stale air and no windows. One doorway with two Jade Leaf militiamen standing outside. Inside, a Dwarf woman and a…Lizardman? You instinctively reach for your blade before Dorian places his hand atop your forearm. “No, this is Zzhastor Brune. He is a friend. His people aren’t the ones who attacked us.”

You want to ask more questions but there is no time. Both Dorian and the Lizardman are in motion. Dorian hustles you to a spot near the doorway while the Lizardman reaches for some mechanism built into the wall. Dorian says, “Tell Jager that Zzhastor Brune sent you. He’ll know what that means.”

The Lizardman twists a knob. Now you are in darkness, upside down and falling. You twist in the air and right yourself before landing. Your eyes quickly adjust to the dim light. You are in a cubic room with walls about twenty feet on a side. One door, shut, with a small window. No interior door handle. With your luck it will be locked. No sign of this so-called Band.

Then you notice the body crumpled in one corner. A woman. You immediately recognize her as Drow.

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Session 27
Barrakas 6, 998 YK

In a few minutes, the warning voice ceases. The corridor dead ends about twenty feet past each gate. Just before the dead end, a cylindrical shaft descends into the floor. Jager grasps the bars of one gate and pulls up. The metal rattles but holds firm. Azereen sends his cat Shadow through the bars. The familiar peers down the shaft and learns that it opens into another corridor or room after twenty feet. A steel ladder runs along the inside of the shaft.

As a group, the Band strains to lift the gate. After a number of tries, the gate screeches and grinds upward a short distance before jamming in its track. Everyone except Fixit can easily fit under the gate. While the rest of the Band works on pulling Fixit through, Mila carefully climbs down the ladder.

Mila advances head first so that she can get a view of the area below before entering. About halfway down, she feels something smash the wall beside her stomach. She looks up and sees a spider-like creature on the wall across from the ladder. The creature projects a ropy appendage from its body, and a stinger bites into Mila’s thigh. She shakes off the poison and lets gravity pull her legs down, simultaneously kicking at the creature. The blows connect, but have no serious effect.

Jager breaks off helping Fixit and rushes to the shaft, drawing his bow. He fires once, and the arrow buries itself deep into the creature’s disc-shaped body. Mile then leaps across the shaft and grips the protruding arrow, dislodging the creature as she falls. Both Mila and the creature land safely, and the battle continues in a long corridor on the level below.

Jager still benefits from a Spider Climb Fixit cast upon him earlier. He crawls down the shaft to aid Mila, but before he reaches the bottom another spider creature appears and attempts to sting him. Jager ignores it and gangs up on the first creature with Mila. The creature has no eyes, ears, or mouth, and does not bleed, resembling a construct more than a living being. Mila and Jager strike until it stops moving.

Fixit finally squeezes through the gate. Azereen rushes forward and jumps down the shaft. In an amazing feat of acrobatics, he lands on the motionless creature without mishap, and fires off a Magic Missile at the second creature behind Jager.

Soon the entire Band of the Nine Towers joins the fight. Fixit plummets down the shaft while Scylien climbs the ladder. As each person descends another spider creature appears to attack that person. The corridor below the shaft is only eight feet wide, and the battlefield is crowded. One of the creatures takes advantage of its eight articulated legs and assaults Scylien from the ceiling. Somehow Azereen avoids the questing stingers and lines up two of the creatures for a Lightning Bolt. Jager also gets singed in the blast.

The battle ends without any serious injuries, and the application of healing wands brings the wounded back up to fighting strength. Now the search for Jenna can truly begin.

This lower level contains a rough grid of eight foot wide passages. A methodical search discovers three doors for three rooms. Each door has a small crystal window. The designations B1, B2, and B3 are carved in Draconic next to the doors. One room holds the mummified corpse of a humanoid that resembles an Illithid, another is empty, and the third contains some sort of liquid, perhaps water, so an opening is not attempted.

During the exploration, Jager and Mila feel a faint rumbling. They run through the corridors and discover that one passage has become a dead end and another has opened to a steep upward incline. The walls, floor, and ceiling of the new tunnel glisten with a slippery substance.

Although the footing is treacherous, Jager still has the use of Spider Climb. He carefully advances to the top of the incline and fastens a rope to guide the others. The incline opens into another rough grid of passages, but these are even more narrow. As the Band passes the first intersection, gates crash down and separate them into three groups: Mila and Jager, Azereen and Scylien, Fixit and the familiar Shadow. Spider creatures materialize in each area and attack.

Jager and Mila handle their adversaries with ease. Fixit avoids his creature by the judicious use of infusions and scrolls. Once Fixit places Construct Bane on his crossbow, the spider goes down fast.

Azereen and Scylien have a more difficult time. Azereen manages to line up a couple creatures for a Lightning Bolt. The spell also catches Jager in the blast. The last creature seems tougher than the rest, and stings Scylien into unconsciousness before being destroyed. When Azereen turns to aid her, she is gone!

The gates soon rise into the ceiling. Mila detects Scylien’s direction with her Mark of Finding. The Band must backtrack to reach the Bard. Now they must recover two lost members.

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Session 26
Barrakas 4-6, 998 YK

“Did you do the magical looking downing thingy there?” — Scylien, asking Yavanna Culand if she had attempted to locate Jenna below Kith’takharos Keep.

Mila regains her senses on the second level of Tarass Shar Orn. She last remembers conversing with the amulet wearing lizardfolk. Now she is alone. Confident a rational explanation exists for these odd circumstances, she climbs the stairs to the first level.

The iron scent of fresh blood fills her nostrils before she reaches the first level hallway. No battle sounds break the silence, yet Mila maintains a wary posture. She passes two toppled barricades and the hacked bodies of eight fighting men. Flames have blackened the walls and ceiling all the way from the stairway to the depression that once held the lift. Three lizardfolk stare into the dark shaft. A bloody women wearing mage’s robes lay beside them.

Zzhastor Brune informs Mila that her friends are on the surface. She speaks the Draconic phrase that calls down the lift and all four of them ride it to the surface. The fake tree opens, and they walk out into the warm night air.

The Band searches for signs of Jenna. In a widening circle, Jager sniffs the ground and foliage surrounding the lift. He finally catches a faint scent on some bushes west of the lift, at shoulder level. He suspects that Jenna’s captors brushed the leaves as they took flight.

Jenna’s life depends on swiftness, and so the Band must move fast. Yet a mere direction is a weak clue when the foe flies through vast swamp.

Zzhastor Brune intrudes on the Band’s frustration with an inopportune request. He wants help in finding swamp plants to create a concoction that will awaken his people before they all succumb to the Dreamseeker. Perhaps the Dreamseeker will even be weakened as more Harlass Orn wake and decrease the nightmares on which it feeds.

Cold stares rather than sympathy greet the request. In other circumstances the Band would willingly help Brune. Now they refuse him without hesitation. He can tag along if he wants, but they won’t slow for him.

The Band treks west for a day, accompanied by the lizardfolk Brune, Nastin, and Hulshon. Few words interrupt the grim mood. Kith’takharos is still another day’s travel. Jager locates a favorable camp site on a small island. Guards are posted, and everyone else except Jager settles down for some sleep.

Jager walks away from camp until he is sure no one will hear him. “Burke!” he yells, just once.

Minutes pass and Jager grows impatient. Then he hears a voice from above. “Hey, Jager,” says the shade of Burke. The Changeling stands on a tree limb.

Jager does not hide his contempt for the traitor, or his distaste at what he must do. Burke will finally have Jager’s forgiveness if the Changeling can find Jenna. The Band will remain encamped until Burke returns.

Burke springs from the tree into the air. He floats west, into the darkness.

In the morning, Burke pokes his head out of the ground at Jager’s feet. He has not found Jenna, but he did learn of a lizardfolk attack on Kith’takharos the same night Jenna was taken. Perhaps these events are related? Burke promises to continue searching.

The Band reaches the environs of Kith’taklharos in late afternoon. The smell of recent fire hangs in the air. Because of the lizardfolk attack, Jager asks Brune to remain some distance from the village while the rest of them check out the situation.

As the Band walks up the main road towards Kith’takharos Keep, they note that the damage seems localized to the Keep and the Jade Leaf compound. This strikes Jager as an odd attack pattern, and suggests a possible diversion. With that observation, Mila splits off from the group to seek Jenna with her Mark of Finding; Scylien joins her.

Men are still collecting lizardfolk bodies for disposal. Dorian Orsova hobbles out of Kith’takharos Keep, supporting himself with a cane. He explains how the surprise attack almost overwhelmed the defenses, and expresses concern that the lizardfolk somehow bypassed both the guards and magical defenses. Then Xanthus Bome arrives, and he goes with Jager to escort the Harlass Orn into Kith’takharos.

Meanwhile, Mila suspects that she should be able to sense Jenna in Kith’takharos. Something prevents her from finding Jenna, a sort of “void” in her search pattern centered beneath Kith’takharos Keep. This oddity intrigues Mila, for she has never encountered a phenomena that would prevent the functioning of her Mark.

The Band’s opinion of Zzhastor Brune finally warms when the scholar points out that his people built a peculiar structure below Kith’takharos Keep. The location of this place matches well with the void detected by Mila. Brune recalls that the structure could only be reached by teleportation of the same type utilized by the transit towers. In specially designed chambers, Mages performed dangerous magical experiments and deciphered the powers of ancient magical objects. He knows no particulars, because he is a scholar and not a Wizard.

Scylien and Brune visit Yavanna Culand to discuss how the Band might gain access to the rooms under the Keep. Hours pass as Yavanna and Brune speculate on how to proceed. Scylien maintains a polite boredom. When Yavanna mentions the Empiricon Codex, Brune realizes a solution.

Now a lizardfolk Shaman enters Kith’takharos under a flag of truce. He bears a message for the Band from the “Mother,” presumably Jenna’s undead mother. The mother offers a trade: Jenna, in return for the three artifacts. While Jager seems willing, that doesn’t mean he settles for the enemy’s terms. He claims the artifacts are hidden some distance away, and that it will take time to procure them.

The Shaman leaves to communicate with the Mother and soon returns with an agreement. Three days hence, the Band will make the exchange at a nearby lizardfolk village. This should buy time to attempt an alternate plan.

The Band travels with Zzhastor Brune, Nastin, and Hulshon to Brune’s old office near the ruins of Harlass Orn. In fact, this office initiated the group’s journey through the Transit Towers many months ago. Brune accesses a hidden area the Band did not find on its first visit. Here, Brune employs the Empiricon Codex to alter the teleportation device in his office, so that it will transport the Band to the complex below Kith’takharos Keep. He’s one hundred percent pretty sure it will work.

Such assurances must be enough. It’s either that or give Jenna’s mother what she wants without a struggle. That galls Jager. But then, most everything galls Jager.

Brune also crafts an elixir that will awaken the remaining Harlass Orn. Nastin and Hulshon leave with the elixir for Tarass Shar Orn.

Then Zzhastor Brune activates the mechanism in his office, and the Band appears in a room with faint ambient light. An initial disorientation sorts itself out fast, as everyone realizes they are upside down, and the floor at their feet is really the ceiling. The fall results in a few bumps and bruises.

The spacious room appears airtight. The walls are solid slabs rather than blocks. Not even the tip of a dagger fits between the door and the adjacent wall. The door has no interior handle. After some consideration, Fixit reads a Knock scroll, and Jager pulls the door open.

Jager examines the corridor outside the room. It extends about twenty feet both right and left before making a ninety degree turn in the direction of the room. Both the corridor and room show surprisingly little dust and no footprints. The Draconic letter “A” is carved in the rock beside the door. When Jager steps into the corridor an alarm sounds. A loud voice emanates from the surroundings, speaking Draconic and warning of an escape. At either end of the corridor, gates crash down to block the passage past the bend.

The Band of the Nine Towers has been trapped.

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Jenna Kidnapped
Barrakas 4, 998 YK

This was an e-mail exchange between the GM and the player controlling Jenna that occurred between game sessions 25 and 26.

You cannot see. Whether this is because your eyes are closed, or you are surrounded by darkness, you cannot tell.

An indeterminate amount of time passes, minutes at least, perhaps hours. Eventually, you can feel your limbs and the faint throbbing of your head. Your arms are held fast alongside your body, your legs straight and immobile. You cannot open your mouth, and must breathe through your nose.

The binding must be magical given its perfection. You have no means to cast a spell, and surely this is no accident.

Impressions from the outside world encroach upon your awareness. A gentle, moist breeze caresses your bare arms and face. The smell of fetid water indicates you are still in the swamp. Then, a brief rush of vertigo as your body sways from side to side. You are not on solid ground!

Your mother speaks from somewhere nearby. “Hold. It hasn’t started yet.” The Jenna pendulum loses amplitude and comes to a stop.

Soon you hear voices shouting in a language you don’t understand. But you do recognize it as Draconic. You finally learn that your eyes are closed, as brightness flares up beyond your eyelids and flickers like fire. Now more voices join the cacophony, calling out in Common.

“To the wall! To the wall! The lizards are attacking!”

Soon the clash of metal on metal rings out and you hear the unmistakable clangor of battle.

The Common degenerates toward frantic and incoherent utterances, and you realize from battle experience that the defenders are on the verge of panic. Panic leads to rout, and rout inevitably leads to a massacre, as fleeing men are cut down from behind. Many lizardfolk nurture a burning hatred of the invaders from the Five Nations, and would seize any opportunity to slay them.

A new voice cuts through the chaos and carves out a brief lull with its ferocity. “Dagger take you all! Are you cowards, or men? Stand at your posts, or I’ll kill you myself before the lizards get a chance!”

You recognize the speaker as Xanthus Bome, leader of the Order of the Jade Leaf militia. Hope swells in your breast, since you know that his men would rather face a lizardfolk spear than the shame of his disappointment.

Xanthus again roars above the din. “Claw, you command the south wall! The east is mine!” That probably means the brunt of the attack was from the east, in the direction of Tarass Shar Orn.

The momentary optimism evaporates with your mother’s words. “I can get us through the wall, don’t worry. That ridiculous ‘Lady’ knows nothing of this place, and I will leave no evidence.” She laughs, almost as you remember from childhood, but with an additional edge that transforms it from a source of comfort to one of dread.

Once more you are swinging. You hear footsteps immediately behind your head and at your feet. You must be on some sort of litter. A sudden chill suffuses you, and the hairs on your arm stand up. The air seems thicker, almost like you are moving through a fog. In a few seconds the strange sensations end. You no longer hear the battle sounds.

“Put her down, then leave us,” your mother says. You are lowered to a hard surface. The air smells damp and musty. A tortured creaking suggests the opening of a long unused door. The footsteps fade, and your are alone with your undead mother.

You sense her crouching beside your head. No breath brushes your cheeks. This jarring reminder still startles you, although you know that she is dead and has no more need for air.

“Daughter, your friends will come for you. Perhaps they will find this place, perhaps not. It does not matter. I can find them. We will both discover how much they care for you. Whether they value your life more than a few ancient baubles.” Her voice grows fainter as she rises to stand. You strain your hearing to catch the next words. “Your death will not be an end. It will be a beginning.”

Your bindings have not loosened, but you can now open your mouth. You gulp in the stale air.

You gasp a reply. “Why are you doing this? You are not an evil person! Free me and I will have you brought back so we can be together again. I lost you at such a young age… I’m sure Jada and Milo would love to spend time with you also…”

A wisp of air rustles your hair. Your eyes open. In the dim ambient light, you see your mother’s palm move across your face. Her features briefly contort with pain, though the moment passes so fast that it might be a trick of the shadows. Were she alive, you are sure that your mother would sigh. But those emotional cues vanished in death, and you grasp for meaning in her stony demeanor.

“Daughter… Those times have passed. We must accept this. That time was brief, and I loved life. But this time will be much longer, and I am learning to love it as well. With you at my side, our service will be glorious. And perhaps we can aspire to even more…”

She backs up and steps through the door. One hand grips the thick iron ring that will draw it shut. The other twitches in an indecipherable gesture, as if she wanted to reach for you then jerked the hand back. “The Harlass Orn built this place well, and for a purpose. In a while your bonds will dissipate. But your spells will not function here. I urge you to rest. The wait may be long.”

The door protests as it yields to her pull. A thunderous click echoes through the room and rattles your teeth. Seconds accumulate into minutes, and you have yet to discern movement beyond the door. Does she wait for some final plea or confession? Or does your mother have misgivings herself? Regardless, if she spoke true, all you have left is faith that the Band will not abandon you.

You strain to hear movement or voices from the other side of the door. Frustrated and nearly frantic, you stridently call out, “Mother, you are not evil!” The walls resonate with the words. You are unsure for how long.

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Session 25
Barrakas 4, 998 YK

The lizardfolk cleaves Scylien twice with the sure strokes of an experienced warrior. A second lizardfolk leaps from behind a bookshelf and looses a barrage of Magic Missiles into Scylien. She reels under the assault, brought from near perfect health to death’s door in an eye blink.

Jager rushes forward to help. Jenna and Fixit also move within view of the fight, but do not enter the fray. The lizardfolk warrior again slices Scylien, and she falls to the floor unconscious.

Then the amulet wearing lizardfolk arrives and recognizes the attackers. He shouts their names in Draconic and issues stern orders. Warily, Nastin and Hulshon stand down and watch Jager for signs of aggression. Scylien receives some welcome healing. The situation cools enough for an appraisal of everyone’s condition.

Mila has not rejoined the Band after the battle. Concerned comrades backtrack down the hallway and soon find her, physically sound, yet unresponsive. They first assume that she has entered a mental battle against the Dreamseeker. Yet, unlike Scylien’s earlier experience, Mila’s body does not convulse under mental blows.

Mila does not regain her senses. Her body must be led through the remaining exploration of Tarass Shar Orn.

The lizardfolk with the amulet speaks in halting common, introducing himself as the scholar Zzhastor Brune. He explains that his people, the Harlass Orn, have no powerful martial traditions. Whenever threatened, they would descend underground to sleep away decades or centuries until it was safe to return above.

The Harlass Orn last sought slumber to avoid conquest by the Dhakaani Empire. The Dhakaani assault was sudden, and the Harlass Orn had little time to gather supplies or even save a majority of their people. Thus, the long sleep began in a dark mood that spilled into dreams. These nightmares intertwined with such intensity that they birthed the Dreamseeker, a psychic creature that has stalked the dreams of the Harlass Orn. Many have died, and lay desiccated upon the sleeping couches.

Nastin and Hulshon doubted they had actually awoken, and attacked Scylien because they thought she was the Dreamseeker. This implies that the sleep induced by the golden draught will soon expire for the remaining Harlass Orn. The other sleepers should revive within the next couple of years, as the doses do not give each person exactly the same result.

Brune is stunned to learn that thousands of years have passed. He speculates that the reign of the Dreamseeker may have distorted the effects of the golden liquid.

The Band continues the exploration of Tarass Shar Orn, trailed by the solemn lizardfolk. Another curving stairway leads to the third and final level, and more rooms filled with sleeping couches. Soon, the Band discovers the mummified remains of Jheamast. He rests in a small room with a single couch, hands folded across his chest and gripping the hilt of a gleaming rapier. A circlet inset with a large Dragonshard rests on his head.

Jager takes the sword, while Scylien removes the circlet. Jenna hangs back near the stairway and hears the faint scrape of metal on the second level. She alerts Jager, who identifies the sounds as armor or weapons. The shifter carefully moves up the stairs and attempts to draw out the intruders with shouts, but has no success. These potential foes are cautious and disciplined.

The Band works out a plan. Jenna casts Spider Climb on Jager, who walks along the ceiling all the way back to the first level. He finds at least eight fighting men behind barricades in the first level hallway.

Now Fixit casts Invisibility upon everyone. He also casts Silence upon himself, which has a sufficient radius to mask the entire Band. Jenna rides along with Jager in snake form. Jager approaches the stairway to the first level, then stops when his sensitive nose detects the scent of acid. He suspects an Acid Cloud. Protections against acid are applied, but the cloud soon dissipates.

Jager walks along the ceiling and passes the first barricade. The rest of the Band hangs back inside the Silence. Before Jager reaches the second barricade, a feminine voice cries out from the shadows ahead: Jenna’s undead mother!

“There she is! Fire!” Somehow Jenna’s mother has detected her invisible daughter.

A ball of flame blossoms around Jager and Jenna. Still invisible, Jager rushes forward towards Jenna’s mother, who hovers above the lift with two female companions. Jenna shifts to bird form and flies off Jager. One of the women beside Jenna’s mother conjures a wall of flame across the hallway.

Jager bursts through the flame and drops from the ceiling to attack the Wizard. He hurts her, but the other woman, presumably a Cleric, quickly heals her. Jenna follows and continues up the lift shaft towards the surface. Since she is invisible, Jager does not realize she has passed. This becomes important when Jenna’s mother speaks the Draconic phrase that activates the lift. The two members of the Band who speak Draconic, Mila and Scylien, are not available to stop it.

Jager jumps off the platform as it rises to seal the shaft, trapping Jenna with her mother.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Band engages the fighting men at the barricades. The Silence has ended and almost everyone has become visible. Azereen does heavy damage with a lightning bolt, then is surrounded by foes. He holds his own long enough for Jager and Scylien to enter the battle, while Fixit, still invisible, aids his comrades with healing and other supportive spells.

Jenna and the Wizard trade spells. Although the Wizard is physically much weaker, Jenna cannot put the woman down. Every time Jenna harms the Wizard, the Cleric provides healing. Jenna’s mother only watches and gives orders. Finally, Jenna summons a dire boar and drops it upon the lift. The boar crushes the Wizard, though not before a final Magic Missile sends Jenna into unconsciousness. Jenna’s mother and the Cleric grab Jenna, and then escape into the swamp.

Scylien brings down the lift and ferries the Band to the surface. Jager searches by sight and by smell, but finds no trace of Jenna or her captors. He suspects that they have flown away.

Jager raises his eyes to the sky and shouts, “Jenna!”

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Session 24
Barrakas 3-4, 998 YK

“She just disappeared, I guess.” — Azereen, in response to Jager’s query about the missing Scylien.

While Jenna circles overhead, the rest of the Band approaches the high ground under cover. The male lizardfolk greets them and introduces himself as Tshinhar. He is resting before continuing on to Tarass Shar Orn.

Tshinhar explains that he was leaning against a Harlass Orn Guidepost. This black metal post is about ten feet high and six inches in diameter, and topped with a golden sphere the size of a man’s head. When questioned in Draconic, the Guidepost will give directions to various locations known to the Harlass Orn. Tshinhar assumes the Band needs directions, and offers to provide them.

Further conversation reveals that Tshinhar is fleeing a Dhakaani invasion of Harlass Orn. From the Band’s perspective, this invasion actually occurred thousands of years ago. During Tshinhar’s rest, a number of travelers have asked for directions, including Jheamast, who passed through earlier in the morning. This makes no sense to the Band, since Jheamast died fifty years ago. The Band eventually concludes that the Guidepost and Tshinhar must experience a different flow of time, or are stuck in the past.

Meanwhile, the Band realizes that Scylien has vanished. She did not reach the Guidepost with the rest of them. A tense couple of hours pass as Scylien searches for the Band, and they for her. She cannot see her comrades, even when she stands at the spot where Jenna discovered the Guidepost.

Jager leaves the Guidepost and finds Scylien a couple miles away. He brings her back to the Guidepost, and this time they both find it. After some discussion, the Band decides that entering the region of distorted time around the Guidepost can be hit or miss, and some people seem better at it than others.

Tshinhar provides the Band with directions to Tarass Shar Orn. Scylien then queries the Guidepost about the Transit Towers. She learns that there are actually twenty-three towers, including the nine that give the Band its name. Most are in Q’barra, some are probably in the Talenta Plains, and at least one may be in Valenar lands.

Tshinhar will not leave the Guidepost, so the Band continues east towards Tarass Shar Orn. The next day they reach the island specified in the directions. A dead tree one hundred feet high rises from the hilltop. Jenna uses spells to determine that the tree has been fabricated and that the base of the trunk radiates magic. Azereen sends an elemental underground and learns the tree sits atop a stone shaft.

Jager remembers the phrase Dorian Orsova overheard from lizardfolk: “the sleepers must awaken.” Speaking these words in Draconic causes a section of the tree to open, revealing a circular room ten feet in diameter. With some trepidation, the Band crowds in. Scylien says the phrase again, the tree closes, and the floor descends.

The lift drops at least a hundred feet or more to a hallway, where it settles into a depression in the floor. The hallway, floor, and ceiling are constructed of superbly fitted stone slabs, and the entire area is illuminated by Everbright lamps mounted on the walls. Some lamps are extinguished, so that shadows exist in the spaces between the functioning lamps.

The Band begins the exploration of Tarass Shar Orn. The architecture is odd. There are few straight lines, the walls and ceilings curve, and all the rooms are ellipsoid or hemispherical. The atmosphere is also eerie. Voices cry out with no apparent source, figures run through the hallway and vanish into rooms, a group of Dhakaani warriors appear from nowhere, attack the Band for a few seconds, and then disappear again.

Exploration continues down a flight of steps to a lower level. Here, the curving hallway is lined with doors, and none of them are locked. Behind each door is a hemispherical room of varying size filled with couches. Beside each couch is a table, and upon each table is a bowl of blue or golden liquid.

Many of the couches have lizardfolk occupants. Some appear to be sleeping, others are desiccated and mummified. The blue liquid is beside each occupied couch, the golden liquid beside the unoccupied couches.

Jager receives a headache while resisting some sort of mental attack. After knocking over a number of the bowls, Scylien is similarly attacked, but she fails to resist and finds herself faced off against a lizardfolk in some sort of dream-like environment. The foe attacks her with a crossbow and spells; Scylien replies with her crossbow and sword. The rest of the Band sees Scylien frozen in place and unresponsive to external stimuli, body spasming each time she is struck.

Mila Smites Scylien, and Fixit supplies a Protection from Evil. Both efforts aid Scylien in the battle, and soon she has gained the upper hand, or at least thinks that she has. Regardless, her mind suddenly returns to her body and the battle is over.

The explorers move on to inspect more rooms. A small room holds a single lizardfolk male wearing a robe and an amulet, which bears the Draconic words “Truth” and “Knowledge.” Pouring small amounts of the blue liquid into his mouth awakens him. Initially startled and afraid, he calms down enough to ask about Dhakaani attacks and to explain that his people have been hunted in their dreams by a creature called the Dreamseeker.

Tentative trust is established as the Band assists the recovery of the lizardfolk man. Scylien gets bored, however, and wanders down the hall. It soon opens into a large room filled with shelves that contain a few books. As Scylien gapes at her discovery, a lizardfolk man leaps around a corner, surprising her about as much as anyone can be surprised.

The lizardfolk cries out in Draconic, “Die Dreamseeker!” Scylien watches in dumbfounded amazement as his sword arcs towards her head.

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Session 23
Lharvion 19 - Barrakas 3, 998 YK

“How can I be Prophecy’s bitch and still have free will?” — Jager Cull.

The Band of the Nine Towers prepares for travel.

Jager points out that they already know a person in Kith’takharos who might help them find Jheamast’s tomb: Yavanna Culand, archaeologist for the Order of the Jade Leaf. Everyone agrees that a visit with Yavanna sounds wise, and so the Band travels directly to Kith’takharos. While passing through Newthrone would be quicker, that would also draw attention to their new Dragonmarks.

The journey lasts about ten days and is filled with much discussion. Pasts are revealed in an effort to better understand one another and integrate Azereen and Mila into the Band. Jenna often flies overhead as an eagle. Both she and Jager note the absence of recent lizardfolk activity, which is very disturbing.

Onlookers stare as the band strides through streets of Kith’takharos to the Sheltering Frond. Azereen and Scylien take rooms at the inn, while the rest will stay at Jager’s house.

Just after Jenna and Scylien leave to visit Yavanna, Dorian Orsova enters the Sheltering Frond. He buys everyone a round of drinks and settles down to learn a little about their adventures. In return, Dorian mentions that some foragers overheard lizardfolk saying “the sleepers will awake.” No one has seen any lizardfolk since that time a few weeks ago. Also, Koran Thelig has been on a tear, performing goods deeds: rescuing foragers, capturing poachers, slaying beasts. While Koran was never a bad man, he has always been arrogant, and the new behavior is odd.

Meanwhile, Yavanna rambles on about Harlass Orn history, all the while consulting numerous books. Jenna gives her some sketches of the recently visited temple, which Yavanna suspects must date from the war between the dragons and demons. The archaeologist also digs up some information on Jheamast, who passed through Kith’takharos about fifty years ago, carrying a crown adorned with a large dragonshard.

Jheamast was seeking some place called Tarass Shar Orn, or “City of the Sleepers.” The stories claim that he died near there, and his companions buried him in the place, along with the crown. Evidence points to the crown as the third artifact missing from the temple. Yavanna believes this “city” to be east of Kith’takharos.

Jager, Fixit, Azereen, and Mila visit Patch at the Tipped Cup. After Jager asks the warforged to better describe the Forgebrother link between himself and Fixit, a long discussion ensues about prophecy, free will, destiny, and related topics. Mila gives Jager a headache with her contributions. Perhaps the most useful thought comes from Patch: some of the inexplicable things that are happening, such as Patch suddenly realizing that Azereen must join the Band, may be the playing out of prophecy.

Only a couple loose ends remain before the Band leaves the next morning. Jenna leaves her mount Flash with the Order of the Jade Leaf. He is getting old, and the journey will be dangerous; when she returns she will return him to the Talenta plains.

Finally, Koran Thelig approaches Jager, all smiles and kind words. While Koran insists that Jager helped him become a changed man, Jager presses him and learns that Koran hired the men that killed Skan’pa, although Koran only hired them to watch the characters. Mila presses Jager to make no rash move; Jager compels Koran to confess his misdeeds to Lady ir’Salmissra.

Now the Band heads east. Jenna flies above as an eagle, watching for possible ruins, mounds, or other suspicious formations. On the high ground of one small island about 30 miles from Kith’takharos, she spots a male lizardfolk leaning against an odd metal post. He has no visible weapons. She alerts the rest of the Band with a cry and they prepare to investigate.

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